Managed aquifer recharge in India: Consensual policy but controversial implementation

Audrey Richard-Ferroudji
Independent Consultant, Associated researcher at UMR G-EAU, Univ Montpellier, Montpellier, France; richardferroudji@gmail.com

Raghunath T.P.
Centre for Ecology & Rural Development (CERD), Puducherry, India; tprmenon@gmail.com

Venkatasubramanian G.
French Institute of Pondicherry, Puducherry, India; venkat@ifpindia.com

ABSTRACT: In the Indian water policy, Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is considered as one of the best supply side water management options to face groundwater depletion. It is expected to optimize the resource as well as attain environmental sustainability and meet water demands and social justice. It is also expected to be implemented with a paradigmatic shift in water management. From policy to practices, at the local level, numerous recharge structures exist, are built or planned and reveal controversial implementation. With a socio-historical approach, our paper analyses the trajectory of MAR implementation in the Pondicherry Region (South India). Through interviews and observations, the trajectories of two local projects are scrutinized, The Tank Rehabilitation Programs in Pondicherry district and a recharge shaft in Kiliyanur. Stakeholders' strategies and values regarding MAR are analysed and how local appropriation leads to adaptation and diversion. Finally, there is no paradigmatic shift going with MAR implementation. Instead, MAR is shown as a consensual policy because it is a possible compromise between groundwater conservation, optimization of the resource, satisfaction of the users and social justice, but controversial positions and oppositions should be acknowledged within implementation. The paper discusses opposed conceptions of MAR: participatory vs. expert driven, demand vs. supply driven and traditional vs. modern.

KEYWORDS: Participation, paradigm, local appropriation, artificial recharge, India