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A letter to the UK government from the Indian Collaboratory

As the UK government moves to catastrophically cut Official Development Assistance, our Indian team explain how ODA funding is helping address pressing development challenges.

25 March 2021

In enabling the creation of the Water Security Hub, the UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund has played a critical role in addressing urgent water and sanitation challenges in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.

The Yamuna River supplies almost 50% of Delhi’s water but is one of the worst polluted rivers in India – especially in the 22km urban stretch through the capital. Achieving equitable and sustainable water security for the people and environment of this megacity is complex but this GCRF project has given us the opportunity to address this challenge at a systems scale.

Partnerships with diverse decision-making stakeholders such as Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the National Capital Region (NCR) Board are being developed and strengthened. We have been able to impact regional policy in the NCR as some of our newly developed research contributes to the draft NCR Plan for Delhi 2041. We are also hoping to influence water and sanitation policies in the NCT of Delhi as DDA is in the process of preparing the Master Plan for Delhi, 2041.

Apart from the impact on government policies and development plans, we have been able to develop relationships with local communities in the Barapullah Basin. Citizen engagement is a tough task; it takes a long time to secure trust and work with communities to achieve credible results, and depends upon political support (which we have secured) for these activities.

New cross-cutting research areas such as Water Sensitive Planning and the Politics of Water are being developed. As a direct consequence of this project, we have been able to set up the Centre for Water Studies at SPA New Delhi in order to train professionals about water security. This project has presented a great opportunity for young professionals to research critical water issues and equip themselves to become future leaders.  

Our work is critically relevant to the intractable water challenges India faces.

If this project is defunded at this stage, all we have achieved to date will be lost. Our researchers as well as our partners in business and government are frustrated and worried that funding might be stopped midway. This will surely cause job losses among highly skilled professionals, endangering a cohort whose future careers we should be championing. When projects receive funding, researchers place a lot of trust in the fact that funding will be honoured for the duration of the project. 

Defunding will lead to reduced trust and push globally-located researchers to avoid working with the U.K. in future.   

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