PhD Seminar: Accelerating Transformation Towards Water Sustainability in the Global South

The PhD thesis addresses the slow progress towards water sustainability in the Global South, a region critical for achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) by 2030. Despite the urgency amplified by the dual pressures of climate change and urbanization, obsolete infrastructure and governance impediments hinder the pathways toward transformation. This research bridges gaps in the existing scholarship, which frequently marginalizes the complexities of the Global South, by examining the impetus of innovation activities and the agency of transformative agents in catalysing systemic changes.

Employing qualitative, in-depth case studies of Bengaluru and Nagpur cities in India, the thesis investigates the characteristics of urban water regimes, the role of innovation and transformative agents in the emergence of transformative initiatives, and the mechanisms that accelerate transformation within diverse governance configurations. Additionally, it evaluates the conduciveness of diverse governance configurations to deliberately expedite transformations toward water sustainability.

The research underscores the pivotal role of innovative activities and the strategic influence of transformative agents in propelling systemic changes in urban water regimes. It introduces a novel framework that articulates acceleration mechanisms within three sub-phases: establishing enabling conditions, fostering social changes, and constructing robust systems, thereby steering the transformation trajectory.

The research contributions to knowledge encompass a framework for assessing the impacts of innovation on transformation, the archetypes and indispensable role of transformative agents in complexity navigation, and an in-depth exploration of acceleration mechanisms and their dynamics in expediting the transformations toward water sustainability.

The thesis offers strategic counsel for policymakers and stakeholders by articulating the key principles of water governance for creating a conducive environment to deliberately accelerate transformation. It contributes to advancing the discourse on the temporal aspects of socio-technical systems and delineates a pathway for accelerated and equitable transformation toward water sustainability in the Global South.


About the Speaker

Chitresh Saraswat is a PhD candidate at the Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University. His research intersects the disciplines of environmental geography and computer science, focusing on climate adaptation, innovation, and sustainability transformations. Currently, his work centers on facilitating the transformation towards water sustainability in the Global South. Chitresh possesses extensive research and industry experience, having engaged with United Nations agencies, energy and water utilities, and the corporate IT sector. He holds a Master of Science in Sustainability from the United Nations University (UNU-IAS), and the University of Tokyo, Japan. His academic contributions include multiple peer-reviewed publications in internationally recognized journals and contributions to books within the domains of sustainability transformation, water governance, innovation, and cyber-physical systems. Chitresh's professional and academic endeavors contribute to innovation in climate adaptation and accelerating transformation toward urban sustainability.