Global research indicates that Pakistan has become a hotspot for climate change and there is an imperative need for serious measures to address this threat.
This warning was issued by experts at the launch of a think tank and the ‘Universities’ Network on Water’ focused on the rational use of water on Saturday. The event, organised by an NGO, The Hisaar Foundation, aimed at bringing together major universities of the city to promote better conservation habits among students and society at large.
In this regard, an MoU was signed among the NED University and the foundation. Besides NED, the University of Karachi and Mehran University are also a part of the project and more institutes would also be invited.
“The main vision of the Universities for Water network is to promote knowledge and develop a skill base for the water sector, including the introduction of related disciplines, degrees and departments. The impact of this step being taken now would be seen in Pakistan over the next 100 years,” said Dr Sarosh Lodhi, the dean of NED’s architecture and civil engineering department.
He said that a key aim was to set up an international-level Hisaar Institute for Water at a Pakistani university, one that would also be conducting inter-disciplinary research, education and training in the sector.
“We want to develop a complete database of all water-related research and literature available in the public domain in Pakistan, as well as establish an online portal for the content. There are also plans for introducing academic programmes tailored towards highlighting related issues and possible solutions,” said Dr Lodhi.
“The Hisaar Award will also be set up to encourage more competitions and interactive activities to generate interest among students. Moreover, a journal of international standards on water-related problems and research will be published too.”
Dr Lodhi informed the audience that, currently, there are two separate streams for studying water issues. “The first, known as the engineering stream, includes hydrology, hydraulics, infrastructure, environmental sciences, while the social studies stream covers geography, climate change, sociology, social work, politics and community-based measures,” he said.
According to him, another aim of the proposed institute would be to acquire information from these disciplines and work towards behavioural change – academia assisting the government and citizens in adopting new policies for better conservation and utilisation of water resources.
“In the current scenario, water is at the forefront of the world’s most pressing global challenges, along with climate change, global warming, natural disasters and population growth. Therefore it is, now more than ever, necessary to develop an integrated approach towards water management – one that provides an inter-disciplinary perspective, recognises all links and focuses on the ramifications of particular actions on all stakeholders,” said Dr Lodhi.
Simi Kamal, the founding chairperson of the Hisaar Foundation who will be the convener of the think tank, said water and environmental issues would top its agenda. “However, we will also implement various programmes through partner organisations, along with testing, piloting and disseminating feasible solutions,” she said.
“Of the think tank’s eight members, three would be water specialists and the members remain confident of formulating effective management strategies that could lead to a comprehensive and viable water policy for the entire country.”
Kamal also stressed on the need for advocacy campaigns and social networking to promote rational use of water at all echelons of society. “The increasing pressures of climate change, population growth, urbanisation and growing energy needs are putting a great strain on our limited freshwater resources,” she warned.
She lamented the government’s failure to prioritise water-related issues agenda, citing this short-sightedness as the main reason that Pakistan does not have a consistent policy for water management and conservation.
“There is a severe lack of critical thinking even in times of such impending crisis. The food security of our over 180 million population – 66 percent of which are dependent on agriculture – is also at stake.”
Earlier, the report of the December 2013 conference on “Water Cooperation in Action – From the Global to the Grassroots” was also launched. The report covers all proceedings of the conference and provides a comprehensive account of each of the plenary, technical and interactive sessions.
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