Achieve water efficiency in India’s fast-growing residential townships
Developers have continuously redefined the township model as per the market demand. But now, there is an urgent need for the township model to be rediscovered with a growing focus on water conservation and zero-wastewater discharge.
The rise in the number of nuclear families with disposable incomes, growing population, rapid urbanisation, land shortage, and the ease in housing finance are key drivers for the growth of several residential townships in and around Indian cities.
Residential housing forms one of the most significant parts of the real estate sector in India. It contributes to 80% of the sector, which is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. It is estimated that around 10 million people migrate to cities every year in search of better employment opportunities. It is, therefore, expected that the number of Indians living in urban areas will reach 525 million by 2025.
Globally, India is among the top 10 price-appreciating housing markets due to a surge in demand for housing properties. Policy support by the government such as allowing 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) for townships and settlements development projects, lowering the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate to 5%, growing transparency through the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, (RERA), 2016, has given a huge push to the expansion of residential townships across India.
It is expected that India’s per capita water availability will decline to 1,401 cubic metres and 1,191 cubic metres by 2025 and 2050, respectively. The average domestic water demand will also increase from 85 litres per capita per day (lpcd) in 2000 to 125 lpcd and 170 lpcd by 2025 and 2050, respectively. The projected water demand of 1,498 billion cubic metres will exceed the supply of 744 billion cubic metres — two-fold — by 2050.
The deteriorating quality of natural water bodies, due to the discharge of untreated sewage, also poses a serious concern. India generates 61,754 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage, of which 63% remains untreated. Waste generation is further expected to increase and the projected wastewater in cities could reach up to 1,20,000 MLD by 2051.
The proliferation of residential townships has greatly magnified the issue due to increased water demand, exerting pressure on an already dwindling resource. Inadequate water supply, depleting groundwater tables, growing water demand, and its misuse in townships are posing challenges to building professional urban local bodies.
Developers have also continuously been redefining the township model as per the market demand. But now, there is an urgent need for the township model to be rediscovered with a growing focus on water conservation and zero-wastewater discharge.
With growing environmental concerns, buyers today are increasingly interested in homes being equipped with water-saving measures. Residential townships consist of various facilities for all residents in close proximity to them. As the complexity of the township model increases, the management of water resources — especially wastewater and stormwater — should be looked at with prime importance.
The recently launched guidebook by Mahindra-The Energy and Resources Institute’s Centre of Excellence (CoE), a joint research initiative, highlights measures that can be adopted by existing and upcoming residential townships to achieve water use optimisation and efficiency. It stresses the reduction of water usage, the harnessing of alternative water sources, and the integration of green infrastructure.
These guidelines can form a template to aid townships to move on the path to becoming net-water positive. It recommends measures that are innovative, practical, and easy to implement as they have been developed after conducting thorough research and water audits of several townships across India to design sustainable solutions.
The potential impact of adopting these guidelines will help occupants reduce their dependence on freshwater and contribute to rejuvenating the strained resource through water conservation techniques in urban India. The intent is to mainstream the best techniques and practices related to water saving, stormwater management, groundwater replenishment, rainwater harvesting, and reuse and recycling of treated wastewater. This will help India fulfil its domestic need for water, and also mitigate the climate crisis.
Tarishi Kaushik is a research associate, Sustainable Buildings Division, TERI
The views expressed are personal