Click to Subscribe & Stay Informed via Email!

Subscribe Here!

Subscribe and stay informed about our latest news and events!
  • Please List your Professional Affiliation

Tag: water

Boston Water Group discusses Delhi crisis

IMG_5847 - CopyOn March 15, SAI hosted a meeting for the Boston Water Group, a diverse group of researchers and practitioners from academia, industry and civil-society, who are based in the Greater Boston region, but work across the U.S and around the world to address problems that involve water.

The discussion of this meeting mostly focused on the Delhi water crisis. The group discussed how similar infrastructure vulnerabilities – the risk/vulnerability associated with a single breakdown of a key conduit with cascading impacts – exist across many cities (including Boston) where water is piped from reservoirs 50 – 100+ km away.  However, redundancy in systems (such as backup reservoirs that are maintained in many Massachusetts towns) can help reduce the extent of the cascading impacts, according to participants.

Continue reading →

The City and South Asia Podcast: Floating on Waste Islands

Malé, the capital of the Maldives

For many, the Maldives is a tropical paradise, offering a peaceful getaway for tourists from all over the world. However, on a deeper level, the processes of urbanization, globalization, and climate change have made traditional methods of waste management difficult for this pristine island nation.

The situation has gotten so bad that some villages have begun to create new islands with the waste. For example, waste from Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is transferred to the waste island of Thilafushi, an island created entirely by dumping garbage in the ocean.

In this podcast, SAI talks with Krishna Matturi, a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Executive lead and cofounder of FEEDBACK in Boston, and author of ‘Floating on Waste Islands’ in SAI’s publication The City and South Asia. Matturi spent time in the Maldives as a researcher looking at the “unique culture of waste” in the country, and its possible solutions.

Read the full article:



-Meghan Smith

Symposium highlights ongoing research projects

SAI held its Annual Symposium on April 24 and 25, 2014, titled ‘South Asia Regionalism: Workshops on Shared Challenges and the Way Forward.’ The workshops highlighted and showcased ongoing multi-year faculty research projects supported by SAI. Each workshop was well attended, with about 40 participants at each session.

Tarun Khanna, left, and JP Onnela

Mobile Technology (April 24)

This workshop, led by Tarun Khanna, HBS, and JP Onnela, HSPH, focused on the promise of data from mobile technology and the challenges of using this data. One of the major current challenges is the tension between data privacy, sharing of data to promote scientific research, and the potential insights this data may be able to generate. This project aims to increase knowledge of, and provide better access to services in areas of mobile-healthcare, banking, education, and improve livelihoods.

Participants also discussed the varying ways societies have adjudicated or ignored tensions about privacy, as well as some of the methodological challenges raised by large datasets.  The data and research work done during the Kumbh Mela was also highlighted, which provided powerful insights for further research and teaching on understanding social networks and behavior through studying large data gathered from cell phones used at this mass gathering. In addition, issues about governmental, institutional and regulatory guidelines were also raised.

Next steps for this research project: A small group of faculty and practitioners will meet at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study for a seminar in September to discuss tools that would allow researchers to better understand the dataset’s potential, evaluate options for cross-associating it with other relevant information, and as a result, frame valid research questions that can be empirically answered using info-analytics performed on these datasets.

Full list of participants.

Continue reading →

Boston Water Consortium meets at Harvard

The Water Group dinner on April 15

Water issues are currently being studied from several angles in and around the Boston area, known as the “Capital city of South Asia water experts.” The SAI-supported interfaculty project on water brings people together to generate a forward-looking agenda on water and water-related issues.

This multi-university Boston Water Consortium, which includes Harvard, MIT, Tufts and BU, organizes monthly roundtable discussions  to identify a common language around understanding the various issues related to water. Issues that are currently being studied include linkages to energy, agriculture, food security, climate change and urbanization.

The group continues to meet to define its contribution to the on-going study of the inter-related issues arising from water use and management.

The Boston Water Group held their monthly meeting  on Tuesday, April 15 at a dinner hosted by SAI and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The meeting was chaired by Peter Rogers, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Engineering and Professor of City and Regional Planning, SEAS. 

Members of the group include scientists and academics from a variety of disciplines including economics, engineering, human rights and law, among others. Faculty from Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Oxford, Suffolk, Tufts, UMass Amherst, UNC were in attendance, as well as members of the US Geological Survey, and NGOs with focus on water challenges throughout the world.

Conversations included the upcoming workshop on Urban Water Challenges hosted by SAI, as well as the issues of framing access to water as a human right. It was noted by a participant that in order to solve problems related to water, it is necessary to have such dialogues that include depth of many disciplines. This group will also be hosting a workshop,From SAARC to Slums: Urban Water Challenges in South Asiaon April 25 as part of SAI’s Annual Symposium.

Symposium preview: Urban Water Challenges in South Asia

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.

From SAARC to Slums: Urban Water Challenges in South Asia

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 IslamDirector, 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.

Continue reading →

John Briscoe wins the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate

Professor John Briscoe, a member of SAI’s Steering Committee, is named the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for his unparalleled contributions to global and local water management, inspired by an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people on the ground.

John Briscoe currently lives and works in the United States, where he is a popular teacher at Harvard University. Upon receiving the news, Professor Briscoe said he was “Very surprised and honored. I am delighted for the recognition this gives to thinking practitioners, of which I consider myself one.”

In its citation, the Stockholm Water Prize Committee states that Professor John Briscoe ”has combined world-class research with policy implementation and practice to improve the development and management of water resources as well as access to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

Today’s world is beset by daunting water challenges – human water security and biodiversity are at risk, global demand for water is soaring, and droughts and floods cause deadly disasters. These challenges cannot be met on one front alone. Professor Briscoe’s genius lies in his fusion of science, policy and practice, giving him unrivalled insights into how water should be managed to improve the lives of people worldwide.

“At the end of the day, it is what happens on the ground that matters. All policies must be judged by whether they make a difference on the ground. I believe that the years I spent working at the micro level is what enables me to be an effective policy maker,” says Briscoe.

In the mid 1970s Briscoe lived in a small village in the interior of Bangladesh, and learned first-hand how infrastructure for protection from floods and droughts could transform the lives of the poor. Later in the 1970s Briscoe worked as an engineer in the government of newly independent Mozambique, learning that you were a credible policy maker only if you could help resolve basic problems of building and running infrastructure.

At the other end of Professor Briscoe’s spectrum of accomplishments is the 2003 Water Strategy for the World Bank. This strategy provided a new, creative and enduring benchmark for global understanding of the need for both better infrastructure and improved institutions. The strategy has had implications far beyond the water sector, helping to ensure that developing and emerging countries get a stronger voice in global governance.

Professor Briscoe brought his experience of high-level policy with him to Brazil as the World Bank Country Director in 2005. Brazil was one of the biggest of the World Bank’s borrowers, and John Briscoe was praised for bridging the divide between sound environmental management and economic development objectives in the Amazon and other parts of this rapidly developing nation.

Read more here.


The complexity of water

On Thursday, November 21, SAI hosted a roundtable meeting to in order to convene experts working on water and water related issues in the Boston area to come together. The discussion aimed to brainstorm ways in which exoerts can come together to create and accumulate knowledge around ‘Water’.

The partners present included Meena Hewett, Executive Director at SAI, Waqar Hussain Shah of MIT, Shafiqul Islam of Tufts, Nora Maginn, Programs Manager at SAI, Sharmila Murthy of HKS and Suffolk Law, Adil Najam of BU, Erum Sattar of HLS and SAI intern, Afreen Siddiqi of HKS and MIT, and James Westcoat of MIT.

Water issues are currently being studied by experts in and around the Boston area are from several angles so it was important to understand the variety of ways of looking at the problems and the complexities. Najam described Boston as the “Capital city of South Asia water experts” and encouraged the need to harness the intellectual strength of this group. In the context of South Asia, the gathering of these experts allows SAI to establish a sustained platform for the ongoing study of the complex and inter-related issues around water use and management.

The group established several goals for moving forward. In the beginning of the spring 2014 semester, the multi-university Water Consortium will organize a monthly roundtable discussion, hosted by one of the institutions in turns. SAI will serve as the coordinating unit. The purpose of these meetings will be to identify a common language around understanding the various issues related to water issues that are currently being studied including linkages to energy, agriculture, food security, climate change and so on. The group will work together to define its contribution to the on-going study of the inter-related issues arising from water use and management.

The group will attempt to develop a common intellectual language encapsulating the complexities of the issues, while enabling communication across disciplines, in a multiyear effort. SAI will act as a clearing house to disseminate names of faculty and graduate students working on water issues in the Boston area by creating a list on the SAI website. Several long term goals include a joint publication coauthored by the various institutions, a research project with in-region partners, and an annual Davos style conference.