Citizen Science

People’s tool for participatory and community led water quality monitoring, flood monitoring & fisheries watch for conservation and sustainable livelihood

Citizen Science

Citizen Science could be referred to as the community's partcipation in scientific inquiry for more informed and evidence based advocacy for ensuring inclusive water governance policies. 

While it has been in use in different ways in different sectors by different actors, in the context of transboundary water governance, WG-CAN uses it to achieve the objectives of alleviating poverty through community based water governance in the riparian areas of South Asia. In two major river basins, Citizen Science approach has been implemented with the idea of bridging the gap between riparian communities and other stakeholders, including the state, private sectors and civil society, to assess water quality and standards in the respective river basins. From a larger perspective, it is an approach to increase the efficiency of water governance through citizen led scientific data management which could be used as a tool for rights based advocacy.

WG-CAN emphasises on strengthening last mile structures at the village and community level. Sharda Nadi Nagrik Manch and Mahabahu Brahmaputra Federation are the two citizen forums established under this initiative which is proactively engaging with local officials on issues including water governance. A network of 348 volunteers from 79 most vulnerable villages in these river basins are engaged as citizen scientists, water volunteers and early warning volunteers. Citizen Science Volunteers have been engaged on issues including community based water quality monitoring, transboundary efforts for fisheries conservation, flood monitoring and early action.

In order to generate evidence for Citizen Science, one has to not only have the knowledge of the river basin, but also the potentiality to identify them on maps and then assess the various vulnerabilities in the most critical hotspots. From identification of hazards to mapping of vulnerabilities, Citizen Science is the process of engaging people in the process of scientific enquiry as a part of the larger advocacy process. Through a process of institution building, the network engages community volunteers in a consultative process for a comprehensive and holistic assessment of water quality in their respective basin.

In this regard, it is also important to understand that every geography has its own vulnerability and intervention on water quality should be based on the community’s assessment of their problems. That is why the geo-physical context of the basis and the anthropogenic dynamics has to be thoroughly understood before the testing of ground or surface water.

To this end, we have well employed the Hazard Risk Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (HRVCA), and involved the community in generating maps and locating the critical points where intervention on various aspects of water governance is required. The HRVCA processes were used in establishing a last mile network for community based flood monitoring and early action.

Along with this, Citizens are also being trained in water quality governance using appropriate scientific kits. After rounds of training these user friendly kits are provided to the volunteers and community mobilizers for generating data on water quality, which is then analysed by the team for dissemination. Through different consultative processes, communities are then trained on data collection for a more informed evidence based advocacy. It is not the just the data to be collected from the field, but also the process that entails in the larger perspective of Citizen Science. This year through the Water Governance Collective Action Network, it is expected that community driven data shall be used for advocating on consultative platforms with policy makers.

Citizen Science is, however, not only confined to testing of water quality, but is also used as an important tool for advocating for the livelihood rights of the communities. A classic example would be the Hilsa Watch in Bangladesh, where Team TROSA brought to the attention of the government the various livelihood dynamics of the fisher folk dependent on the unique Hilsa species found in the Meghna-Brahmaputra Basin, as well as by involving citizens in the economics of poverty. Similar approaches are being adopted in India too, with the aim to generate more evidence for designing a proper framework for rights based advocacy, which would eventually lead to policy level change.


This section is written by Mukunda Upadhyay, Programme Officer, Disaster Risk Redcution, Oxfam India


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The initiative is supported by Oxfam India under Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA 2017 -2021) program. TROSA is a regional water governance program supporting poverty reduction initiatives in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) and Salween basins.The program is implemented in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanamar and is supported by the Government of Sweden.
Views expressed in this website are those of the individual contributors and network members and do not represent that of Oxfam, its implementing partners or Government of Sweden.