Pakistani water sector representatives, civil society organizations, and senior administration and faculty from Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) attended a stakeholder conference on “Higher Education & Research Needs in the Water Sector” on Tuesday, June 9th. The conference was organised MUET and the University of Utah (U). The meeting informed attendees about the details of the newly launched U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCASW) and solicited feedback on the curriculum modernization and policy research components of the program.
MUET Project Director, Bakshal Lashari, introduced USPCASW and spoke of his desire for the Center to be an action-oriented institution at the vanguard of providing appropriate solutions to the water challenges facing Pakistan. He added, “An effective partnership between MUET and the U is central to the realization of this vision.”
Assistant Professor at the U, Tariq Banuri, spoke on the important role stakeholders would play in the success of the Center. “Stakeholders will help identify problems that the Center can work on solutions to, provide hands-on training and future employment to graduates from the Center.” Banuri also emphasized the U’s commitment to quality research and the quality of students that the Center will produce.
Chief Guest, Babar Effendi, Head of the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA), expressed his delight at the Center’s goals. He was of the opinion that there is a dearth of applied research in the water sector and the Center will do well by focusing its energies in this neglected area. He added, “SIDA will be pleased to provide necessary support and a platform for the Center’s students for applied research and field training.”
Meeting participants showed a great deal of interest in the project, including wide ranging comments and questions during the Q&A sessions. Some very good suggestions were aimed at more effective inclusion of gender considerations into the work of the Center; imparting academic and field training in the overall context of governance and political economy of the water sector; devising formal mechanisms for integrating the Center’s work with that of partner centers working on energy and agriculture/food security; and the importance of community engagement in engineering project design and implementation.
U Project Director, Steven Burian, thanked the participants for the valuable suggestions and said, “This project will navigate the landscape of complex water resource challenges facing Pakistan and come up with technically and socially appropriate solutions.” He thanked the audience for their participation and voiced the hope that this meeting was only the start of a process of continuous and productive engagement with stakeholders.