Chennai 360


* Project to enable city-wide water security and meet the SDG 13 to adapt to climate change

Chennai, 30th August 2023: The City of 1000 Tanks – a multidisciplinary team – which is keen on water security implemented the Water Balance Pilot project at Little Flower Convent Higher Secondary School for the Deaf and the Blind in Chennai. The pilot was inaugurated by Thiru. K. N. Nehru, Minister for Municipal Administration, Urban and Water Supply, Government of Tamil Nadu in the presence of Henk Ovink, First Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ewout de Wit., Consul General, Kingdom of Netherlands, Michaela Küchler, Consul General, Germany, Dr. Jayshree Vencatesan, Ecologist and Managing Trustee, Care Earth Trust and Eva Pfannes, Director of Ooze Architects and Urbanists And Team Lead Of City Of 1000 Tanks.

The project is an initiative of Mr. Henk Ovink, the First Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and funded by the Government of the Netherlands in partnership with the city of Chennai, UN-Habitat and Resilience Cities Network, supported by the UN High-level Panel on water, among others.

“The Water Balance project shows what Water as Leverage is all about, a game-changer approach, people-centered and community-led solving the world’s most pressing water challenges. The pioneer project in Chennai proves the value of community-led, Nature Based Solutions’ by design, that can lead the way ahead for upscaling and replicating: spreading from the city and the Ganga basin to the world. Putting the UN Water Action Agenda into practice. Yes, we can!”, said Henk.

The team found that the campus of the Little Flower Convent had three main water issues: sewage overflow, floods during monsoons, and drought during summer months. The city of Chennai is also facing similar issues such as floods and droughts in the same year along with rapid urbanization which is affecting the groundwater levels.

The project demonstrates a model for the city to become water-secure using eco-system-based adaptation techniques (or nature-based solutions). It harvests rainwater and treats wastewater before recharging into the underground aquifer through infiltration gardens.

Sharing details about the project, Eva Pfannes, Director of Ooze Architects and Urbanists And Team Lead Of City Of 1000 Tanks, said, “The Water Balance Pilot is a first demonstration that will achieve its full potential when replicated in institutions across the city. In parallel, we plan to scale it up through a flagship project in Mylapore.”

She added, “The pilot is a vivid demonstration of the efficacy of scalable eco-system-based adaptation tools that can be deployed to address similar issues in the city. Infiltration gardens, when implemented
city-wide will transform Chennai into a permeable and cool city. This increases the capacity to absorb and recharge water, thereby, reducing the impact of flooding.”

Speaking about the innovative project, Dr. Jayshree Vencatesan, Ecologist and Managing Trustee, of Care Earth Trust, said, “We are glad that the pilot project is being implemented at Little Flower Convent which is a pioneer institution of its kind in India. This 97-year-old institution imparts education for hearing-impaired and visually impaired children and adults and prepares them to integrate with normal society. The fruits of this project can be enjoyed by all at LFC as the sewage infrastructure has been unburdened, the impact of flooding has been reduced and the local water security on underground aquifers has been strengthened. This project is in line with sustainable development goal 13 which is to limit and adapt to climate change. Urban cooling and increased biodiversity are additional benefits.”

The Water Balance Pilot is built on the grounds of the Little Flower Convent School for the Deaf (LFC), the starting point of Mambalam Canal, to address the issues of sewage backflow from overloaded sewers, scarcity of water supply during the summers, and flooding during the monsoons. The Water Balance Pilot collects 27,000 litres of wastewater per day which is generated by the 300 residents and is treated in two stages; the first stage where two underground anaerobic tanks, rich with microorganisms, work on the pollutants to achieve 80% of the treatment capacity and the next stage where the water is then allowed to flow through constructed wetlands with helophytic plants enabling aerobic treatment. No toxic chemicals are used, and it is completely supported by solar power. Foul odours and mosquito breeding are also eliminated.

The treated water is then released to the ground through infiltration gardens. This minimum-maintenance project is equipped to harvest rainwater during Chennai’s short and intense monsoons. Dual-aquifer recharge wells collect, store, filter, and finally recharge rainwater to the shallow and deep aquifers.

The performance of this project will be continuously monitored using embedded electromagnetic and electro-static sensors, and the precise volume of the water treated will be measured against the impact on the groundwater level. Regular tests will ensure that the treatment quality is consistent. The collected data will be shared with the project beneficiaries so that they can monitor the performance of the system live by smartphone. The data sets will be used to demonstrate efficacy and support capacity-building activities to implement scalable nature-based solutions across Chennai.

The City of 1000 Tanks team aims to rope in government arms like the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board and the Greater Chennai Corporation for the greater good. The City of 1000 Tanks team also welcomes the involvement of resident welfare associations, vulnerable communities, CSR partnerships, and institutions to make Chennai water secure.


Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities Asia
The City of 1000 Tanks was established through Water as Leverage – a program spanning across three Asian countries, namely India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The project was an initiative of Honourable Mr. Henk Ovink, First Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Government of the Netherlands in partnership with the city of Chennai, UN-Habitat and Resilience Cities Network, supported by the UN High-Level Panel on Water.

City of 1000 Tanks On-ground Community Campaign
City of 1000 Tanks embarked on an exhaustive outreach to catalyse a social change at a community level about promoting sustainable use of water by identifying “Water Ambassadors”. The multi-level “Next Generation” campaigns, led by IRCDUC & Uravugal Social Welfare Trust, focuses on an effective communication strategy for reaching out to communities in ten vulnerable settlements across Chennai.
Between March 2021 and December 2022, 53 Water Ambassadors were equipped to identify water-related issues in their surroundings and raise awareness through water literacy initiatives. The ambassadors were provided with skill development training programs, including drawing, folk art, theatre, slogan writing, and song and mime workshops. These formats served as vehicles to powerfully express an acute understanding of Chennai’s water reality while juxtaposing the organization’s dreams and solutions for a water-resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future. Street performances in many settlements, visits to reservoirs and tanks, and engagement with local elected representatives made tangible the common ambitions and power to affect change.

Simultaneously, since July 2021, many social media campaigns were launched across LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A combination of completed activities supported with designs that are created for future projects has also been published across these platforms. Additionally, discussions about Chennai’s water scenario – past, present, and future have been made through a 6-part animation film series prepared in Tamil and English.  The Social Media Campaign and ‘Water ambassadors’ program of the City of 1000 Tanks are funded by the Goethe-Institut /Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai through its Excellency Project.

Write at www.Cityof1000 to find out more and become part of the project.