Water Resources Institutions and Human Health: Contested Institutional Terrain of Water-and Vector-borne Diseases in Ahmedabad City, India


IWRM, institutional analysis, water-related diseases, urbanisation




The research examines the role of urbanization on water management and its association to risk to human health (namely water- and vector-borne diseases) in Ahmedabad city. The research's overall objectives are:

  1. To spatially analyse the distribution of water- and vector-borne diseases in Ahmedabad city (64 administrative wards spread out in 6 administrative zones).
  2. To assess the socio-economic, institutional and ecological burden on water-related diseases at the household level in two selected wards in the city.
  3. To take systems perspective to understand the spatial and temporal factors influencing water- and vector-borne diseases among deprived population (women/children) in the two wards in the city.

Though science has contributed significantly in addressing the threat from water- and vector-borne diseases, solutions to these complex problems are still sought in a simple, one-dimensional ‘cause-effect remedy’ context with techno-centric and socially engineered solutions (Saravanan, Mollinga and Bogardi, 2011).

Such conceptualization fails to consider the complex interaction between the social and bio-physical systems that shape urban forms of water management. The research takes a systems perspective to understand the political form of contestation among various institutions in influencing the urban water infrastructure, socio-economic, hygiene, nutritional and human mobility factors leading to spread of water- and vector-borne disease in the city.

The research applies multiple research methods from both qualitative and quantitative information at different levels (city, households and individuals) and problem-oriented approach to understand the role of contentious institutional terrain in influencing urban health.

By bringing together the concepts and theories of urban political ecology, new institutionalism, and socio-epidemiology, the research aims to contribute to the growing debate on the importance of research to combine the strength of ‘objectivity –subjectivity’ in urban health.

Main Funding Partners

The German Research Council (DFG)

Further information

Workshop on "Are we getting crowded, thirsty and sick? Urbanization, water management and human health"
24 January 2013, Hotel Cambay Grand, Near PERD Centre, Sola Over Bridge, Thaltej, Ahmedabad - 380 054, Gujarat
» Announcement
» Program


Saravanan.V.S, M.A. Idenal, S. Saiyed, D. Saxena and S. Gerke. 2016. Urbanization and human health in urban India: institutional analysis of water-borne diseases in Ahmedabad. Health Policy and Planning, doi: 010.1093/heapol/czw039: 1-11.
» more

Saravanan.V.S., D. Mavalankar, S.P. Kulkarni, S. Nussbaum, and M. Weigelt. 2015. Metabolized-Water Breeding Diseases in Urban India - Sociospatiality of Water Problems and Health Burden in Ahmedabad City. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 19: 93-103.
» more

Saravanan.V.S. 2014. How rotting water infrastructure pipes breed diseases in our cities. Governance Now: Of Policies and Politics, 16-31 August 2014.
» more

Saravanan.V.S. 2014. Sustainable or 'sustaining' development goals: The role of international agencies. Governance Now: Of Policies and Politics, 5(18): 48-50.
» more

Saravanan.V.S. and D. Gondhalekar. 2014. Can water supply and sanitation be a 'preventive medicine'?, Water International Policy Briefing. March 2014.
» Download [PDF | 780.52KB]

Guest Editor. 2013. Special Issue on Water supply, sanitation and hygiene as ‘preventive medicine’: Challenges in rapidly growing economies. Water International, 38 (7). 867-874.
» more

Saravanan.V.S. 2013. Urbanizing diseases; Contested institutional terrain of water- and vector borne diseases in Ahmedabad city, India. Water International, 38 (7), 875-887.
» more

Gondhalekar, D., Mollinga, PP and Saravanan.V.S. 2013. Towards a systematic comparative water and health research. Water International, 38 (7), 967-976.
» more

Saravanan.V.S. 2013. Blame it on the community, immunize the state and international agencies: Assessment of water supply and sanitation program in India. ZEF Working Paper 124
» more

Duration of the Project

May 2011 to April 2014


Saravanan Subramanian

Dr. Saravanan Subramanian