Notes from the field: Dr Brian McIntosh visits India and Uzbekistan
Below Dr McIntosh reports back on his time in India and Uzbekistan, providing his highlights, insights and key learnings on water management.
Attending the International RiverSymposium, New Delhi, India
India! The first time the International RiverSymposium (IRS) has been hosted outside of Australia and what a place to come to. India has a population of over one billion, changing rainfall patterns which are worsening drought and floods and a large number of transboundary rivers that consequently create high levels of tension relating to water allocations. India’s water challenges, as Circle of Blue describes, are chronic, severe and worsening, and during the conference a major conflict erupted in Bengaluru and neighbouring state Tamil Nadu around the sharing, or unwillingness to do so, of water from the River Cauvery across state boundaries.
Highlights from the conference
The conference started on a Sunday evening with a Women in Water session. We heard from a panel of women ranging from a young academic through to an experienced local NGO worker to the head of the World Wildlife Fund India. The need to support the development of women water leaders was echoed at this event and is something we at the IWC have long recognised and engaged in through our capacity development and scholarship opportunities.
The University of Queensland Global Change Institute ran a breakfast session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which involved a panel discussion of industry representatives, including Unity Water from here in South East Queensland. The discussion highlighted the importance of the SDGs and the need for dialogue around their implementation to ensure sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
The Emerging River Professional Award (ERPA) run by the IWC Alumni Network included a session during which I provided an introductory talk on the importance of developing emerging leadership and the need to develop the capacity for change and adaptation in our water and river professionals across all ages and experience levels.
Speaking at the International RiverSymposium Emerging River Professional Awards Presentation
Long time IWC friends, the Integration Application Network (IAN) at the University of Maryland ran a great session which profiled the role playing game they have developed alongside the World Wildlife Fund to help people understand and see the value in producing river basin report cards. Report cards have been in use in South East Queensland for many years as a way of reporting to public- and policy-makers on the health of waterways. They are now becoming mainstream and used in a range of contexts, and research, like that undertaken by Anthony Kung under the auspices of the IWC and University of Queensland, is highlighting the opportunities for improving stakeholder relationships that well designed and run report card development processes present..
The remainder of the conference was taken up with an exciting variety of parallel sessions covering a plethora of topics. Hydropower development presented as a trending topic in many sessions with participants from pro-sustainable hydropower organisations like the International Finance Corporation engaging with participants from countries either thinking about developing hydropower or concerned with the risks from its development. This is only going to continue to grow in importance over the next decade as countries with abundant water resources but unmet energy needs try to square the circle of economy, society and the environment and meet these needs.
A highlight of the Symposium for me was seeing how many Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) Alumni were present, engaging with each other and conference delegates on how we can better manage complex water management challenges.
IWC MIWM Alumni in attendance at the International RiverSymposium, New Delhi
Australian Water Partnership mission to Andra Pradesh, India
The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) in collaboration with the Australian Consulate in India organised a Mission to the state capital of Andra Pradesh (AP), Vijayawada. Following bifurcation in 2014, Andra Pradesh has set an ambitious agenda to build the new state from the ground up, of particular note is the greenfield capital city of Amravati (near completion) and the development of the state’s three smart cities - Vishakhapatnam, Tirupati and Kakinada.
I was selected to take part in the mission which afforded an excellent opportunity to learn about the water management and capacity building challenges faced by this state of nearly 60 million people. Lacking a university since the bifurcation, there is a pressing need to develop research and education capacity in Andra Pradesh.
The mission provided an opportunity to identify how the IWC and other mission delegates’ expertise could provide a way of building such capacity and in turn assist build the state’s capacity to better manage water resources for all.
The AP Minister for Water Resources and Chief Secretary conducting a presentation to Mission delegates
Asian Development Bank supported mission to Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a country facing significant water supply and sanitation challenges. Resolution 306 was recently passed by the government and is currently being implemented partly by means of ADB financed infrastructure loans. The Resolution is reforming the structure and function of the country’s water utilities and a key component of ensuring that the new, aggregated utilities (called Vodokanals) are effective, is ensuring the staff of those utilities are well educated, trained and paid, and that the Vodokanals themselves have well functioning systems for everything from distribution pressure and energy management, through water mass balance construction and strategic planning to customer service and billing. The existing systems are not functioning well in many cases and existing infrastructure, much of it built in the Soviet era, is crumbling and in need of replacement.
I was engaged by the ADB to tour a range of the Vodokanals from urban centres such as Tashkent City to rural locations, including Jizzax Provincial, and interview a range of key senior staff (Directors, Deputy Directors and Heads of Department). In addition I also interviewed the senior personnel from the national Ministry of Finance and UCSA, the government organisation which is charged with reforming all utility service provision including water and sanitation. From these interviews a set of recommendations to the ADB will be developed addressing how to effectively build the capabilities and ultimately capacities of the Vodokanals to deliver safe, high quality and cost-effective water and sanitation services.
Touring the Vodokanals in Uzbekistan
For more information on any of the above projects and events please contact:
Dr Brian McIntosh
Senior Lecturer and Education Director
Phone +61 7 3028 7600