The US-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, hosted a meeting of leading water experts, who have agreed to form a National Water Research Network (NWRN). While discussing the pressing water research issues in Pakistan, experts expressed concerns that water-related research is scattered across institutions, and national policy formulation process is severely constrained by evidence-based policy research. The NWRN will be serve as an important platform for developing shared understanding of water sector agenda, supporting the achievement of water SDGs, and sharing of knowledge and best practices for capacity building of water sector professionals. A steering committee was also formed to steer the work of NWRN.
Speaking on the occasion, Vice Chancellor MUET Dr. Mohammad Aslam Uqaili said "This network will be very helpful in bringing together the required knowledge and capacities to address the water sector challenges Pakistan is facing. The collaboration across institutions to be realized through this network will lead to prioritizing water research agenda, in addition to identifying critical research gaps." He asked network members to generate reliable data and information to facilitate bridging science-policy gap in the water sector.
Dr Aslam Chaudhry from University of Utah, USA, said "This network can make meaningful contributions in prioritizing the water sector research agenda." He noted that an ideal focus for the network will be to develop its research map around the six targets of water SDGs. He suggested several ways in which network members can benefit from USPCAS-W activities, including joint research programs, adaption of advanced water curriculum, training and capacity building activities offered by the University of Utah, and partnerships with flagship projects, among others.
"The water research in Pakistan is done in isolation, catering the needs of individuals or institutions instead of meeting the needs of the society," said Dr. M. Ashraf, Chairman Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR). "There is a lack of collaboration among academia, policy makers, industry and development agencies which affects prioritizing research agenda and transfer of technology. Research-policy interface can be improved by reducing the existing gap among relevant stakeholders, while research must be prioritized based on needs of the society."
Dr. Rasool Bux Mahar, a Professor at USPCA-W/MUET emphasized the need for cutting edge research for developing new technologies as well as improving existing technologies in water sector. In this regard, the recently established Standing Committee on Business-Academia Collaboration on Water can play an instrumental role if supported by the research to be undertaken by the NWRN.
Dr. Altaf Ali Siyal, a Professor at USPCAS-W MUET suggested a number of areas pertinent to water use efficiency and scarcity which need to be researched if Pakistan is to meet the water SDG targets related to improving water use efficiency. The network research can help in establishing the baseline situation and strategy to achieve milestones set under this particular target.
In terms of next steps, Dr. Bakhshal Khan Lashari said "This network will provide platform for undertaking joint research, establishing a central water database, developing an inventory of research work, and providing policy advice to the Government." He also announced that USPCAS-W will serve as the secretariat to facilitate network operations, and stressed the importance of inviting other stakeholders to join the network.
People and institutions attended the meeting included: Dr. Tauha Hussain Ali, Pro-Vice Chancellor MUET, Dr. Qazi Tallat, Deputy Energy Advisor, Ministry of Water and Power, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashiq Kharal, Director CEWRE, UET Lahore, Prof. Dr. Hamza Farooq Gabriel, Director Regional Center NUST Islamabad, Dr. Muhammad Arshad, University of Agriculture Faisalabad. Dr. Tahir Sarwar, University of Agriculture Peshawar, Dr. Shafqat Eijaz, Director NED University Karachi, Mr. Imdad Hussain Khoso from Lasbella University Uthal, Mr. Iqtidar Hussain from Karakoram International University, Gilgit, Mr. Haris Akram Bhatti, Dr. Kamran Ansari, Deputy Director USPCAS-W, among others.