U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard G. Olson, along with Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, officially launched the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies (CAS) on June 3rd – a $127 million investment from the United States to build partnerships in higher education and research.
The University of Utah is partnering with Mehran University of Engineering and Technology as the research center for water (USPCASW). The five-year USAID project will help secure the availability of clean water through education and applied research, as well as training and graduating a vital work force to address critical water security concerns in Pakistan.
In a report published in 2013, the Asian Development Bank described Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world, with a water availability of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year. Few places experience greater impacts from drought and flood extremes, as well as concerns involving sanitation.
“Estimates indicate at least one quarter of Pakistanis do not have safe and reliable access to clean drinking water,” said Steven Burian, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the U and director of the USPCASW project. “This project is contributing to curriculum advancement, applied research innovations, technology and venture commercialization, business growth, stakeholder engagement, network building and workforce development to achieve water security in Pakistan.”
The project will focus its efforts on hydraulics, irrigation and drainage, integrated water resources management, sanitation and hygiene and environmental engineering. To address the broad challenges and opportunities of the project, the U has strategically involved selected researchers from Colorado State University, City College of New York and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Cooperative Remote Sensing of Environmental Science and Technology, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and the Stockholm Environment Institute.
Another important goal for the USPCASW project is creating gender equity within the project. Approximately 10 percent of MUET students are women, so the center will work closely with the U’s Women’s Resource Center and the Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women to recruit and empower women and help them develop leadership skills while in the program.
A formal signing ceremony with the vice chancellor of MUET, Aslam Uqaili, multiple dignitaries from Pakistan and top U administrators will be held on the U campus, Tuesday, Aug. 11. Media are invited to attend, ask questions and conduct individual interviews. More information will be sent as the event draws closer.