Adapting to a Changing Environment

Academy of Gandhian Studies

Entry Overview

General Info
G. Gopala,
Krishna Murthy
Email :
Organization Address: 
18-3-61/3, Prabhakarji Nagar
Khadhi Colony, 600040
Population Impacted: 
The village of Desaraju Palli is home to 183 families and a total population of 653 inhabitants. The village is bifurcated by railroad tracks. Approximate 400 villagers live in the main village and approximately 250 in the colony across the railroad track

The total land area is 500 acres; 400 acres of these are used for agriculture. The village is located 16km off the sea, 0.8km off the Manjalaru river and 0.5km off the Nagarjuna Sagar Project canal.

Major Occupations: 
Carpentry and construction. 30 families generate income from agriculture. In the harvest season, most of the female villagers work in tobacco processing. Existing skilled labourers include tailoring, milk production and painting.
Local resources the community depends on, and for what purpose: 
The community depends on clear water for drinking purposes. As agriculture is an important livelihood of the community, the community also depends on the availability of water for irrigation.
Local threats to resources: 
In Desaraju Palli, clean drinking water and water for irrigation are scarce. This is mostly due to climatic conditions and hazards in the area. High temperatures cause a high evaporation rate of surface water and put constant pressure on the groundwater.
Climate Hazards: 
The community is most concerned about include: During a vulnerability and needs assessment conducted in the community in summer 2011 villagers documented the following past climate and extreme weather experiences in Desaraju Palli: severe cyclones which in the memory of the villagers became more frequent and more intense over the past decades (two major cyclones in 1980s, 5 major cyclones in 1990s and 2000s, more than one major cyclone per year in 2008 and 2010); more frequent heavy rainfall and floods (3 floods in the 1980s, 6 floods from 2000 to 2010); more frequent periods of extreme heat (in last decade alone the community experienced extreme heat waves in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009); extremes in rainfall patterns (very low rainfall in dry season, very heavy rains in rainy season). This is in line with more general observations of climate change in India and Andhra Pradesh, which highlighted increases in average mean temperatures with a growing dynamic since the 1970s, gradually increasing frequency of very hot days and reduced rainfall outside the rainy seasons especially at India’s east and West coast, an increase of extreme rainfall events over the last decades, a gradual rise of the sea level of around 1.3mm annually and a reduced frequency, but growing intensity of cyclones. For the future a temperature rise of at least 3°C until mid-century is expected for Andhra Pradesh, with maximum increases occurring in the already dry month of March, April and May. Against the India wide trend average rainfall during monsoon seasons is projected to decrease in Andhra Pradesh. Coupled with projected increases in mean temperatures, heat periods and drought, stress on water resources will become even stronger in the future. A reduced frequency, but growing intensity of cyclones is projected for the coast of Tamil Nadu also in the future (sources considered for general past and expected changes: amongst others India’s first and second National Communication to the UNFCCC, India Meteorological Department, IPCC 4th Assessment Report).
Level of exposure to these hazards: 
The exposure of Desaraju Palli to climate hazards is high. The village is located in a low-lying exposed location close to the shore in the Bay of Bengal, rendering it highly exposed to temperature rises and heat waves, drought as well as heavy rains and floods during rainy seasons. Due to its proximity to a major canal (Nagarjun Sagar project canal) which end in the Bay of Bengal (distance of Desaraju Palli to the shore is 16km), the village is highly prone to flooding, including by saltwater intruding from the sea.
Level of sensitivity: 
The community’s level of sensitivity to these climate hazards is very high. The village’s ecosystems and infrastructure (buildings, roads, electricity and communication infrastructure etc.) have been little resistant and only weakly protected against climate hazards. Past storms and cyclones, heavy rains and flood water have destroyed green areas or turned them into fallow, led to land erosion and to destruction of graze-land and agricultural fields. Cyclones and floods have also severely damaged agricultural equipment, road and electricity connections, and the pond has suffered from saltwater intrusion and contamination. Furthermore, longer and more intense periods of extreme heat and low rainfall have led to the drying of graze-land, cultivable fields and to a further deterioration of water quality. This further reduced the habitat for flora and fauna, the availability of fertile land for agriculture, and of land providing feed to cattle. The salinization of land areas, ground water and surface water – incurred by saltwater intrusion through the canal or directly from the sea during major storm surges, as well as lack of rainfall in dry seasons – has affected the local ecosystem and the community particularly strongly. Fertile land areas turned into fallow, reducing biodiversity and availability of cultivable land. The community has faced severe scarcity of drinking water, as the ground water is the major source of potable water. Groundwater sources have decreased due to high temperatures and drought, and become more saline due to backwater intrusion. Cyclones and floods carrying faeces and other contaminants have further reduced water quality in the village. Still, the dependence on existing water sources in the village is very high, as quality and supply with piped water is very limited and due to low income levels most villagers cannot afford purchasing large amounts of bottled water. Salinization of canals and ponds due to storm surges has led to severe scarcities in water for irrigation and animal feed. Supply with municipal piped water cannot fill the gap in fresh water, as supply is limited and irregular. The described climate hazards have had negative impacts on animal and human health in the community, and in case of cyclones, severe floods and extreme heat also cost villagers’ and animals’ lives. The community has struggled with poor health due to scarcity of drinking water and with waterborne diseases due to contamination of groundwater after floods. Stagnated water after floods has created favourable conditions for mosquito breeding, which accelerated transmission of diseases. The villagers have experienced raising costs for medical care due to climate change impacts; access to medical aid has at the same time become more difficult during or after extreme weather events which damaged local road infrastructure and transport systems. Costs for animal health care have risen and many farmers have lost cattle due to injuries and diseases.
Level of adaptive capacity: 
Before the interventions described below the adaptive capacity of the community to the impacts of climate change, especially to the reduction of drinking water sources, was low. Financial means for avoidance of or recovery from climate hazards are very low (for instance only few villagers have the means to address drinking water scarcity by purchasing bottled water). The villagers so far have mostly been able to respond post-hoc to climate challenges, in terms of reconstruction of bunds, destroyed fields, equipment etc. after extreme weather events, partly supported by government programme. Knowledge, skills, systems and processes for a proactive management of climate related risks, however, were hardly developed. Before the interventions described below villagers had hardly any knowledge about the role of climate change in local environmental hazards, and neither of options to deal proactively with climate hazards and their impacts on livelihoods. There were no institutional structures supported by the Government or any other organisation for climate change adaptation existing in the village.
Describe Your Solution: 

The solution was designed to improve the community’s water and food security, reduce its dependence on directly available clear drinking water by combining implementation, and improve the villagers’ health. The solution combines a technical adaptation measure with institution building, development of a sound O&M process, and capacity development on CCA, DRR and O&M at community level. By providing a low cost community operated water treatment system which allows using surface water as source for drinking water, the adaptation measure helps the community adapt to the deteriorating situation of the coastal groundwater sources. As a technical adaptation pilot project a pond-based drinking water supply scheme was implemented which uses natural energy efficient treatment technology for water filtration and distribution. A water filtration unit has been set up near the distribution tanks in the main village. Solar powered pumps have been installed to deliver water from the village pond to the filter unit as well as from the filter unit to the distribution tanks. The pond as a key source for water supply has been renovated and taps in the distribution system have been repaired. The water is pumped from the pond with the help of a solar-powered pump. The water is then treated for turbidity and bacteria through a roughing filter and slow sand filter and finally disinfected. The filtered water is pumped by another solar pump into the two existing ground-level distribution tanks. Using the pond’s surface water for drinking water generation makes the treatment less complex as the pond water is free from fluoride and has only low TDS levels. For treating the water supplied by the Rural Water Supply Department (RWSS), the water is mixed with the low TDS pond water before starting the filtering process.   The solution is also designed in a way to be itself resilient to key climate hazards. It avoids that drinking water supply is affected by climate change impacts on energy supply as the pumps gathering and distributing the water run on photovoltaic power. The community has been trained to implement the operation & maintenance (O&M) of the technology and has developed an O&M plan and budget. As around 95% of the O&M can be carried out by the community (external support is required only for solving greater problems of some technical components, e.g. the solar pumps), the community is able to repair most potential damages through climate hazards independently.  A Community Task Force (CTF) was formed which was in charge of implementing the pilot project and managing the O&M process, and it promotes additional adaptation measures in the village. The CTF comprised of local farmers, women, self-help group members and elected representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions. While part of the O&M is taken care of by the Panchayat (desiltation and cleaning of feeder canal, filling and cleaning of tank, repair and cleaning of infiltration well), the O&M of the filtration unit and pumps will be done by the local operator, local electrician and local plumber as well as local suppliers for spare parts and external expertise (solar technician). The roles, responsibility and timeline for each person involved have been agreed on and documented in an O&M plan.   The capacities of the CTF, the Panchayat Raj Institutions, self-help groups, youth, association members and direct beneficiaries to support and contribute to adaptation decision making and implementation were strengthened through meetings and orientation sessions, tailored training in the village on CCA/CCM/DRR and training on pilot project implementation, operation and maintenance (O&M). Local authorities have been supported through workshops and bilateral support in integrating the results of the V&NA and of potential adaptation measures in local development strategies and planning documents, including the Village Disaster Management Plan (VDMP) and the District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP).

Ecological Costs: 
The solution does not create ecological costs.
Ecological Benefit: 
Stress reduction on increasingly scarce and saline groundwater sources and contribution to recharge by making use of surface water as a source for drinking (3600m³ of safe drinking water are now generated from surface water sources), greater flourish
Economic Indicators used to measure benefit: 
  • Amount of drinking water harvested from surface water sources in m³ per year / l per inhabitant
  • Amount of water harvested for the pond in m³ per year
  • Improvements in water quality (compared to pre-project situation, compared against IS 10500)
  • Income generated by villagers and local suppliers through O&M activities 
Community/Social Cost: 
Volunteer time for conducting the V&NA, participating in meetings and training workshops and developing the adaptation pilot technology
Community/Social Benefit: 
Daily access of all 700 villagers to clear water sufficient to cover the drinking and cooking needs (measures assures at least 3600 m³ of clean drinking water per year). Reduced rate of water borne-diseases and reduces costs for the villagers, as less money is spent on medical treatment and / or purchase of canned drinking water. 30-50 million litres of water per year harvested for the pond, raising the availability of water sources for drinking water and, in excess periods, also for irrigation. New income opportunities through construction as well as O&M of filtration unit and pumps (annual expenses for local operator: INR 83,000). Around 95% of the O&M can be carried out by the community. External support is required only for solving greater technical problems, e.g., with solar pumps. Increased awareness and capacity to understand and address climate change hazards / impacts in the community. Increased organisation of the community through formation of community task force. Strengthened relationships with local authorities and improved standing of community as well-informed stakeholder in local CCA planning and decision making processes. Strengthened role of women in community through integration as key stakeholders in the V&NA process, the CTF and workshops. Promotion of sustainability considerations in planning and implementation of projects, fostered, e.g., through community share in pilot project and through development of a sound budget plan / financing model for the O&M activities
Community/Social Indicators used to measure benefit: 
Amount of drinking water harvested from surface water sources in m³ per year / l per inhabitant. Improvements in water quality (compared to pre-project situation, compared against IS 10500). Amount of water harvested for the pond in m³ per year. Energy produced through renewable power sources (= 300 kwh of energy per month). Agriculture land protected from floods an salt water infiltration in hectar. Increase in harvest in comparison to the previous years in tons of harvest or money equivalent per year. Number of community members attending training workshops. Number of community members attending meetings (CTF, village meetings with authorities etc.). Number of people with new income opportunities through the pilot project
Economic Cost: 
  • Pilot project implementation cost: INR 730,500. AdaptCap share: INR 630,500. Community share: INR 100,000.
  • Cost for AdaptCap partners (implementation of trainings, site visits, meetings etc.): INR 25000
  • O&M cost: Average monthly O&M costs are approx..INR 7000. Yearly expenses include: operator salary (INR 72000), spare parts and material: (INR 6000,-) and external support by electrician, plumber etc. (5000,-).
  • Full financing is guaranteed through user fees covering all O&M costs directly related to the water supply scheme. The Panchayat contributes to the availability of the fresh water source by pumping water from the irrigation channel to the pond in the irrigation season (equalling costs of INR 103,000 annually contributed by the Panchayat) 
Economic Benefit: 
  • Avoided costs for bottled drinking water
  • Avoided costs for medical treatment of water-borne diseases
  • Avoided income losses due to illness
  • Additional income for local operator, electrician and plumber as well as suppliers from the area 
Ecological Indicators used to measure benefit: 
  • Amount of drinking water harvested from surface water sources per year / per inhabitant (= approx. 3600 m³ per year)
  • Amount of water harvested for the pond (= 30-50 million litres per year)
  • Energy produced through renewable power sources (= 300 kwh of energy per month) 
What were/are the challenges your community faced in implementing this solution?: 

The development of the low-tech natural filtration unit combined with solar-powered pumps took required more time for development and adaptation than expected. With the pilot project successfully completed, these experiences can now be used when replicating the solution. A minor acceptance problem delayed construction of the filtration unit initially: a neighbour raised objections against the site proposed for the filtration unit. The issue could be resolved by shifting site to the southern side of the tank. One learning thus was that when choosing the location for key infrastructures such as drinking water supply units it is important to keep in mind that all community members have safe and equal access. Thanks to the strong ownership of the project by the community, the comprehensive and agreed on O&M process and the availability of skilled local technicians, the risk that the pilot project will become dysfunctional are limited. The filtration unit is constructed in a way as to withstand even major storms or rainfall. 

Describe the community-based process used to develop the solution including tools and processes used: 

The solution was developed on the basis of a participatory vulnerability and needs assessment (V&NA) conducted in the community in summer 2011. The V&NA and the subsequent implementation of the solution described below took place in the framework of the project AdaptCap – Strengthening Adaptation Capacities and Minimizing Risks of Vulnerable Coastal Communities. Started in December 2010 and financed by the European Commission, AdaptCap is implemented in Andhra Pradesh as a partnership between AGS – Academy of Gandhian Studies and the Indo-German Environment Partnership Programme of Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ-IGEP), supported by the international partners ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, South Asia and the Germany-based think tank and consultancy adelphi. The V&NA was implemented using methods and tools from participatory rural appraisal, enabling local community members to articulate and enhance their knowledge of local weather- and climate-related problems, impacts on local ecosystems and livelihoods, and resulting needs in all assessment and decision making steps. Special attention was paid to the needs of marginalized groups, especially women, e.g., through the involvement of the village’s women’s groups. As part of the V&NA process the community developed a social map illustrating the location of social institutions in the village, a resource map on the geographic distribution of the village’s resource base and a timeline on key events including climate events in the past. Through structured interviews, focus group discussions and transact walks through the village the community identified key climate hazards which had affected them in the past, as well as the impacts these hazards have had on the village’s ecosystems and livelihoods. In Desaraju Palli the community identified health problems, damage to ponds / reservoirs / tanks (e.g., siltation) and conversion of land into uncultivable fallow as those climate impacts of top priority for their community. Subsequently community members developed and prioritised ideas on measures to address these impacts, coming up with a list of more than 20 measures, including numerous measures for improving the drinking water / freshwater situation in the village. Capacity building needs on CCA, DRR and climate change mitigation (CCM) were identified as well. A community task force (CTF) was formed to support the further process of developing concrete adaptation activities and a technical pilot project for the village. The primary data was enriched through secondary data collected by the AdaptCap partners from local institutions and departments and through desk research. In an initial screening the partners narrowed the proposed measures down to three with the highest potential for reducing climate change impacts and developed technology factsheets on locally available / transferable solutions for the most promising initiatives. On this basis the CTF supported by AGS developed Expressions of Interest for the three most promising solutions, which were then assessed by the project partners in a transparent process against criteria for vulnerability reduction, local acceptance, feasibility and cost, as well as positive and negative side effects.  The selected pilot technology (community drinking water supply based on improved surface water source) was further adapted to the local context in meetings, discussions and site visits with the CTF. To select suppliers for implementation, Terms of Reference and a shortlist of local suppliers were developed. An implementation strategy was developed with the community wherein the roles of the communities, contractor, local authorities and technical experts were clearly discussed and defined. A community resolution on the pilot project served to increase sustainability and ownership. Local authorities I.e the elected representatives from the Panchayati Raj institutions and planning institutions like District Planning committee members were involved in meetings, discussions, site visits and shared learning dialogues to strengthen local ownership and facilitate replication and mainstreaming of the pilot initiative. The results of the V&NA and potential adaptation measures were included in local planning documents including Village Disaster Management Plans(VDMPs) and District Disaster Management Plans (DDMPs). These DDDMPs and VDMPs are required to be made as a part of Disaster Management Act.  The community implemented the pilot project described below together with local suppliers and supported the AdaptCap partners in 2012 and is implementing regular O&M since then. 


Climate hazard of concern: 
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the ecosystem affected?: 

By using surface water as source for drinking water, the pilot protects the diminishing as well as increasingly saline groundwater sources. When freshwater is pumped from the irrigation channel into the village pond in the irrigation season, this not only increases the availability of fresh water for irrigation but also replenishes groundwater sources when pond water infiltrates into the ground. Greater availability of fresh surface and groundwater sources will contribute to a greater flourishing of green areas which offer a habitat and protection of fauna against climate hazards. The solution contributes to ecosystem protection also through the use of renewable energy (solar power) to cover its energy needs. This contributes to climate change mitigation.

How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the ecosystem affected?: 

By taking stress from the diminishing groundwater resources and by contributing to their recharge the solution replenishes freshwater sources required by the local ecosystem to flourish and remain fertile. This strengthens the vegetation’s resilience in light of climate hazards such as extreme heat, heavy storms or flooding.

How has your solution increased the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt to potential climate changes?: 

As ecosystems can strengthen and revive now, they will be able to recover more quickly from climate hazards such as extreme heat or storm.

How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the communities affected?: 

NA (the solution mostly reduces the community’s sensitivity to climate hazard such as heat / drought). 

How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the communities affected?: 

The solution allows for secure drinking water supply to the community even in light of diminishing and increasingly saline groundwater sources. This contributes to reducing the health risks for the villagers especially in periods of heat and drought, which in the past have caused major suffering as well as costs in terms of expenses for medical aid and income losses due to illness. The improved vegetation through a greater availability of fresh groundwater sources also reduces the community’s sensitivity to other climate hazards, e.g., heavy storms, rains and flooding, as more natural buffers exist, and improves the community’s food situation through more productive agriculture.   The V&NA, the capacity development on CCA, DRR and CCM and the institution building at community level have made the community and local authorities more aware of what causes their sensitivity to climate change impacts including drought and how to increase their resilience. In response, villagers have introduced additional measures to reduce their sensitivity. For instance they have started to monitor more closely activities which could pollute the pond water, e.g., cloth washing and cattle bathing in the village pond. This has further improved the quality and suitability of the pond as a drinking water source, reducing the community’s sensitivity to increasingly scarce and saline groundwater sources. 

How has your solution increased the capacity of local communities to adapt to potential climate changes?: 

Having clear drinking water is the arguably most important precondition for humans to engage in any form of activity, including adaptation to climate change. The health impacts of insufficient or contaminated drinking water strongly reduce the community’s ability to prevent, deal with or recover from climate hazards. Furthermore, the workshops and training as well as the community’s involvement in pilot project implementation and O&M have considerably strengthened community members’ awareness and capacity with regard to CCA. The community now understands in detail the impacts of climate change on their village, is aware of key issues which render them vulnerable and has a strongly improved understanding of water management solutions. The formation of a CTF, the involvement of local disaster risk management committees and the integration of climate hazards, expected impacts and adaptation options into the VDMP and the DDMP facilitate a proactive management of climate risks in the village and district in the future.

Can this solution be replicated elsewhere?: 

The pilot measure has very high potential for replication as it addresses a problem faced by many coastal communities in remote areas – increasing scarcity and salinization of groundwater – through an innovative and technically adapted solution for coastal communities in developing and emerging countries. The V&NA conducted in 18 coastal communities in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the framework of AdaptCap showed that the majority of adaptation measures suggested by the 18 target communities addressed water problems. The treatment of surface water and the renovation of ponds and reservoirs were among the four most frequently mentioned measures. It can thus be assumed that the solution proposed here is of interest to very many coastal communities in developing and emerging economies around the world. Based on the experiences and extensive adaptation efforts carried out in the pilot project it can be expected that transfer to similar communities in developing and emerging countries can now be done with only minor adaptations. As strong growth of rural solar technology providers and technicians can be observed in many developing and emerging countries, the more advanced technology component – solar pumps – should not inhibit replication. On the contrary replication will further encourage dynamic growth of this market. The innovative aspects of the approach and measure make the solution even more attractive for replication: The combination of a low-tech natural filtration system with a more advanced technology, i.e. solar pumps, which has adaptation AND mitigation benefits and showcases how the sustainable usage and maintenance of replenishable surface water sources can be done; the technology’s resilience to climate change impacts on energy supply as the pumps gathering and distributing the water run on photovoltaic power; strong participation of the community in identifying, developing, implementing and running the technology; transfer of advanced renewable energy technologies to rural coastal community contexts in an emerging economy; multi-level approach combining awareness and capacity development, a technical adaptation measure and institution building at the village level with activities for capacity and policy development at city, district and state level.  The pilot measure has not been replicated yet, but efforts are being undertaken to make it a part of the local Government planning mechanism so that it gets replicated. Nearby villages have expressed great for the measure to be replicated in their community. Resources from the local development fund for the elected representative of the constituency are also being tapped to ensure replication.  For successful implementation the following has proven crucial: community ownership and buy-in from the onset to ensure effective implementation and sustained O&M; involvement of local authorities for support and collaboration. 

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