Water History

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 453–477 | Cite as

Traditional water bodies and urban resilience: a historical perspective from Bengaluru, India

  • Hita UnnikrishnanEmail author
  • Sreerupa Sen
  • Harini Nagendra


Resilience of a city is a measure of its ability to retain or adapt form and function in the possibility of change. This is particularly true of urban water security in a water scarce world. One component of urban water resilience is that provided by historical and traditional water sources such as lakes, ponds, and stepwells. Unfortunately, as cities lose dependence on these formerly important water bodies, they stand neglected and vulnerable to various threats. This paper makes a case for returning to historical reasons for use and disuse of these water bodies in order to conserve them in the contemporary period. We adopt a geospatial–historical–ethnographic approach to understanding these transformations within the south Indian city of Bengaluru and argue that alienation of communities and lack of inclusivity are the main reasons for their decline. This poses serious implications for prevalent notions of ecosystem stewardship and ultimately for the resilience of the landscape.


Resilience Open wells Lakes Bengaluru Urban History 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to the generous access of archival material provided by the Karnataka State Archives, Bengaluru; the Divisional Archives, Mysuru; and the British Library, London, that enabled this research. Thanks are also due to the Mythic Society, Bengaluru; The Indian Institute of World Cultures, Bengaluru; and the Survey of India, Regional Office, Bengaluru for providing the various historical maps used for this study. A large measure of our research was made possible due to our respondents in various localities who took time off to answer our questions. We also thank Seema Mundoli, Aravind Madhyastha, and Madhushree Munsi for their valuable comments in initial drafts of this paper. We further thank Seema Mundoli for sourcing some of the archival material cited in this paper. Our research was funded through a USAID PEER Grant to Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), and by a research grant from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hita Unnikrishnan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sreerupa Sen
    • 1
  • Harini Nagendra
    • 2
  1. 1.Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the EnvironmentBengaluruIndia
  2. 2.Azim Premji UniversityBengaluruIndia

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