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Hackathon Focuses on Urban Water Conservation with Collaborative and Youth-Led Solutions

By: Maleeha Irfan

ISLAMABAD: A two-day Hackathon titled ‘Water-Wise Urban Future: Co-Creating Solutions for Water Conservation in Cities of Pakistan’ was jointly organized by the School of Leadership Foundation (SoLF) the Institute of Urbanism (IoU), with support of the U.S. Embassy Islamabad from 25 to 26 May 2024. During the hackathon, representatives from the government, media, academia, civil society and youth discussed ways to promote water conservation in cities. 

The speakers at the forum highlighted various solutions, including rainwater harvesting, underground recharge and storage wells, constructed wetlands, and wastewater treatment plants that have been implemented in different urban areas of the country. However, for these initiatives to effectively address water challenges in cities, there is a need for up-scale such solutions through collaborative efforts involving public, private, and community stakeholders. Efforts should also be targeted towards increasing the adoption of conservation practices by city dwellers and communities. 

Mr. Kelly Ryan, Public Diplomacy Officer, U.S. Embassy Islamabad, highlighting the importance of water conservation said “When we talk about conserving water, it is more than just limiting water usage. In fact, it also encompasses treating wastewater, improving urban permeability, and protecting the existing water resources.”

Ms. Mariyam Irfan, Managing Director of the School of Leadership Foundation (SoLF), emphasized the critical role of collaborative efforts in scaling effective water conservation solutions. She highlighted the importance of integrating community participation with public and private sector initiatives to achieve sustainable urban water management. “Through our joint efforts, we aim to promote a water-wise future, empowering communities to adopt innovative conservation practices and contribute to the resilience of our cities,” she stated.

Dr. Ejaz Ahmad, Senior Program Fellow at IoU, emphasized the importance of grassroots environmental education for sustainable water consumption in communities. He pointed to the success of project-based teaching at the Green Urban Development School, a collaboration between IoU, SoLF, and the U.S. Embassy, in engaging youth to introduce water-wise solutions in cities. 

Mr. Sardar Khan Zimri, Director General Water Management, CDA said “if rainwater harvesting systems and underground recharge wells are implemented at household level in Islamabad, we can not only conserve water but also reduce the risk of urban flooding by 25 to 40% in Islamabad.”

The 2-day Hackathon served as a catalyst for fostering collaboration for climate-smart interventions that promote water conservation in cities.  It also underscored the critical role of youth-led initiatives in promoting sustainable solutions and highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive policies and coordinated efforts across sectors.

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