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Naila Gul Shaikh: Resolving Pakistan’s water security challenges

Posted: 30 August 2021

Pakistan, Alumni, Impact,

Australia Awards alumna Naila Gul Shaikh is committed to addressing Pakistan’s water security challenges and contributing to improving government policies.

Naila completed the Australia Awards Short Course on Strengthening Water Security in South Asia: Integrated Water Resource Management delivered by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2018. She undertook the course together with other water resource experts from Bhutan, India, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh.

“It was an amazing experience for me. I learnt a lot regarding water management issues, water quality and quantity, as well as gender cross-cutting issues,” says Naila. “I applied for the Short Course to build my capacity in all water-related areas and discover more opportunities for advanced research and research collaboration.”

Naila completed a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering in 2012 and a Master of Environmental Engineering and Management in 2016, both from Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, Pakistan. She is now pursuing a PhD in Environmental Engineering at the same institution. Naila also works as a Laboratory Technician at the U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water at the University. With support from the United States Agency for International Development, the Center trains and builds the capacity of a new generation of Pakistani engineers and water professionals to try to resolve the water security challenges of the 21st century.

Naila is proud of her central role in setting up the research laboratory at the Center “from scratch”. Now that the laboratory is operating, her primary responsibility involves supervising researchers and helping them conduct their research. Her other responsibilities include conducting laboratory practical sessions for master’s degree students taking part in various research projects on water quality and wastewater, calibrating all laboratory equipment, and preparing reports on analysed samples. Already the co-author of several significant Integrated Water Resources Management papers after just a few years at the Center, Naila is keen to research more and publish her results.

According to Naila, participating in the Short Course developed her interest in river sustainability and improving government policies and system thinking using loop analysis.

“I want to become an expert in loop analysis regarding the environmental system and ecosystem and also to learn more about monitoring environmental pollution to improve sustainability. The Short Course taught me how to think in broader concepts to address water scarcity issues and to meet the global Sustainable Development Goals,” she says.

Naila during her Short Course at QUT

By implementing her Return to Work Plan, Naila made significant improvements in the research and technical skills of the Center’s students and her colleagues.

“Australia Awards and the Short Course at QUT enhanced my capacity to solve the water-related problems in my own country. My Return to Work Plan enabled me to save 3000 litres of water per day for my department, make a low cost and easily adaptable living wastewater treatment system, and reduce water excess for domestic use. Instead of wasting fresh water on gardening and agricultural irrigation, it can now be used solely for drinking purposes,” Naila says.

The advantages Naila received from the Short Course extend beyond her improved technical capacity.

“Studying in Australia provided me an opportunity to build my capacity and confidence for work and improved my networking and English language skills,” she reflects. “As a result of my experience, I am keen to encourage other people from Pakistan to get involved with Australia Awards and apply for the Short Courses.”

In the future, Naila sees herself carrying out work that will help address water-related issues in Pakistan and globally through further research in water treatment and quality control. She believes this can be achieved through engaging with non-governmental organisations and collaborating with Integrated Water Resource Management experts from Australia.

Naila has firsthand experience of the benefits of collaboration, having found the links established through her Short Course with other participants from across the South Asia region and the course presenters in Australia to be highly effective.

“We are connected even more than before—getting help and advice from one another. All of the people from the course are really amazing and ready to help every time,” Naila says. “We are a living technical family—helping each other to work smoothly and efficiently.”

Australia Awards Short Courses are short-term training opportunities funded by the Australian Government to develop participants’ skills and knowledge and help them build networks to drive change and contribute to development in their home countries and regions.

Australia Awards – South Asia Short Courses are delivered throughout the year on specific topics related to key development challenges. Learn more