NIUA IDEATHON – Nudging Civic Behavior towards an Environment-Friendly Delhi

Here is our second presentation from the NIUA Ideathon that our Masters students from the Centre of Urban Policy and Governance participated in. Here they share their innovative measures for managing the task they were assigned and how the curriculum at the Centre has contributed to their knowledge of the urban.

Topic: Conserving water at household and neighbourhood level

Team members: Vipul Kumar, Akhil Ravella, Milan Sharma, Anmol Rana

We took a problem-centric approach intending to understand why water conservation is low and what causes wastage of water at the household level. We started off with trying to understand which type of settlements were the major users in Delhi that could be easily targeted to nudge behavior. We aimed to determine how we can nudge the behaviour of citizens to reduce the demand for water while using existing meausres, and by specifically targeting the problem that causes maximum wastage within the household.

Our first intervention creates a rating system for water appliances. By promoting water rating for taps, faucets, washing machines, shower heads, etc. we wished to nudge consumers to water-efficient appliances, similar on the lines of electrical appliances. The aim was not only to nudge behavioural change, but to make water conservation a priority in the household. Manufacturers are central to this idea, who were to be incentivised for such products, while the government promotes them in the market, housing projects/public offices, public toilets, making them an attractive option. As the products find their way in the market, awareness about the importance of such products would initiate change for consumers of the new water appliance market.

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Our second intervention focuses on regulation in the functioning of ROs. This was decided as we observed that most households used ROs irrespective of the TDS (total dissolved solids) in water being supplied low. ROs typically waste 3 litres of water with every 1 litre of processed water. Hence, we decided that every household that requires an RO connection needs to get an approval from the board certifying that their TDS levels are high, making it  obligatory for the RO company to provide a permanent storage tank, fixed beside the sink, where the wastewater can be collected with a mechanism to extract the wastewater. Moreover, the RO provider needs to issue a pamphlet in Hindi and English regarding various ways in which water can be utilised, like washing utensils, cleaning floors, clothes, etc.

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Lastly, our third intervention was to make some changes in the water bill. We came up with an idea of including some data through easily understandable graphs regarding the past 4-5 months’ usage. This would be compared to the national average consumption level and neighbourhood consumption level. The bill would show a happy face if your consumption is below neighbourhood levels and sad face if your consumption level is above neighbourhood levels. And, there would be conservation tips on the back side of the bill. This intervention would nudge citizen’s behaviour eventually with data on consumption levels displayed, which would make them conscious about their consumption behaviour.

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As a group we thought about some of the limitations with regard to our proposals., such as increased financial and administrative costs on Delhi government in terms of setting up a Nudge Unit and changes in design of water bills. Water is a state subject and an important political concern in Delhi, as currently the state government provides free water to some extent. The demand pattern needs to be analyzed by experimenting at a smaller level. Regulating the functioning of ROs in Delhi is a major challenge as it is a major lobby and bringing in certain interventions can put extra financial burden on RO companies which they can pass on to customers if not regulated properly.

The UPG course helped us to analyze the topic in a structured way – that is critically analyzing the issues. The course is designed to push students to identify the problems in a constructive manner before proposing a solution. This allowed us to consider the issue from a social, political, economical, and technical aspect. As we followed the approach, it brought us to possible solutions. The group participation added to our overall experience, encouraging constructive discussion, and offering a diverse range of perspectives.

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