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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.


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

Situational Analysis of Drinking Water: Facilities in Pilot Districts of Mansehra and Khanewal in Pakistan

Partner: Ministry of Special Initiative, Pakistan and ABT Associates initiative.

Year: 2010

Locale: Mansehra and Khanewal

Team Members: Talimand Khan

2.2 million deaths are attributed to poor water and sanitation facilities and 60% of total children deaths may be attributed to contaminated water. The captioned study was carried out by SDPI for the Ministry of Special Initiative, Government of Pakistan through support by ABT Associates initiative to assess the gaps and needs of the area and the barriers that existed to improve the existing structure of the water supply and services. The diagnostic study identified the gaps in consultation with different stakeholders including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Local Governments (LGs). In the first phase, Khanewal and Mansehra districts were chosen from Punjab and NWFP province for an assessment exercise respectively. The study aimed to identify the different sources of drinking water, its coverage and chemical analysis of randomly selected water samples in pilot districts. Findings of this study are serving as a benchmark for its replication in other parts of the country. Focus group discussions were organized with relevant stakeholders, key informant interviews were conducted and water samples from random sites (including public, private, tube wells, hand pumps & local body’s water supply system) were checked for possible water contamination. It was observed that even the water, which is safe for drinking at source, may get contaminated at point of use. SDPI recommended that HWTS may be promoted in these districts (and across the country) for ensuring improved supply of drinking water.

Pakistan’s Water Challenges with the World Bank Water project

Work has been completed on SDPI’s collaboration with the World Bank Water project. Two SDPI Research Fellows produced the paper Pakistan’s Water Challenges: Human and Social Dimensions. It is forthcoming as a contribution in an Oxford University Press publication.

This paper reviews the human and social dimensions of Pakistan’s water policies to provide the basis for water-related policy interventions that contributes to the country’s human development, giving special attention to concerns of women and the poor. While Pakistan may not be a water-scarce country, nonetheless, water stress, poor water quality, and inequitable access to water adversely affect large portions of the population. Considerably less water is available in Balochistan and Sindh, in the tail end of the irrigation distribution system, and for the poor. Though women have a distinct role in water management both for domestic and productive purposes, they are hardly represented in user groups. This suggests that water management rather than water availability is at the core of Pakistan’s water crisis. The unequal distribution coupled with population pressure, urbanisation, and progressive industrialisation pose a serious challenge to water management in Pakistan in the 21st century. Already now, insufficient access to and poor quality of water resources is a major obstacle to human development in Pakistan.

SDPI identified the following recommendations as crucial for water interventions that may serve human development:

A genuinely participatory approach in water management including the voices of all stakeholders, in particular women and the poor;
A pro-active approach to tackle landed and bureaucratic power structures;
Capacity building in user groups and in the government agencies rather than investment in infrastructure alone;
Economic incentives, such as secure property rights, to improve access to water for the marginalized and more efficient use of the scarce resource;
Health implications of water-related interventions should be assessed before embarking on them;
Water conservation should be given priority over large storage projects. If they are constructed, environmental and social impact assessments should be conducted with true stakeholder participation.

Please contact Sarah Siddiq (, Research and PEP Coordinator, for more details.

The Case Against Kalabagh Dam:The Absence of Good Governance

The Kalabagh Dam project comes at an important confluence of events. It reflects a crisis of governance, where decision-makers are at odds with an increasingly vocal society. Among other things, this stems from a concern that Kalabagh could trigger irreversible degradation of the Indus River Ecosystem. Also, the global and regional context for assessing large dams like Kalabagh is changing, with conventionally described irrigation, flood control and energy benefits being viewed through the prism of sustainable development.

The key imperatives, transparency and good governance, were never a factor in the formulation of the project. Thus, the technical specifications have undergone numerous revisions because of perceived concerns in the NWFP regarding seepage and inundation of surrounding areas, a problem that could have been resolved had affective communities been consulted. Politically, the dam has been a non-starter as its benefits are viewed as accruing to the Punjab, at the expense of Sindh and the NWFP, with both provinces the victims of water deprivation, ecosystem degradation and social displacement. The arbitrary manner in which the Punjab has appropriated water from the Indus River Basin in the past does not set a precedent for credibility. The issue of resettlement and rehabilitation is a contentious one, as there is outright mistrust of the government’s offer of compensation. Finally, increasing cost over-runs and mounting donor reluctance to finance a large and environmentally controversial project of this nature, give the lie to the government resolve to press on with building the dam; in particular, the government’s present fiscal insolvency precludes an investment of this magnitude.

Please contact Sarah Siddiq (, Research and PEP Coordinator, for more details.

Climate Change and its Impact on the River Water System

Partner: Stimson Centre Washington DC, Energy and Resource Center New Delhi

Year: 2008

The areas of Middle East, East Asia and South Asia have ancient and extensive river systems. Over the centuries, Nile, Mekong, the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra have been a source of sustenance for civilizations. However, the massive ecological deterioration of the last century will eventually make these river systems incapable of providing for human and wildlife needs. In an effort to highlight the importance of the impact of climate change on these river systems, SDPI participated in a Climate Change and Water International workshop. The workshop organized in New Delhi by the Stimson Centre Washington DC in collaboration with the Energy and Resource Center New Delhi had experts from East Asia, South Asia and Middle East participated. The conference was held in the background of social traditions and government policies that intersect with the greenhouse challenge faced globally. Both these factors contribute to climate change vulnerabilities and as mitigation and adaptation strategies. A review of existing and potential institutional arrangements for managing water resources was made. SDPI emphasized the region’s climate concerns in a paper on the Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture. The importance of the agriculture sector’s vitality to the economy of the country and sustainability in the region was highlighted. The agriculture sector in Pakistan is mainly dependent on the Indus river water system for irrigation water. The glacier in the Himalayas, the Karakorum and the Hindukush are the primary source of water for the indus River. The present day ecological concerns and the climate change concern in the region threaten these sources. There is a dire need to save these glaciers from the environmental degradation. Regional cooperation amongst South Asian countries to save this ecological heritage should be initiated.

Access to Clean Drinking Water

Partner: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Korea.
Year: 2008-09

Locale: Islamabad and Hyderabad

SDPI conducted a three month pilot project in the urban slums of Islamabad and Hyderabad for providing access of clean drinking water to the slum residents.

On conducting the survey of the slums, it was established that most of the diseases in the area are water borne. The health and hygiene conditions in the slums are deplorable. There are several reasons contributing to health problems of the population. Water borne and other diseases are rampant. Stomach worms and dysentery both due to contaminated drinking water are common. Since the water is murky and dirty scabies and other skin ailments are present. SDPI in collaboration with Association for human Development (AHD) planed to distil the water in the designated slums of Islamabad and Hyderabad.

The selected sites in Islamabad were Alipur Farash Phase 1 and Phase 2. About half an hour drive from the city center, the communities are inhabited mostly by the labour class. Behbud and Khidmaat Foundations are active in the area and facilitated SDPI in community contacts and gave information on basic health problems faced by the people. The doctors and the social worker of these two organizations were very helpful in making the project happen. All the stakeholders, the community leaders, doctors working in the areas other NGOs and the city government were taken on board.

Access to Improved Drinking Water in City Slums with Household Water Treatment Systems (HWTS) Nadi Water Filter

Partner: AHD, UNEP

Duration: 2010-11

Locale: Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Hyderabad

Team Members: Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja


Unclean water contaminated chemically or microbiologically is a health hazard.
Many deaths (mostly of children under the ages of five) are caused annually by water-borne diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid fever, Diarrhoea, Dysentery, Hepatitis A and other diarrhoeal diseases According to WHO reports 80% of all infections are traceable to poor quality of drinking water. The estimated cost to Pakistan’s economy due to diarrhoeal disease is estimated at Rs.55-80 billion/yr.

Household-level interventions for water treatment must be given priority, as this will contribute to the safety component, which in turn is expected to significantly contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and food security. Adequate accessible methods for household water treatment at point of use (POU) and safe storage (HWTS), combined with hygiene promotion could prevent the population suffering from (without access to safe drinking water) from illness and often resulting in death. The easy self-help Nadi Dinking Water Filter, a bio-filter type, is unique in its simple design, assembly and cost. The filter consists of baked clay Nadi & Mataka, sand & gravel of different mesh sizes and a rubber or plastic tube. The effectiveness of the Nadi filter unit is evident from the color, taste & transparency of the water filtered through it, as well as the laboratory reports of bacteriological examination of the filtered water samples.

In an earlier completed project, conducted by the Association for Humanitarian Development (AHD) in collaboration with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), over 1000 NWF units were installed and are operating in 20 villages of Taluka Jati area in District Thatta, Sindh, Pakistan. A noticeable decrease in diseases has been reported by Nadi water filter users (specially infants/children’s) visits to doctors/hospital.

The present work in the city slums is carried out by SDPI, in collaboration with AHD and with financial support from UNEP National Committee for the Republic of Korea (UNEP NATCOM ROC) and is an extension of the above referred earlier work Slums of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Hyderabad cities are selected for the present work. These areas not only have problems of shortage of water but available water is also considered unsafe for drinking.

On conducting the survey of the slums, it was established that most of the diseases in the area are water borne. The health and hygiene conditions in the slums are deplorable. Water borne diseases, like stomach worms and dysentery and skin diseases are rampant.

Besides, introducing a simple technique like the Nadi water filter to clean water, another objective of the project was to also familiarize the population of the slums with the hazards of contaminated water use. Several awareness raising and training workshops were held with female & male residents of each slums. Material for assembling Nadi water filters was also distributed during training workshop. Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the Nadi filters installed and their maintenance is in progress.

Track II dialogue on indus water: Connecting the Drops

Partner: Stimson Centre USA , Observer Research Foundation India (ORF)

Duration: 8 months

Locale: Pakistan & India

Team Members: Shakeel Ahmed


Water is an essential resource the scarcity of which can trigger unrest and conflict in developing countries with growing populations. South Asia is one such region where the situation is further complicated by issues of trans-boundary water sharing between countries that have long history of conflicts. Underscoring the significance of track II diplomacy in facilitating peace and bilateral cooperation in the region, diplomats, policy-makers, scientists, experts and civil society representatives were engaged in an informal dialogue on trans-boundary water issues. A set of practical recommendations, that were the outcome of exhaustive discussions at the bilateral dialogues held in Nepal, Thialand and Pakistan were incorporated in the final report, which was launched in February 2013.


Need to strengthen advisory capacities of Permanent Indus Commission of the Indus Water Treaty
Leverage should be given to technical expertise and capitalise existing bilateral and regional forums forpolicy deliberation, data sharing, collaborative research, and best practices
Need to recognize and promote opportunities for knowledge exchange at multiple levels (regional to local)

National Advocacy of Household Water Treatment systems; Solar water Disinfection–SODIS

Partner: SDC

Year: 2010

Team Members: Mome Saleem

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with the Swiss agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is carrying out a National level policy advocacy of the need for cost effective Household Water Treatment systems (HWTS) for improving the quality of drinking water at the house hold level. This initiative aims at providing the Government with informed choices of cost effective HWTS in compliance with the National Drinking Water Policy 2009. SDPI and SDC have successfully identified one of the cost effective HWTS i.e. Solar Water Disinfection SODIS. In Pakistan

Alternative to Kalabagh Dam

The proposed Tarbela Action Plan is based on computer simulations of sediment flows. These simulations were designed to: a) determine whether flushing was technically feasible and could be used to estimate storage capacity that could be sustained in the long run and; b) to analyze reservoir survey results and predict future sedimentation. Based on the simulations, three phased components of the action plan are proposed:

Reservoir Operating Strategy: Raise the minimum reservoir level to 1,365 feet by the year 1998 and by 4 feet each year thereafter. Second, limit the draw down period to a maximum of 15 days. This would ensure security of power tunnel intakes for the next 10 years, long enough to complete construction of the underwater rockfill dike, and minimize the inevitable reduction in live storage.

Underwater Dike: Construct a rockfill underwater dike to protect the intakes of tunnels 1 – 4 from inundation by sediments.The dike would require some 8 Mcm of rockfill, have a crest level of 1380 feet, with an overspill section at 1340 feet.

Flushing Bypass: Construct a low-level high-capacity bypass to flush sediments.This should be on the left abutment, between the main and auxiliary spillways. Flushing should be carried out over a 30-day period.

The implementation of this plan would ensure long term and sustainable storage with only a small annual reduction in capacity.The estimated retention at 6 MAF is exactly what Kalabagh is designed to hold.However, flushing would reduce energy benefits because reservoir levels would need to be held down in June and July. On the other hand, the long-term energy producing potential of Ghazi Barotha clearly depends on Tarbela not silting up. Abstracting from social and environmental considerations, purely financial and economic cost comparisons also unequivocally favor Tarbela rehabilitation over Kalabagh.

To recap,Kalabagh dam is not the clear winner it is projected to be. First, its viability is premised on water availability figures that are highly questionable .Second, the land constraint precludes substantive increases in cultivable area, additional water notwithstanding. Third, crop yield increases based on additional water do not account for the aggravated water logging and salinity that would result; furthermore, higher doses of water are associated with high input use, which degrades both soil, and water quality. Using existing water more efficiently is clearly a better option on both environmental and equity grounds. Fourth, hydel energy is not unequivocally cheaper, given the growing propensity to factor in displacement and environmental costs. Also, borrowing costs are likely to be higher as donors have indicated a clear preference for thermal power projects. Fifth, Kalabagh would further exacerbate ecosystem degradation, adding to mangrove and species loss and impoverishing communities, which depend on the ecosystem’s resources.Also, as an instrument of flood control Kalabagh is poorly supported by the historical evidence.In view of these facts, the option of implementing a sedimentation management project on Tarbela appears a clear winner on all grounds – financial, economic, social and environmental.

Please contact Sarah Siddiq (, Research and PEP Coordinator, for more details.