Earlier this spring, Harvard University’s South Asia Institute hosted its annual symposium, a two-day program focused on South Asia Regionalism: Shared Challenges and the Way Forward.

I was privileged to lead the the Urban Water Challenges panel and workshop held during the symposium with Peter Rogers, Afreen Siddiqi, Farhana Sultana and Jim Wescoat.

Some major themes of the discussion included the recognition that while providing adequate safe drinking water for urban populations is required for basic health and well-being, the water issues for cities extend far beyond the core residents – agricultural fields beyond the metropolitan limits feed these expanding cities and have water needs and challenges, as well. Also, while water is needed to survive and flourish, it is part of a complex web of social, economic, ecological and development challenges for populations, particularly for vulnerable populations such as slum residents in South Asian cities. Improving outcomes for individuals in cities requires more than delivering safe, affordable water. The physical, institutional, and cultural infrastructure needed to build the systems and organizational trust required to solve water problems need to be viewed holistically.

The video for the session is online, and we’ve included a two page downloadable summary below, including presentation summaries from the panelists. While we won’t be able to solve water problems in a two hour workshop, hopefully the increased awareness of the depth and complexity of these problems and shared desire to address urban water challenges can help to catalyze new collaborations, pilot projects, and inventive ways to seek solutions to the multi-faceted water challenges in South Asian cities.

Shafiqul Islam

Shafiqul Islam is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Water Diplomacy, and the Director of the Water Diplomacy Initiative at Tufts University. Follow on Twitter: @ShafikIslam

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