Institutes devoted exclusively to research and management of inland waters have existed in many countries for several decades. The need for a similar national or regional institute for South Asia has been felt strongly for many years at several levels. The XI Plan Working Group on Biodiversity Conservation in the Ministry of Environment and Forests recommended the setting up of an Institute of Inland Aquatic Ecosystem Studies, and the Jaipur Declaration of the 12th World Lake Conference (2007) also called for the setting up of an Asian Centre of Excellence to promote research, training and education for sustainable management and restoration of lakes and wetlands. These recommendations were never followed up further.
In 2009, the National Institute of Ecology in India had proposed to develop three Centres to focus on certain areas of applied ecology, including the management of inland freshwater bodies, but could not follow them up due to lack of resources. In 2010, the Pragya Education and Environment Trust decided to establish the Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia with its own research and training facilities, in village Peera near Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) where the Trust had acquired some land for its activities.
The Pragya Education and Environment Trust has constructed a small building (about 350 m2 covered space) for housing the library, laboratory for biological and analytical work, and computers, a meeting room for seminars and workshops, and administrative office. It is located only 2 km from the Khajuraho Railway Station and 6 km from the airport). The area lies in the basin of and near river Ken. There are scores of large and small reservoirs and tanks – many of them being centuries old. The Trust has also land to develop facilities for mesocosm-level experimental studies.
The Centre functions in cooperation with institutions, individuals and organisations worldwide. It covers Rivers, Streams, Springs and Estuaries; Lakes and Reservoirs (including Saline Lakes, High Altitude Lakes and Shallow Lakes); Ponds and Fishponds; Lagoons and Backwaters; Wetlands including Marshes, Swamps, Floodplains and Mangroves; and Groundwater Ecosystems.
The Centre pursues a holistic river basin approach to the issues of inland aquatic ecosystems, emphasising upon the land-water interactions, and promotes a participatory management that enhances livelihoods, health, and poverty alleviation of the communities dependent upon these inland aquatic ecosystems.