“Footprints of GWP South Asia: on Dr Reba Paul’s eyes”- the youngest employee joined at the time of inception of the GWP South Asia Regional Water Partnership

Dr Reba Paul joined during the inception of Global Water Partnership South Asia (GWP SAS) as a volunteer in 1998 and worked through 1999 and engaged in various capacities to formulate the South Asia Technical Advisory Committee (SASTAC). She worked twelve years (1998-2010) at GWP South Asia and then moved to Sydney, Australia and carried out her Doctoral Research on Energy Sensitive Urban Water Planning in Developing Countries. At present she is employed as a full-time Adjunct Research Fellow of Institute for Sustainable Futures.

I had the interview with Reba on 19 May 2021 and it was impressive to hear the support she got from the senior male colleagues being the youngest female of the group during the early days of GWP South Asia. The discussion was very lively, and she could remember most of the milestones of GWP South Asia by heart.     

She reminded me that the GWP was inaugurated in August 1996 in Stockholm, Sweden. During one of the GWP Technical Advisory Committee meetings held in 1998, it was decided to establish a separate Technical Advisory Committee for South Asia, which was established as South Asia Technical Advisory Committee (SASTAC) in 1998. Reba joined the newly formed SASTAC as a volunteer in 1998 and was based in Bangladesh. She supported Mr. Quamrul Islam Siddique, former Chief Engineer of Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), who was a member represented Bangladesh in SASTAC. The first Chair of SASTAC was Dr M. A. Chitale from India. Initially the SASTAC Secretariate was based at Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI) in Maharashtra, India. Although the South Asia region is relatively smaller in size, the variations in water security and effects of climate change are very high. This resulted the region to initiate Country Water Partnerships (CWPs) that can focus on country specific issues, especially to facilitate the development of Country Water Visions 2025 which was the first planning activity carried out by SASTAC. With the formation of CWPs, Reba was recruited as the Country Coordinator for GWP Bangladesh (Bangladesh Water Partnership) and worked for 5 years fromsince 2000 until 2005. In 2000, the GWP Technical Committee has decided to transform the Regional TACs to broader and stakeholder oriented Regional Water Partnerships and in the beginning of 2002, the Interim Executive Regional Committee was formed and Reba was invited to work as the Coordinating Secretary of the interim committee. Later, once the GWP South Asia (GWP SAS) was formed in 2003 the first Secretariate was established in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Chaired by Mr Quamrul Islam Siddique. The Secretariate was operated from 2003 to 2005 and the Chairman position was handed over to Sri Lanka in 2005.   

She fondly remembered the early days of the formation SASTAC and GWP-SAS as the golden days of the partnership. SASTAC had many thematic programmes which were then merged with GWP-SAS. In this merger process the SAS guidelines were developed to organize and operationalize the South Asia network. As a part of the guidelines, the selection process of Regional Council (RC) members began which included two principle members and alternate members. Furthermore, the guidelines stated that one of them must be male and the other female to ensure gender balance. GWP-SAS was then launched in December 2002 in Islamabad, Pakistan which was organized by Pakistan Water Partnership. This was done with additional financial support from the government of Pakistan that recognized the South Asia Water Partnership. Following the launch of GWP-SAS, the first regional council meeting was held in Pakistan. After a lottery draw, Mr Quamrul Islam Siddique got the draw, not once but twice and the Secretariat was established in Dhaka and it moved from one place to another until the permanent secretariat for SAS was established in Sri Lanka.