Improving access to safe water and sanitation: South Asia Water Security Initiative

The project monitors innovative approaches to build water security in four communities in India and Pakistan.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)’s South Asia Water Security Initiative (SAWASI) is a four-year program that aims to improve access to safe water and sanitation in urban areas in the South Asia region. The SAWASI program is being implemented in two countries, India and Pakistan. Underpinned by a Water Sensitive Cities approach, SAWASI is expected to enhance community resilience to climate change and other water-related shocks.

The challenge

The SAWASI program is designed to address water security and climate issues in urban South Asia. According to the Asian Water Development Outlook, over 300 million residents of Asia do not have access to drinking water, and as high as 68%-84% of water sources in South Asia are estimated to be contaminated. Many south Asian cities do not provide residents with 24-hour supply, and access to water resources in slums and informal settlements while improving, is still inadequate. With rising levels of urbanisation, fast depleting water sources, and the impacts of climate change, the demand for water is only likely to grow and exacerbate existing inequalities.

In response to this, this project promotes the Water Sensitive Cities approach, an urban water management approach that meets the water demands of its residents by promoting interventions that focus on access from a diversity of water sources (including through recycling), the provision of ecosystem services, and participatory and consultative decision making.

Our approach

The SAWASI program is being implemented by a consortia of grantees in India and Pakistan. The program has three components, which are:

  • Community Demonstration projects: These projects are being implemented in four communities – one each in Islamabad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan, and two communities in New Delhi. The projects  involve planning and installing water sensitive structures such as rainwater harvesting structures, water recycling structures and nature-based solutions. They are expected to enhance water security as well as resilience to climate change. They are being implemented in collaboration with communities and are strengthening decision making forums for the marginalized, including women and people with disabilities. 
  • Technical Assistance to the government to introduce water sensitive cities approaches in urban planning, design and policy.
  • Regional and city level learning workshops to promote and share learnings on the water sensitive cities approach in South Asia.

We are responsible for monitoring the SAWASI program at the regional level. We have developed a detailed regional Theory of Change, MEL plan and reporting formats and liaise with implementing partners to understand the extent to which the program is delivering on its activities, outputs, and outcomes.

Our approach to monitoring the program is to generate data and insights for:  

  1. Learning and improvement: to ensure that the grantees deliver their activities as effectively and efficiently as possible towards SAWASI goals, and DFAT can use M&E to inform future decisions including future program designs and scale up of projects.
  2. Management and accountability: to allow DFAT to effectively manage resources and account for the use of funding.
  3. Measurement and communication of progress: to measure and communicate the progress that SAWASI has made against its outcomes in order to effectively communicate its success.


The program aims to achieve three important outcomes by 2025. First, from the implementation of the community demonstration projects, it is expected that the four communities in India and Pakistan will have access to water from a variety of sources and scales and achieve higher levels of water security and resilience. Second, the support to government will ensure that local, state and national governments in these countries have a positive attitude to water sensitive cities approach. Third, learning workshops, organised in the South Asia region, will share learning and best practices on water sensitive cities approach.

Areas of expertise