As part of its Annual Symposium, SAI is hosting a series of workshops on April 24 and 25, 2014, to highlight ongoing faculty research projects supported by SAI.
Friday, April 25, 2014, 8:30 am – 11:00 am
Kennedy Room, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Register for this workshop.
Faculty lead: Shafiqul Islam, Director, Water Diplomacy Program; Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering; Water Diplomacy, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
In 2010, the United Nations proclaimed that the world met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water, five years ahead of schedule. They estimated that as of 2011, 768 million people, did not have improved sources for drinking water.
With this metric, we have a success story to celebrate. But we may be celebrating too soon. Where do these people live who lack access to water, and why? What does access mean? What is the difference between improved water and safe water? How does drinking water relate to our total needs for water access? And, more importantly, are water needs truly met for those who have access to improved water?
It’s time to rethink how we measure – and sometimes mis-measure – development progress.
Having access to drinking water equates 20 liters of water per person per day that can be obtained from a source within 1 kilometer from where it is used. Improved water is delivered to communities via infrastructure – like pipes or protected wells.
Looking at 768M without access to improved water, 83% live in rural areas, creating the appearance that water access is predominantly a problem for rural Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China. However, in urban mega slums like Dhaka or Karachi, people pay exorbitant costs for access to water. The 768M statistic does not address the daily reality of water access in these slums.
In the following section, SAI talks to workshop leader Shafiqul Islam about the goals of the April workshop.
Q: What led you to get involved in this topic and research project? Why is it important for South Asia?
Shafiqul Islam, center, at the SAI Water Roundtable Meeting in November
A: Providing access to water for an expanding urban population within a stressed and aging water infrastructure creates unprecedented challenges. These challenges are further exacerbated in South Asia by dwindling supply and competing demands, altered precipitation and runoff patterns in a changing climate, fragmented water utility business models, and changing consumer behavior. While scientists and engineers have developed theoretical models of water systems, tools available to implement them have often led to science that is “smart but not wise” because we currently lack the calculus to integrate “scientific learning” with the “political reality” of water problems. Yet, replicable and predictable solutions demand such integration.
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