Achieving water SDG in Pakistan: Challenges and opportunities

An executive seminar on “Achieving Water Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities” in Pakistan was held on Tuesday at Karachi under the auspices of U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) Jamshoro.

The inaugural session chaired by Syed Murad Ali Shah, Senior Minister for Finance, Planning and Development, and Irrigation Departments, Government of Sindh. Mr. Shah said that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are essential for the people of world at large and particularly of this region.

“Government of Sindh is fully committed to support all the future and ongoing programs of international agencies and is also supportive to fulfill SDGs in the province”, he added. He said that Center for Advanced Studies in Water at MUET in partnership with University of Utah is one of the most advanced and productive projects of USAID in Pakistan. He further assured his support for the USAID projects in the province.

Mr. Steve Urquhart, Global Ambassador University of Utah, and former State Senator in his keynote speech said that SDGs are ambitious and difficult challenges of the world to accomplish but we must be optimist to achieve these goals. “We are really going to navigate the difficult tasks like to end poverty, end hunger, ensure health lives, achive gender quality, ensure water and sanitation for all and many other difficult goals”, he added.

He said that higher education system in Utah has done great things by putting talented people in academic and research activities. He said University of Utah (UU) has provided conducive academic and research environment for the academia and researchers to fasten the innovation, entrepreneurship, to grow the ideas and to seek the solutions of the various problems of human being.

He further said that partnership between MUET and UU is crucial to accomplish the great tasks. In the opening remarks, Mr. Craig Buck, USAID Mission Deputy Director for Sindh and Baluchistan said that USAID has commitment to improve water management in Pakistan, for this purpose, USAID has major investment in MUET. He said that Pakistan had setup an example of having a most sophisticated and advanced irrigation systems in the world, which needs to be maintained and sustained accordingly.

He said that USAID in partnership with institutes like MUET in Pakistan, to improve the lives of people and to enable them more productive. He said that with the support of American people through USAID had invested 55 billion rupees for Jacobabad city for the establishment of Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS), improvement of access to safe drinking water and sewerage system as well as improvement of education in the region. He further said that water is vital element of life and USAID had pleased to have partnership with MUET to build effective, workable, and productive system, which will make better lives of people of Pakistan.

Dr. Mohammad Aslam Uqaili, Vice Chancellor MUET in his welcome address said that purpose of this seminar was to identify the needs and opportunities in terms of policies, research, and education needed to implement the SDGs framework that itself requires multi-sectorial and multi-stakeholder engagement.

“Government alone cannot achieve SDGs as its own, unless its implementation is fully supported by all stakeholders including citizens, civil society, private sector, and academia”, he added. He further said that to meet the SDGs, universities have to build a huge amount of social capital in the form of graduates with competitive age in different fields.

Dr. Uqaili said that access to safe drinking water and sanitation services is an important human development goal. Pakistan’s performance on this goal during the Millinum Development Goals (MDGs) era was not very satisfactory. “There is growing concern regarding the increasing stress on water resources caused by population growth, unsustainable consumption patterns and uncontrolled uses”, he added. Dr. Uqaili said that through establishment of this water research center, academic relations between MUET and University of Utah (UU) have been extended beyond the project.

“This center is playing an instrumental role in contributing towards the soft investment in the form of capacity development and creatin and sharing of new knoweledge”, Dr. Uqaili added.

He further said that with the highly technical support from UU, this center is transforming into a world class Center of Excellence. The inaugural session was followed by the technical session, which was chaired by Dr. Sikandar Ali Mandhro, minister for Environment and Coastal Development Authority, Government of Sindh. Dr. Mandhro said that poverty is one of the big challenges in countries like Pakistan.

The people do not have quantitative as well as qualitative access of basic needs due to poverty, he added. He further said that after poverty, lack of awareness is one of the main causes for various ills. He emphasized on academia to have outreach activities to keep the masses aware regarding importance of water other commodities basic needs besides organizing awareness seminars.

Prof. Tariq Banuri, Associate Director of University of Utah, delivering his presentation on “Water SDG and its Implementation of Socioeconomic Transformation in Pakistan”, said that Sustainable Development Goals have focused on qualitative access of all mentioned goals whereas Millenniums Development Goals were focused on quantitative access of the same.

In the seminar, Ms. Rehana Ali Memon, Secretary Planning and Development, Government of Sindh gave presentation on “Responding to SDGs Agenda in the Sindh Province: An Overview of Initiatives”, Mr. Juan Carlos Negrette, Director of Global Health, University of Utah, USA gave presentations on “Integrated Water, Sanitation and Health in the SDG Framework” while Dr. Bakshal Khan Lashari, Project Director USPCAS-W, MUET and Dr. Steve Burian, Director USPCAS-W, UU gave presentation on, “MUET becoming a Living Lab for Advancing the Implementation of Water SDG”.

In the seminar, academic delegation from University of Utah, academia of different universities of Pakistan, researchers, government officials, faculty and students of USPCAS-W, MUET participated in the event. The delegation from University of Utah also presented gifts to provincial minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on this occasion.

Sahib Khan Bhand - Communication, Media & Outreach Expert at USPCAS-W, MUET Jamshoro, Sindh- Pakistan

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