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Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) 2020 launched                    111,75 Think Tanks across the world ranked in different categories.                SDPI is ranked 90th among “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-US)”.           SDPI stands 11th among Top Think Tanks in South & South East Asia & the Pacific (excluding India).            SDPI notches 33rd position in “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by A Think Tank” category.                SDPI remains 42nd in “Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedure” category.              SDPI stands 49th in “Think Tank to Watch in 2020”.            SDPI gets 52nd position among “Best Independent Think Tanks”.                           SDPI becomes 63rd in “Best Advocacy Campaign” category.                   SDPI secures 60th position in “Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks” category.                       SDPI obtains 64th position in “Best Use of Media (Print & Electronic)” category.               SDPI gains 66th position in “Top Environment Policy Tink Tanks” category.                SDPI achieves 76th position in “Think Tanks With Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program” category.                    SDPI notches 99th position in “Top Social Policy Think Tanks”.            SDPI wins 140th position among “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”.               SDPI is placed among special non-ranked category of Think Tanks – “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19”.                                            Owing to COVID-19 outbreak, SDPI staff is working from home from 9am to 5pm five days a week. All our staff members are available on phone, email and/or any other digital/electronic modes of communication during our usual official hours. You can also find all our work related to COVID-19 in orange entries in our publications section below.    The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is pleased to announce its Twenty-third Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 14 – 17 December 2020 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19. Read more…       FOOD SECIRITY DASHBOARD: On 4th Nov, SDPI has shared the first prototype of Food Security Dashboard with Dr Moeed Yousaf, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on  National Security and Economic Outreach in the presence of stakeholders, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Provincial and district authorities attended the event in person or through zoom. The dashboard will help the government monitor and regulate the supply chain of essential food commodities.


Promoting Protection and Solidarity for climate migrants and displaced communities in South Asia

Status: On-going

Donor: The project is funded by Bread for the World (BftW) and implemented by Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA)
Partner Countries: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

Project description:
Climate extreme events (floods, sea level rise, glacial lakes outbursts floods, heatwaves, droughts etc.) are posing serious threats to communities’ survival. In the last two decades, disasters particularly floods and earthquakes, have led to an increase in internal migration.
Conflict and disasters have triggered 33.4 million new internal displacements across 145 countries and territories in 2019 alone (IDMC). According to the latest report of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), disasters have caused 100,000 displacements in Pakistan between January 1 and December 31, 2019. In Pakistan most of the internal displacements occur in rural areas where agriculture associated climate threats are exacerbating existing rural vulnerabilities. This contributes to most of the cases of rural to urban migration seen across the country as people move to earn an income when their livelihoods are devastated by climate change.

The purpose of the project is to build solidarity for climate induced migrants through evidence-based research and sensitizing policy makers and media about climate-induced migration in Pakistan.

Contact person: Maryam Shabbir Abbasi, Project Coordinator, Sustainable Development Policy Institute


South Asia Migration and Climate Change (SAMAC)

Status: On-going

Donor: The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Silk Routes Facility (more details at: ) at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) (website:
Partner countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan

“Climate change is having devastating impacts on communities’ lives, livelihoods and food security across South Asia. Its consequences are so severe that it is increasingly contributing to migration, and this incidence is likely to escalate much more in the years to come as climate change impacts become more serious”, explains the latest Global Report on Internal Displacement by the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). , In 2018 alone, 17.2 million new displacements occurred globally, triggered by seasonal and recurring weather-related extreme events. There is a growing need to capture evidence of how climate change impacts like drought or sea-level rise are resulting in migration, to inform policies and actions addressing these challenges.
This project’s aim is to carry out qualitative, participatory research to identify the main drivers for climate-induced migration in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Contact person: Maryam Shabbir Abbasi, Project Coordinator, Sustainable Development Policy Institute


Air Pollution

Air pollution has become major challenge when it comes to citizen’s health. According to World Health Organization (WHO) outdoor (ambient) air pollution causes 4.2 million pre-mature deaths annually whereas 3.8 million deaths are caused due to indoor air pollution. As per estimates 91% people breathe air which exceeds WHO’s permissible limit. South Asians countries are also vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution. Countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Saudi Arabia face highest death toll due to bad air quality and this mainly include children under age of five years. Air pollution also causes heart stroke, respiratory illness, eye irritation and lungs problem in growing children, women and people of older age. According to New Delhi based surgeon air pollution is causing cancers in young females of less than 40 age.
Smog is also affecting developing countries badly. It is impacting economy, education of students as school and colleges remain close, causes accidents due to visibility issues and impacts air operations (delayed flights)
According to Punjab Smog commission, smog is caused by vehicular emissions (80%), brick kilns (20%) and other sources include industrial emissions
Pakistan is not alone for devastating impacts of bad air quality. Since air pollution is cross boundary issue therefore developing countries should collectively device a plan to tackle this issue together.

  1. Preventing NCD deaths through better air quality. Draft v 3, 11.6.2018, World Health Organization.
  2. Deaths from Air pollution Worldwide. 2018. State of Global Air
  3. Safi M. 2017. ‘Half my lung cancer patients are non-smokers’: toxic air crisis chokes Delhi. The Guardians.
  4. Shabbir M. 2018. Smog: A transboundary issue and its implications in India and Pakistan. Policy brief number 67.

Studies on Dioxin Emission from Incinerators and the Resulting Health Impacts

In collaboration with the International Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Elimination Network (IPEN) and ARNIKA, a Czech NGO, SDPI has undertaken, as one of the participating organizations in a global project, to study the most hazardous POP chemicals, dioxin levels released from incineration of wastes. Studies have included measuring dioxin levels in the ash from incinerators and bio-monitoring of chicken egg samples in and around incinerators in Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi.

Under the ARNIKA – SDPI collaboration program, Dr. Jindrich Petrlik, Chairperson ARNIKA visited hospital waste incinerator sites in Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad. A municipal and hospital waste dumpsite in Peshawar was also visited. A seminar at Environmental Sciences department, University of Peshawar, panel discussion at SDPI and a press conference at Islamabad Press club were also held. A number of meetings on incineration alternatives, Stockholm Convention and NIP activities with NGO representatives and officials of NWFP-EPA, Pak-EPA and NIP staff were also held at Peshawar and Islamabad.

During the year, field visits were also undertaken for eggs sampling at waste disposal dumpsite in Charsadda for dioxin/furan analyses to be carried out at a research laboratory in the Czech Republic. Contamination of Chicken Eggs near the dump site on the edge of Peshawar, Pakistan by Dioxins, PCBs and Hexachlorobenzene was a joint report published by SDPI-ARNIKA.

Ash sampling from brick-kiln and hospital waste incinerators at Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar for dioxins/furan analyses are also in the process of being carried out in collaboration with the same research laboratory.

Please contact Dr.Mahmood A Khwaja ( for more details.

Impact of Enhanced Participation (through Decentralization) on Natural Resource Management

The National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) is a long-term 12-year partnership with Swiss Association of Research Partner Institutes (SARPI), funded by SDC and Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). At present NCCR is being implemented in 48 countries involving 102 institutions. In Pakistan, the program is focused on analyzing the state policies, institutional changes, and livelihood strategies of people living in and around forest areas of NWFP.

The unique aspect of this project is that researchers working on this project are enrolled as PhD/MSc students either at universities in Pakistan or Switzerland. The students compile their thesis based on the research conducted under this project. SDPI researchers would be supervising three batches of PhDs over the next four-eight years. Phase one of this partnership was successfully completed this year and an edited volume Forests, Livelihoods and Relations of Power in NWFP (Pakistan) is now being edited. The University of Zurich would publish the volume.

SDPI is the Regional Scientific Coordinator of NCCR South Asia.

Benefit Sharing in Hydropower Projects in India (Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) and Upper Indus in Pakistan

Donors/Partners: ICIMOD

Locale: Pakistan

Duration of Project: January 2018- October 2018


In most countries of South Asia, including India and Pakistan, lack of standard policy directives on benefit sharing have allowed the hydropower projects to define benefits either based on their own understanding as a “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) or through negotiations with local communities in an attempt to obtain social license to operate hydropower projects. Within benefit sharing, what actually constitutes benefits has been debatable and considerably varies across hydropower projects. Even if specific benefits are shared, variations exist among hydropower projects in terms of how they are shared – through environmental and social impact mitigation strategies or through separate mechanisms such as corporate social responsibility or other structures and mechanisms.

Within the current context of rapidly changing investment in hydropower sector and involvement of multiple actors, it is imperative and highly pertinent to conduct research on benefit sharing to have an understanding of first, how benefits from hydropower projects are understood by various stakeholders, including project developers, government and the citizens and second, how are they practiced.

Program/Project Brief:

Hydropower projects have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and the benefits derived from them have been considerable, however in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment. It is under this backdrop that the study is being undertaken to ensure how development can be equitable; gains and benefits equally shared.


To assess what are being shared as “benefits” by the hydropower projects in Pakistan How are these “benefits” being shared in our study sites? Work/activities accomplished Attended a methodology workshop in Nepal. One day event.

Team Members: Dr. Imran S. Khalid and Ahmed Awais Khaver

Status: closed

Exploring Public-Private Partnerships in Forestry

Partner: Sungi Development Foundation and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Year: 2008

The pre and post-colonial periods witnessed changes in the state of forest related institutions and management. This has been the cause of deforestation and loss of community livelihoods. The record illustrates that poor communities, small forest owners, rights holders, non-owners, women, and grazers who depend traditionally on forests for their livelihoods were steadily marginalized. Forest management, designed with the specific aim of conservation, proved unable to cope with the multiple and often conflicting interests. The commercial loggers, private developers, government and military agencies, hunters, and impoverished communities placed it under strain.

The National Conservation Strategy (NCS) 1991, triggered a donor-led forestry reform process. It promoted participatory community-based forest management. A number of donor-driven initiatives followed, including the 25-year Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP), the government’s National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) 2001, and the National Forestry Policy 1991. All of these strongly endorsed the involvement of communities in forest management. There is consensus among critics, however. that the reform process is no different to the enforcement, anti-community laws and regulations it has supplanted. The critics view the process as being donor-led and unfriendly to communities. who express ignorance of a process which, purportedly, addresses their concerns. Consequently the reforms lack ownership, both among communities and the forest department.

The global surge of interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as sustainable development agents, suggests a role for the private sector in natural resource management (NRM). This paper assesses the scope of forestry sector PPPs to address sustainable development concerns. Global examples demonstrate that PPPs offer scope for remediation, linking sustainable forest management with assured livelihoods for forest dependent communities. PPPs in forestry in the Pakistani context as partnerships between two entities mutually benefiting each other in some manner is not a new concept. We compare existing PPPs in the forestry sector against a pre-defined norm to see how they measure up, adding several recommendations in the process.

Water Stewardship and the Private Sector

Partner: Nestlé Pakistan 
Locale: Pakistan
Time Frame: 2017- ongoing 
Project Team: Dr Imran Khalid, Ahmed Awais Khaver, Samavia Batool
For more information: Ahmed Awais Khaver,
The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has, over the years, forged a successful partnership with public sector organizations in Pakistan. However, it is also recognized that effective partnership and collaboration amongst for-profit, non-profit and public sector entities is essential for addressing our environmental governance problems.  In this respect, Sustainable Development Policy Institute and Nestlé Pakistan signed a MoU on Mar 24, 2017, to collaborate on the theme of ‘Water Stewardship’ which will promote responsible use of water resources in Pakistan.  Under this MOU, Nestlé Pakistan and SDPI have identified and prioritized opportunities and challenges for sustainable water management, presenting Water Stewardship as an effective means to address this challenge. In particular, this MOU acts as a knowledge dissemination platform on the responsible use of water particularly in the agriculture and industry sector. 
The objectives of the SDPI and Nestle Pakistan partnership are twofold, with focus on water governance advocacy and water management research. Since the signing of the MoU, the two organizations have conducted multiple events in Islamabad and Lahore, with focus on mainstreaming the concept water stewardship in the country’s water governance paradigm. These advocacy events stressed the need of sustainable water management by the private sector and their role in sustainable development. 
SDPI also aims to conduct on-ground research with respect to water stewardship initiatives in Pakistan as well as issues pertaining to irrigation efficiency and groundwater management.  In this context SDPI has developed a policy brief that looks at the role of private sector in highlighting and adopting the concept of water stewardship. The document recommends multiple avenues through which private sector can play a larger role towards improved water governance. The Policy brief was launched at the Sustainable Development Conference in Islamabad during a panel discussion, which comprised stakeholders from the government, private sector, civil society and academia. 
Selected project findings: 
  • Corporate sector entities already involved in implementing water stewardship initiatives can play an integral role in enhancing the capacity of other businesses. This can be done through the formation of a ‘water network’ that comprises businesses as well as research institutes from the government, non-governmental sector, and academia. 
  • Information dissemination is the key to advocacy. Corporate sector entities should ensure that data in terms of water withdrawals for operations and supply chain is made public on a regular basis. Moreover, information in terms of the quality of water that is being extracted or withdrawn should also be made public. This will ensure trust building and confidence enhancement. 
  • No water stewardship initiative can be completed without the involvement of local communities. They should be made an integral part of any initiative that aims to foster sustainable acquisition and use of water resources. 
  • The concept of Water Stewardship should be integrated into national, regional and local water policies and plans in order to mainstream sustainable and efficient water resources management across sectors. Collaborative research initiatives need to be undertaken so as to bridge the information gaps particularly as they pertain to risks due to climate change. 
  • SMEs (working within the water industry and other associated industries with high water usage) have an important role to play in water management and conservation. There is however, a need to build their capacity so that they fully understand water risks and their potential role in water stewardship in terms of collective action.
Project status: 
  • The project was initially designed for the year 2017-18 but has since been extended to 2018-2019.  It is expected that SDPI will continue to work towards effective water governance advocacy and water resources management research during this period. 

Gender and Environmental Migration in selected Districts of Pakistan

Partner: Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction (ICSAP), University of Hamburg

Duration: 2012 to May 2013.

Locale:  Ghizer, Hunza, Badin.

Team Members: Dr. Giovanna Gioli, Talimand Khan


Environment induced migration adversely affects women much more then men. Thus- the Gender and Environmental Migration (GEM) project aims to collect gender disaggregated data on local perceptions of climate change and variability and on adaptation strategies to climate change impact in Karakoram region of Gilgit-Baltistan as well as in the Indus River Delta (Sindh) with special focus on migration as adaptive strategy and its gendered impact.

In this regard the study examines the effects of environmental degradation and climate change on out-migration, desegregating the effects by Gender in these regions with a special focus on migration as an adaptive strategy and its gendered impact.

The project conducted in partnership with University of Hamburg’s Cluster of Excellence, “Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction” (ICSAP), sponsored by the German Research Foundation.

GEM Phase I

Karakoram Region is prone to slow onset of the hazards of climate change such as glaciers melting, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), landslides, erratic rainfall, flash floods and land degradation. Mountain and coastal communities are increasingly abandoning their traditional source of income, agriculture and livestock, resorting to occupational shift and male outmigration as an adaptation strategy to climate change and environmental pressure.

GEM phase II

Sindh, Indus Delta is prone to rapid onset of hazards such as floods, and affected by sea-level rise, storm surge, coastal erosion, and intrusion of saline water into the aquifers. Here communities have lost their means of livelihood (fishery and agriculture) and are forced to adopt alternative livelihood patterns, featuring very high rates of migration.


  • To collect Gender disaggregated data on local perceptions of climate change and variability.
  • To conduct a gender sensitive vulnerability assessment of affected communities.
  • To explore the Gender dimension of environmentally-induced migration, and propose a framework to analyse it.
  • To assess whether migration can be a positive adaptation strategy to environmental pressure, and whether it could enhance women empowerment?.
  • Liaise and interact with local institutions and groups of interest on adaptation policy agendas, and widely disseminate a “Gender and Migration Policy Tool”.


  • Primary data collection
  • Technical report and two academic publications
  • Dissemination of research findings and policy recommendations

Study of Mercury Levels at Chlor-Alkali & Light Products Manufacturing Industrial Sites in Pakistan

Partner:  EEB/ZMWG

Duration: March 2013 to 2014

Locale: Lahore and Peshawar

Team Members: Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja


A persistent pollutant, mercury is not limited to its source but it travels on time thousands of kilometers away from the source. Mercury is a toxic substance of global concern. It poses risks to environment and human health, especially the health of children. The safe level of mercury in air is 300 ng/m3. The study measured and accessed the management, disposable and handling of mercury and mercury wastes at the select industrial sites.


  • Assessment of mercury contamination in and around the select industrial sites
  • Development of baseline data for future research work
  • Dissemination and discussion of collected data and recommendations for mercury pollution control with all stakeholders, including policy makers/government officials for appropriate policy intervention
  • Publication, information dissemination, awareness raising regarding health impact of mercury in the light of data/findings of the study


  • Survey and field monitoring at select industries in the Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa
  • Information dissemination, awareness-raising
  • Research based publications and policy intervention


  • The lighting industry in Pakistan is dominated by imported products and there are only a very few manufacturers still operating in the country. Two of the manufacturing units in Peshawar were visited for this study. There is only one mercury based chlor-alkali plant in operation in  Punjab province. The survey and monitoring data has shown higher level of mercury levels in air than the USEPA (RfC) limits at most of the visited sites.


  • The study indicates the high level of mercury contamination at the examined industrial sites and strongly recommends to follow the best preventive approach ”Waste Reduction at Source” and use of “Best in-house Environmental Practices (BEPs).
  • Moreover, it also strongly recommends ratification of the already signed Minamata Convention on Mercury (2013) by the Government of Pakistan at the earliest.
  • Mercury specific legislation for industry, including national emissions/releases standards, minimum mercury levels in products, including lighting products be introduced.