Research project AQUA-Hub

Knowledge transfer on sustainable water infrastructure in India

India’s fast-growing cities need an efficient infrastructure for water supply and wastewater disposal. However, the expansion of water infrastructures can hardly keep up with population growth. A research cooperation, in which ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research is also involved, is therefore supporting the development of a sustainable water infrastructure in the southern Indian city of Coimbatore with the “AQUA-Hub” project. At the center of this is a contact point for German-Indian technology and knowledge transfer, the so-called Water Innovation Hub. The research team now reports regularly on the latest developments in the new “HubPost” format.

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Foto: Stefan Liehr (ISOE)

With its 1.7 million inhabitants on an area of just under 260 square kilometers, the southern Indian industrial city of Coimbatore is a typical fast-growing metropolis. Its population is expected to grow by another million people in the next 30 years. However, securing water supply and wastewater disposal is already now considered to be one of the most urgent problems. Competition for water resources is manifold; in many places, drinking water supplies are limited to only a few hours every five to ten days. There is also a lack of sewage systems and treatment plants, and the extensive lakescape around the city is polluted by sewage, as is the Noyyal River, which flows through the urban area.

How could it happen that the city of Coimbatore, known for its special water tradition offering centuries-old, efficient water drainage system, is now facing such enormous problems? In the new format for science communication as part of the AQUA Hub research project, the German-Indian team provides background information on this development. Hub manager Sreya Prakash examines the first and second parts of the “HubPost” series to Coimbatore’s history and its reputation as the “Manchester of South India.” Prakash shows how the ecosystems of the vast lakescape have been destroyed by overuse since the early 1970s. “The lakes have shrunk by 50 percent and have essentially become sewage tanks,” Prakash reports in HubPost No. 2, “The Slow Death of the Lakes.”

Innovations in the water sector: Indo-German research project for technology and knowledge transfer

“The challenges that the city of Coimbatore is facing as a result from past mismanagement of water resources are exemplary for Indian metropolises,” says ISOE water researcher Stefan Liehr. Time is pressing. “Effective measures to stop urban water pollution and improve, secure and monitor water quality must be implemented as soon as possible, and not only in Coimbatore.” As one of India's hundred so-called “smart cities,” Coimbatore actually has the chance to implement exemplary solutions for innovative water supply and water disposal and thus set the course for sustainable urban development, he said.

In the course of the preceding project Smart Water Future India (SWF India), that was funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, a German-Indian research team began by first analyzing Coimbatore’s water sector and identified the need for environmental technologies and intelligent water management strategies for sustainable water supply and disposal. For the knowledge and technology transfer of the results, the concept of Water Innovation Hubs as network and project centers has now been developed at two pilot locations as part of the current “AQUA-Hub” project. In addition to Coimbatore, a center has also been opened in Solapur. The hubs link the supply of innovative water infrastructure solutions with the corresponding demand. They also enable companies and research institutes from Germany to make their innovative technologies locally known, to test pilot plants together with Indian partners and develop them further under the specific conditions in India.

The AQUA-Hub research project is funded under the “Export Initiative for Environmental Protection” (EXI) program of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV). The project is led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB. Research partners are ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, the State Agency for Environmental Technology BW (UTBW) as well as Indian partners and German companies.

Link to the project on the ISOE homepage 

Links to the first two issues of HubPost

Prakash, Sreya/Stefan Liehr/Marc Beckett/Marius Mohr (2022): Coimbatore's Lakes - An Introduction. Water Innovation Hub Coimbatore - HubPost, 1. Coimbatore, Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart

Prakash, Sreya/Stefan Liehr/Marc Beckett/Marius Mohr (2022): The Slow Death of the Lakes. Water Innovation Hub Coimbatore - HubPost, 2. Coimbatore, Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart

Scientific contact:

Dr. Stefan Liehr
Tel. +49 (0)69 707 6919-36

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 (0)69 707 6919-51