This paper investigates how the agency of local residents can affect persistent and unsustainable practices in urban water supply governance. Using a case study from Bangalore, India, we analyze a social–ecological trap which developed after a shift to external water provision paired with rapid urbanization. The reluctance of forsaking initial investments in infrastructure and competence, and the subsequent loss of the local network of lakes built for harvesting rainwater, reinforced dependence on external sources while undermining groundwater levels in the city. These feedbacks made water scarcity a structurally persistent feature of Bangalore. This situation started to change when local residents recently started organizing to preserve and restore Bangalore’s lakes. By entering collaborative management agreements with municipal authorities, these lake groups have restored and established effective protection of five lakes. Through a case study of this civic engagement we show that the lake restorations have the potential to counteract trap mechanisms by restoring ecological functions, and by reducing water scarcity as groundwater levels rise and authorities are relieved from maintenance and monitoring tasks. Importantly, these lake groups have also created opportunities for over a dozen similar groups to form across the city. This demonstrates that social movements can be an important source of change in social–ecological traps.
Research news | 2017-06-22
Fisheries in least developed countries among world’s most vulnerable to climate change
Research news | 2017-06-21
Placed-based sustainability efforts often fail to recognise the risk of piling up the environmental pressure elsewhere
Research news | 2017-06-15
How an ongoing project aims to develop positive visions of the Anthropocene for southern Africa and beyond
General news | 2017-06-13
Centre director selected from a global short-list of remarkable candidates demonstrating "extraordinary leadership in mid-career"
Research news | 2017-06-12
New study explores how information and collaboration influence governance networks, and highlights trade-offs and benefits of using adaptive policies
Educational news | 2017-06-12
We seek change makers for LEAP - a new leadership programme on human and planetary opportunities