Water, Land and Society

To understand the trajectory and drivers of change occurring in land and water resources stressed regions with respect to water availability, water quality, land degradation, food security and provision of environmental services for and by the agricultural systems; and identify appropriate practical/ policy strategies to achieve environmental sustainability and human wellbeing.


Since the middle of the 20th century, dramatic increases inpopulations and large-scale urbanisation has created new demands forand impacts on agrarian landscapes and water resources, as hasindustrialisation in recent decades. While there have been significantdevelopmental gains as a consequence for many groups, the goals ofmeeting basic water needs, including equitable access to andsustainable use of water resources, as well as ensuring food security,by maintaining productivity in traditional agrarian, peri-urban aswell as urban settings remain distant in many regions.

The Land, Water and Livelihoods Programme aims to understand the direction and drivers of change in water availability and quality, land use and food security. We seek to investigate the hydrological, socio-economic and institutional processes underpinning them, especially in water-stressed regions, both urban and rural, as well as agrarian contexts, in order to generate workable solutions. We are particularly interested in understanding how climate change might further complicate land and water management and governance. We seek to make our work participatory and inclusive of stakeholders in all stages of research from problem framing, to conducting research and dissemination of results.

Our research involves a variety of data collection and analyses tools drawing from the natural and social sciences including household surveys, participatory rural appraisals (PRA), oral history, interviews, lab analyses, field surveys, hydrology and water quality field instrumentation, simulation modeling, satellite image processing, etc.

Issues addressed

  • Water scarcity: decline in quantity and quality of water for human wellbeing, sustaining economic activities and ecosystem functioning (dry season river flows and groundwater depletion)
  • Changes in agricultural practices
  • Diversion to high-value uses (cash crops, industry and urban drinking water)
  • Climate variability and change
  • Land degradation: reduction in net cultivable area increasing pressure on land for more intense uses
  • Salinity and waterlogging in large irrigation schemes
  • Land-use management of areas prone to water and wind erosion (arid, semi-arid, high rainfall and steep slopes)
  • Climate change impacts: increased wind draft, reduced rainy days, high rainfall intensities

Ongoing research

Completed projects

  • Watershed development review: Issues and prospects (Joy and Paranjape)
  • Long-term impacts of watershed development in arid and semi-arid India (Lele and Badiger)
  • Understanding Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in south Asia (Lele with Menon, Shah, Joy and Paranjape)
  • Review of right to water: Human rights, state legislation, and civil society initiatives in India (Sangameswaran)
  • Colonial state, zamindars and the politics of flood control in north Bihar (P. Singh)
  • Land-use change, hydrologic regimes and water conflicts in Malaprabha (Badiger)
  • Emerging water regulatory frameworks and related reforms in water governance in Karnataka (Rao and Badiger)

Primary faculty

Veena Srinivasan (Programme leader)
Bejoy K. Thomas
Deepak Malghan (Adjunct)
Durba Biswas
Priyanka Jamwal
Sharachchandra Lele (jointly with F&G)
Shrinivas Badiger

Journal articles


  • Srinivasan V., S. Lele, 2017, From Groundwater Regulation to Integrated Water Management, Economic & Political Weekly vol lII no 31.
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  • Srinivasan, V., S. Thompson, K. Madhyastha, G. Penny, K. Jeremiah, & S. Lele, (2015). Why is the Arkavathy River drying? A multiple hypothesis approach in a data scarce region. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 19(4): 1905–1917.
    [Abstract][Full Text]
  • Jamwal P., T. Md. Zuhial, P. Raje Urs., V. Srinivasan, S. Lele, (2015). Contribution of Sewage treatment to pollution abatement of urban streams. Current science 108(4): 677-685.
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  • Srinivasan, V. and S. Kulkarni. 2014. Examining the emerging role of groundwater in water inequity in India. Water International 39 (2): 172–86. doi:10.1080/02508060.2014.890998.
    [Abstract][Full Text]
  • Sivapalan, M, M Konar, Srinivasan V., A Chhatre, A Wutich, CA Scott, JL Wescoat, and I Rodríguez-Iturbe. 2014. Socio-hydrology: use-inspired water sustainability science for the Anthropocene.Earth’s Future.
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  • Krishnaswamy. J., M. Bonell, B. Venkatesh, B. K. Purandara, K. N. Rakesh, S. Lele, M. C. Kiran, V. Reddy and S. Badiger. 2013. The groundwater recharge response and hydrologic services of tropical humid forest ecosystems to use and reforestation: support for the "infiltration-evapotranspiration trade-off hypothesis. Journal of Hydrology 498 (August 19): 191-209. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2013.06.034
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  • Thompson, S.E., Sivapalan, M., Harman, C.J.,Srinivasan, V., Hipsey, M.R., Reed, P., Montanari, A., Blöschl, G. 2013. Developing predictive insight into changing water systems: use-inspired hydrologic science for the Anthropocene. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.Discussions 10, 7897–7961.
    [Abstract][Full Text]
  • Purushothaman, S., B. K. Thomas, R. Abraham and U. Dhar. 2013. Beyond money metrics: alternative approaches to conceptualising and assessing ecosystem services. Introduction to the INSEE special section. Conservation and Society 11(4)
  • Srinivasan, V., B. K. Thomas, P. Jamwal and S. Lele. 2013. Climate vulnerability and adaptation of water provisioning in developing countries: approaches to disciplinary and research-practice integration. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.07.011.
    [Abstract][Full Text]
  • Purushothaman S., Patil S., Patil I., Francis I. and I. Nesheim. 2013. Policy and governance for sustaining livelihoods and natural resources in small farms - A case study in Karnataka. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 68(2): 240-258.
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  • Purushothaman, S. and Abraham R. (2011). Scaling up and sustainability: The experience from rural India.Sustainability in Debate 2(2): 21-42
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  • Purushothaman, S., and R. Abraham. 2011. Sustainability: the experience of rural India. Sustentabilidade em Debate - Brasília, 2(2): 21-42
  • Reidsma, P., H. König, S. Feng, I. Bezlepkina, I. Nesheim, M. Bonin, M. Sghaier, S. Purushothaman, S. Sieber, M. K. van Ittersum and F. Brouwer. 2011. Methods and tools for integrated assessment of land use policies on sustainable development in developing countries. Land Use Policy 28(3): 604-617
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  • Purushothaman, S., and S. Kashyap. 2010. Trends in land use and crop acreages in Karnataka and their repercussions. Karnataka J. Agricultural Science 23(2): 330-333
  • Thomas, B. K., R. Muradian, G. de Groot and A. de Ruijter. 2010. Confronting or complementing? A case study on NGO-state relations from Kerala, India. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 21(3): 358-370
  • Thomas, B. K. 2010. Participation in the knowledge society: The free and open source software (FOSS) movement compared with participatory development. Development in Practice 20(2): 270-6
  • Badiger, S., and T. V. Reshmidevi. 2010. Ecosystems and livelihoods at crossroads: Modelling land-use change impacts on water regimes and downstream users. In: ASCE - EWRI's 3rd Developing Nations Conference: India 2010. An international perspective on current and future state of water resources and the environment. Chennai. 5-7 January 2010
  • Thomas, B. K., R. Muradian, G. de Groot and A. de Ruijter. 2010. Resilient and Resourceful? A Case Study on How the Poor Cope in Kerala, India. Journal of Asian and African Studies 45(1): 29-45.
  • Bolin, B., M. Seetharam and B. Pompeii. Water resources, climate change, and urban vulnerability: A case study of Phoenix, Arizona. Local Environment 15(3): 261-279


  • Purushothaman, S., S. Hegde, S. Patil and S. Kashyap. 2009. People’s Perception on benefits from a protected catchment: A case study of Gundal command in Karnataka. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 64(4): 573-584
  • Reshmidevi, T., and S. Badiger. 2009. Impact of irrigation intensification on inter-sectoral water allocation in a deficit catchment in India. In: Proceedings, Symposium JS.3 at the Joint IAHS & IAH Convention. Hyderabad, India. 6-12 September 2009
  • Thomas, B. K., R. Muradian, G. de Groot and A. de Ruijter. Multidimensional poverty and identification of poor households: A case from Kerala, India. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 10(2): 237-57

Book Chapters

  • Badiger, S. and Lele, S. 2017. Contested waterscapes: Land use change, decentralised interventions and complex impacts. In Hiremath, A. J., Rai, N. and Siddhartha, A. (Eds), Celebrating 20 years of ATREE. pp. 148-155. Bangalore: ATREE.[pdf]
  • Jamwal, P. and Lele, S. 2017. Addressing Pollution in Urban Rivers: What we learnt from the Vrishabhavathy River in Bengaluru. In Hiremath, A. J., Rai, N. and Siddhartha, A. (Eds), Transcending boundaries: Reflecting on twenty years of action and research at ATREE. pp. 104-113. Bangalore: ATREE.[pdf]
  • Srinivasan, V., Lele, S., Thomas, B.K. and Jamwal, P. 2017.Whose River? The changing waterscape of the upper Arkavathy under urbanisation. In Hiremath, A. J., Rai, N. and Siddhartha, A. (Eds), Transcending boundaries: Reflecting on twenty years of action and research at ATREE. pp. 122-131. Bangalore: ATREE.[pdf]

Articles in Popular Press