Safa Fanaian

My doctoral research seeks to understand the utility of complexity theory in addressing the complex water governance problems of cities present on rivers. The research focuses on risks of floods, inadequate domestic water supply and water quality/sewage issues. The case of Guwahati city, on the Brahmaputra River in India will be explored.

From an early age I was made aware of the shortage of water. Overtime this realization made me curious about the complexities of water problems being faced in India and South Asia. In an ongoing effort to improve water security, I have studied and worked with many Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). My academic background includes a Masters in Water Resource Management, IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education, The Netherlands and an MSc. in Ecology and Environmental Science, Pondicherry University, India.

I received a practical understanding of the realities through my work experiences. This included work at SaciWATERs, where I coordinated a 400+ member- ‘Arsenic Knowledge and Action Network’ in India to address the ‘wicked problem’ of arsenic in groundwater. I also assisted in building capacity of CSOs to participate in transnational policy dialogues for improved governance of the Brahmaputra River. Some of my previous positions also include; project officer at Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), Hyderabad; and Coordinator of the Secretariat for promotion of a discourse on Science, Religion and Development, Delhi. I have worked on issues such as governance of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); ecosystem based economic assessments of water systems; participatory irrigation management, livelihoods and watershed monitoring and assessment.

I was fortunate to have mentors from an early age who helped me learn and contribute to the needs of society around me. To share the same, I work with groups of young adolescents and graduate students to empower them to contribute towards social action in an integrated and coherent manner.



  • Presented my research “Rivers and cities: connected risks, fragmented policy” at the workshop “Knowledge to Action Lab” in New Delhi, organized by Global Development Network (GDN) on 20-21 November 2018
  •  “Cities and rivers: the policy challenges of water management” for the website of GDN called Global Dev. This blog has also been translated into French and Spanish
  •  “Risking Cities and Rivers: What are the Pathways Towards Resilience?” towards the recent issue (No.181) of facilitated by All India Disaster Mitigation Institute under the theme “Making Humanitarian Response more Flexible: Exploring New Models and Approaches.