• Flat No. 303, Devdarshan Apartment, 20/1, South Tukoganj, AB Road, Indore 452016, India
  • +91 731 4236714
  • info@lakesofindore.org

Climate Change & Urban Lakes

Most of the attention on climate change has been focused on reducing greenhouse gases, i.e. climate change mitigation. Despite all these efforts, there are irreversible impacts that will continue and worsen within our lifetimes, as our past emissions continue to heat up the earth’s atmosphere.

Potential climate change impacts include: sea level rise, higher frequency and increased intensity of storms, coastal erosion, reducing biodiversity, continual melting of glaciers and arctic ice, salinity in freshwater aquifers and major threats to public health, such as increases in the incidence of vector borne diseases like malaria and dengue.

The impacts of climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face today, which poses a threat to urban communities, governments and businesses around the world. It is this challenge that the ACCCRN programme seeks to address.

Water is one of the most critical resources for existence and growth of cities. With increasing water demands for growing cities, they are increasingly opting for distant sources and the local resources have been largely neglected. Expansion of the water distribution network to peri-urban low density settlements would be a challenge due to cost considerations. While local water sources such as lakes no longer serve the regular needs of communities, these resources can be an important source of water supply in case of emergency.

With increasing temperatures and uncertainties in the rainfall pattern, our lakes are being affected adversely. Increase in temperature leads to increased evaporation of surface water, which could lead to drying up of small lakes during summers.

Also, intense rainfall events coupled with increased urbanization and paved surfaces, causes increase in runoff leading to problems of flooding and water logging. Flooding and water logging lead to increased spreading of vector borne diseases, as well as day to day problems of mobility.

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These impacts are especially relevant for the urban scenario. Since urban areas have high land values, seasonal drying up of lakes could lead to encroachment and shrinking of lake size, which could lead to the lake eventually disappearing. Disease outbreaks due to flooding and water logging would lead to higher medical expenses.

Another major issue with urban lakes is that they are becoming sinks for waste water. Also, the externalisation of water supply and piped supply system has led to these lakes losing their importance and use. Negligence and lack of maintenance of water bodies is another issue and a lot of solid waste and mosquitoes can be seen around urban lakes.

The natural catchment of these lakes is reducing due to increasing urbanization. The land use pattern in the catchments is changing and paved areas are increasing. Increase in paved surfaces also increases the runoff, which reduces the inflow into the lake. Deterioration in lake water quality also leads to bacteriological contamination of groundwater.

With all the combined issues, there is an increasing demand for filling up urban lakes.

Indore is one of the fastest growing cities and is developing as an important educational and medical hub. It is also the largest industrial hub of Madhya Pradesh. The population growth of 42% during the last decade indicates that it is growing faster than many other cities across India. Indore is the largest city in the neighborhood and is likely to be centre of push migration from rural hinterlands. The city scenario exercise conducted with the city stakeholders indicated that migration as well as infrastructure and service quality would be the most important critical uncertainties that would determine future growth.

Since Indore depends on distant water resource of Narmada River to meet its growing water demands, the cost recovery will be critical for managing water infrastructure of the city. Also, the increasing energy costs can add additional burden on the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC). The maintenance as well as capital investments required will depend on the city’s ability to recover the costs. Considering the huge gap in municipal finances, the ability to charge the consumers and to maintain the infrastructure will be another major critical uncertainty. The quality of services would improve only if there is expressed demand for services. So far, the citizens have not been proactively demanding for better services even though water supply is provided only once in two days. The city stakeholders built four scenarios based on the two critical uncertainties. These scenarios are presented in the previous figure. While “City of Opportunities” scenario is most desired, it would require several enabling conditions to be met and the living environment needs to be kept above the minimum threshold which is much above the current status. Political will, continued investments and willingness of the community to demand and pay for the services would be essential preconditions for this scenario to emerge. For each one of the scenarios, early signs were identified, so as to realign the goals of the ULB to provide basic services.

IMC has its origin in 1818 when Holkars moved their capital from Maheshwar to Indore. Due to lacked planned development in regards to facilities like water supply, drainage, sanitation and waste disposal, the first municipality was constituted in Indore in 1870. In 1906, this municipality established a new water supply system from Bilawali Tank. In 1912, the municipality became the first to have an elected municipal government responsible for growth and welfare of the city.


The climate change prognosis for Indore indicates rainfall increase of about 200-400 mm along with dominance of extreme events and dry periods. Since this city is located in back cotton soil region with less permeable soils, the climate change resilience building would necessitate optimal use of the existing lakes and reservoirs to capture runoff and to increase ground water recharge. With urbanization, the runoff is expected to increase and time of concentration is expected to decrease further due to increase in impermeable surfaces. To deal with precipitations uncertainties, sufficient buffer stocks need to be created in both local groundwater and lake systems. The additional storage at upper parts of the city catchment would increase water availability and ground water recharge and also reduce the frequency and magnitude of floods downstream.

Water scarcity and high energy dependence for import of water from distant source remain a challenge to Indore city and its periphery, even after Narmada Phase III. Expansion of the water distribution network to peri-urban low density settlements would be a challenge due to cost considerations. The peri-urban areas would continue to depend on multiple sources including ground water and tankers, while some may get access to Narmada water. Developing alternate and redundant sources would increase the resilience to water scarcity.