Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni | Center for Public Affairs and Critical Theory


Himanshu Kulkarni
Dr. Himanshu
Adjunct faculty
Shiv Nadar University
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Profile Summary 

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni leads ACWADAM, a not-for-profit knowledge institution and think-tank working on groundwater since 1998. He is a hydrogeologist by qualification – Ph.D. from Pune University in 1987 - and has been working on aquifers and groundwater across India’s diverse groundwater typology for more than 35 years. He has been a CSIR research scholar, UNESCO scholar and a Fulbright Fellow at different times of his career.

ACWADAM has partnered with a variety of organisations on piloting and mainstreaming the ideas of participatory groundwater management and springshed management across India, neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam and has begun work in Africa. ACWADAM’s work under Dr. Kulkarni has followed the principle of bringing communities closer to their aquifers and managing groundwater as a common pool resource through the process of Aquifer-based Participatory Groundwater Management. He has, through ACWADAM, steered the concept of hydrogeology based ‘springshed’ management that has now become so important from local to national levels in India and its neighbouring regions. Dr. Kulkarni has, before co-founding ACWADAM, worked at Pune University for 13 years, after which he also worked with the corporate sector for a couple of years.

Through ACWADAM’s collaboration with educational institutions, Dr. Kulkarni works as adjunct faculty and course advisor at Shiv Nadar University for the post-graduate course on Water Science and Policy. He is also visiting faculty and a member of the Board of Studies at TISS, Mumbai. He has supervised 2 PhDs and many post-graduate dissertations. He continues to advise Government of India and has held many advisory positions on various committees of the Government. Dr. Kulkarni has anchored several international action research collaborations in the subject of groundwater, particularly in his lead role at ACWADAM.

Key credentials of Dr. Kulkarni

  • Member, Drafting Committee, India’s National Water Policy, Ministry of Jal Shakti (Water Resources), Government of India, 2019-20.
  • Member, Advisory Committee, Water Strategy Development, Government of MP.
  • Jury Member, FICCI Water Awards, 2019 & 2020.
  • Lead Author (along with Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, Adviser, DST, Govt. if India), Report of Working Group 1: Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security, as part of the NITI Aayog (Government of India) initiative on Sustainable Development in Indian Himalayan Region, 2018.
  • Special presentations in Jaipur and Chennai on “Groundwater Management in India” during two workshops for teams conducting Scientific Audit of the national programme on Groundwater Management and Governance, on invitation from the office of Comptroller and Auditor General of India, August 2018.
  • Member, Committee on drafting the Water Policy for the state of Karnataka, India through the Karnataka Jnana Aayoga. Chaired the sub-committee on ‘Groundwater and its interaction with surface water’, 2017-18.
  • Member, State Advisory Board on Water Resources Planning, Government of Maharashtra & 2030 WRG, 2018 - current.
  • Member, High Level Committee on reforming and restructuring CWC and CGWB, the two apex institutions dealing with surface water and groundwater under Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, 2015-16. Chaired and co-chaired the sub-groups on Groundwater and Capacity Building respectively. Also, played a major role in drafting out the main report
  • Member, committee to review drafts of the following water legislations under Ministry of Water Resources: Model bill on Conservation, Protection and Regulation of Ground Water, 2011, Draft National Water Framework Law, and Draft River Basin Management – 2015-17. Also, Member, Committee on reviewing Draft Water Framework Law and Draft Model Bill on Groundwater Protection and Management, 2011, MoWR, GoI.
  •  Chairman working group on Sustainable Groundwater Management, on invitation from Planning Commission, Government of India, in preparation of 12th Five Year Plan. Wrote up major sections of the Working Group Report on groundwater for the 12th Plan – 2010-11. (Chairman, CGWB – GoI, was the Co-chair of the Working Group). 
  • Member, Steering Committee, Water Resources, Planning Commission, Government of India –2010-11; Member, High Level Committee to Study Water Logging and Soil Salinisation constituted by Planning Commission, Government of India, for Government of Punjab–2011-2013.
  • Current and past Memberships: International Association of Hydrogeologists, International Association of Hydrological Sciences; Geological Society of India; Indian Society of Remote Sensing; Indian Society of Geomatics
Educational Qualifications 
Ph.D. in Geology (Hydrogeology of Deccan basalt)
University of Pune
M.Sc. in Geology
University of Pune
B.Sc. in Geology
Fergusson College under University of Pune
Fulbright Scholar under Indo-American Environment Leadership Program for a study in the USA
UNESCO Scholarship for PGTC_2001 (Post graduate training course in groundwater tracing techniques)
Joanneum Research & Technical University, Graz, Austria
Research Fellow (doctoral) and Research Associate (post-doc)
Scientist of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
Teaching & Research Interests: 
  • Transition to Groundwater Sustainability: EU Project with partners from across 6 continents. Project anchored by UNESCO-IHE, Netherlands – ongoing.
  • Delivered two invited lectures on ‘Groundwater Management and Governance in India’, in Paris (French Agency for Biodiversity) and Montpellier (IM2E – French Institute for Water and Environment) in November 2018 on invitation from experts in France.
  • SDC-UNDP project on Strengthening State Strategies for Climate Action in India – ACWADAM’s role was to develop capacity and conduct dialogue on participatory groundwater management, spring-water revival and provide oversight on the development of Water Policies in certain states – Helvetas was the co-ordinating agency – 2017 to 2019.
  • Reviving springs and providing access to solar powered irrigation pumps (SPIP) through community based water use planning: Multiple approaches to solving agricultural water problems in mid hills and Terai in Nepal and India – collaboration with ICIMOD, Nepal. Programme support was through CGIAR’s WLE Programme.
  • Collaborative Applied Research and Partnership in Kailash Sacred Landscape (India and Nepal) Understanding Springs using Springshed Hydrogeology Approach – collaboration with ICIMOD, Nepal – lead researcher on the programme for ACWADAM.
  • Improving livelihoods with innovative cropping systems on the East India Plateau 2012 – 2016. Supported by ACIAR and led by University of Western Sydney in partnership with Pradan. ACWADAM led the theme on groundwater management. •
  • AGRAR 2006. Managed Aquifer Recharge: an assessement of its role and effectiveness in watershed management. ACWADAM was one of the patners (HK was the co-ordinator and lead researcher from ACWADAM) – 2003-2006. Lead agency was British Geological Survey under DFID support.
  • COMMAN 2005. Community Management of Groundwater Resources in Rural India – International collaboration between various International Agencies and Indian Partners – ACWADAM was one of the patners (HK was the co-ordinator and lead researcher from ACWADAM) – 2002-2005. Lead was British Geological Survey under DFID support.
  • Research collaboration between Department of Geology, SPPU, Pune and British Geological Survey – ‘Sustainable Groundwater Development of hard-rock aquifers: the possible conflict between irrigation and drinking water supplies from the Deccan Basalts of India’ – lead researcher on India side – under the ODA programme – 1991-1995. The project was co-ordinated through British Council.
  • Presented research findings in more than 10 national and international symposia on groundwater, including conferences and symposia in USA, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam

Scholarly Activity

Book Chapters

Kulkarni, H. and Thakkar, H. (2012) Framework for India’s strategic water resource management under a changing climate, pp. 328-340; (in ed: Dubash, N.). Handbook on Climate Change in India, Oxford University Press

Kulkarni, H., Vijay Shankar, P.S. and Patil, S. (2015) The relevance of groundwater typology in India’s rural development. Chapter 2, IDFC Rural Development Network 2014. India Rural Development Report 2013/14. Orient BlackSwan, Delhi.

Kulkarni, H., Aslekar, U. and Joshi, D. (2018) Specific Yield of Unconfined Aquifers in Revisiting Efficiency of Groundwater. In: D. Saha et al. (eds.), Clean and Sustainable Groundwater in India. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018. Springer Hydrogeology, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-4552-3_10

Kulkarni, H., Aslekar, U. and Patil, S. (2018) Groundwater Management in India: Status, Challenges and a Framework for Responses. In: Mukherjee, A. (ed.), Groundwater of South Asia. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018. Springer Water, DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-3889-1

Journal Publications (accepted or published)

Kulkarni, H., Shah, M. and Vijay Shankar, P. S. 2015. Shaping the contours of groundwater governance in India. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, v.4(A), September 2015, 172–192, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejrh.2014.11.004

Moench, M. Kulkarni, H. and Burke, J. 2012. Trends in local groundwater management institutions. Thematic paper 7, Groundwater Governance: A Global Framework for Country Action, GEF ID 3726. www.groundwatergovernance.org

Kulkarni, H. and Vijay Shankar, P. S. 2014. Groundwater resources in India: an arena for diverse competition. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, v. 19(9), 990-1011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2014.964192.

Kulkarni, H. and Vijay Shankar, P. S. (2009) Groundwater: towards and aquifer management framework. Commentary, Economic and Political Weekly, February 7, 2009.

Kulkarni, H., Vijay Shankar, P.S., Deolankar, S.B. and Shah Mihir (2004) Groundwater demand management at local scale in rural areas of India: a strategy to ensure water well sustainability based on aquifer diffusivity and community participation. Hydrogeology Journal (Springer), v. 12(2), pp. 184-196.

Kulkarni, H., Deolankar S. B., Lalwani A., Joseph B. and Pawar S. (2000) Hydrogeological framework of Deccan basalt ground water systems, India. Hydrogeology Journal (Springer - Verlag), v. 8(4), pp. 368-378.

Kulkarni, H. and Deolankar S.B. (1993) Ground water abstraction from shallow unconfined Deccan basaltic aquifers of Maharashtra, India. In Selected Papers in Environmental Hydrogeology: Y Sakura (ed.); Int. Assoc. Hydrogeol. - Verlag Heinz Heise Publ., v. 4 (Section 3), pp. 107-120.

Tambe, S., Rawat, G. S., Bhutia, N. T., Sherpa, P. N., Dhakal, S., Pradhan, S., Kulkarni, H. and Arrawatia, M. L. 2020. Building sustainability in the Eastern Himalaya: linking evidence to action. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 22: 5887-5903.

Kulkarni, H. and Gokhale, R. 2020. Managing Deccan Basalt aquifers: understanding aquifer heterogeneity, iniquitous access and groundwater competition. e-Journal of Geohydrology, INC-IAH, v.1 (2): 9-23

Journal Articles

Shah, M. and Kulkarni, H. 2015. Urban water systems in India: typologies and hypotheses. Special Article, Economic and Political Weekly, L (30), July 25, 2015, 57-69.

Journal Publications (submitted)

Kulkarni, H., Shah, M. and Vijay Shankar, P. S. 2015. Shaping the contours of groundwater governance in India. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies (2015)


Kulkarni, H. (2005) Groundwater overdraft: a physical perspective. In: COMMAN 2005. Community Management of Groundwater Resources in Rural India – Research Report, R. Calow and D. Macdonald (eds), British Geological Survey Commissioned Report CR/05/36N., pp. 1-13.