Health impact of water access in urban China and India


China, India


This interdisciplinary study analyses the relation between water management, health issues, and urban planning in the context of fast-expanding and globalising tourism-based economies in China and India, using three case studies. Darchen Town in Tibet, Shaxi Town in Yunnan Province in Southwest China, and Leh Town in Ladakh, India. In all three cases, water resources are already scarce, and availability of water is further being impacted by climate change. The number of tourists is expected to increase exponentially in the next few years with concomitant economic growth causing significant lifestyle changes for the local population. However, the three towns are already facing serious environmental issues due to lack of water and sanitation infrastructure.

The aims of the project are

  • to systematically analyse complex water and health interlinkages
  • to visualize to decision makers the advantages of urban infrastructure investment enabling clean drinking water access
  • to visualize alternative future urban development scenarios using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)- based modelling
  • to vision the three case studies as Eco-town models

Various data sources are being used, including questionnaire survey of 200 households and of 70 hotels and guesthouses, health data, mapping of point sources of water pollution using Global Positioning System (GPS), and satellite imagery. The study finds that drinking water is being polluted by lack of adequate sanitation infrastructure, causing health issues. Further, uncontrolled extraction of groundwater may be depleting drinking water resources at an unsustainable pace. This study advocates an integrated urban planning approach and decentralized sanitation systems for water resources conservation.

This research is supported by a Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant within the 7th European Community Framework Programme (PIRG06-GA-2009-256555) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) (KE 1710/1-1), and is conducted in collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).


Geographic Information Systems (GIS); questionnaire and interview survey; participatory workshops

Main Cooperation Partners

  • Bonn Asia Center (BAZ), Bonn University
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
  • ZEF Water Pollution and Health Initiative
  • International Centre for Comparative Water and Development Studies (ICCWaDS)
  • International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-HABITAT
  • German International Kooperation (GIZ)
Main Funding Partners

European Commission (Marie Curie Programme), German Research Foundation (DFG)

Further information

Further team members:

Adris Akhtar (ZEF)
Jenny Kebschull (Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL))
<link http: zfl-1 staff dr.-nussbaum-sven-1 dr.-nussbaum-sven _blank external-link-new-window external link in new>Dr. Sven Nussbaum (ZFL)
<link http: staff _blank external-link-new-window external link in new>Dr. Kimberly Couvson (05-11/2011)

Duration of the Project

05/2011 - 04/2015


Daphne Gondhalekar

Dr. Daphne Gondhalekar


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