A new $2.15 million dollar project, led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) researchers, aims to ultimately improve the lives of millions of people by tackling groundwater over-extraction in Pakistan.
Launched in the capital Islamabad in January, the four-year project is being funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), with substantial cash and in-kind contributions from CSU, as well as in-kind contributions from partners in Pakistan.
Project lead and Director of the Institute for Land Water and Society (ILWS) at CSU Professor Max Finlayson said, the over-extraction of groundwater is a critical issue in Pakistan.
"The importance of this project cannot be underestimated given its goal, to improve the livelihoods Pakistanis by building up their capacity and skills to improve the management of groundwater," Professor Finlayson said
"The country relies heavily on agriculture and with its arid to semi-arid climate, declining groundwater is a serious issue.
"This is a particular problem for poorer smallholder farmers and those at the tail ends of canals in south-eastern province of Sindh and the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab."
The project focusses on three case studies in the Lower Bari Doab Canal in Punjab, Pishin Lora Basin in the country's largest province of Balochistan and the Shaheed Benazirabad and Khairpur Districts in Sindh.
It aims to improve the management of the scarce and valuable groundwater resource by building the skills, knowledge and confidence of researchers, farmers, local communities, government, and non-government agencies.
Professor Finlayson said, "We will do this by developing groundwater management tools through collaboration with those who will use them. The options being developed draw on practical experience in our case study areas in three different parts of Pakistan."
'Complex and exciting' is how Associate Professor Catherine Allan, from the CSU School of Environmental Sciences, describes the cross-disciplinary research.
Also a member of the University's ILWS, Associate Professor Allan along with ILWS Adjunct Research Fellow Dr Michael Mitchell,are part of a team leading and managing the project.
Speaking to the ILWS newsletter, Connections, Professor Allan said, "What is also exciting about this project is its partnerships and collaborations.
"It involves a total of 13 partner country project leaders and their institutions in Pakistan and Australia.
"The project is very much one that is being developed 'from the grass roots up'. It could inspire a new way of doing Australian aid-funded research and development in the future."
The January launch, which was attended by the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ms Margaret Adamson, involved the unveiling of two other water-related projects in Pakistan funded by ACIAR.