Hydrologic Forecasting for Flood and Water Management Purposes Workshop
Presented by BOM in partnership with MoWR
0900-0930 Thursday 3 August at Claridges Hotel, New Delhi
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I’m absolutely delighted to be here at the opening of this workshop presented by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology [the Bureau] and the Indian Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation [the Ministry]. I am pleased to acknowledge:
Mr Narendra Kumar, Chairman of the Central Water Commission;
Dr Sharad Jain, Director of the National Institute of Hydrology;
Mr Avinash Tyagi, Secretary General of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage;
Dr K.J Ramesh, Director General of the India Meteorological Department;
Dr Vijay Kumar of the Ministry of Earth Sciences; and
Mr K.P Bakshi, Chairman of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
A very warm welcome to you and to all participants. It really is wonderful to see such a great turn-out for today’s workshop, and I’m very pleased that so many senior officials such as yourselves have taken the time to attend. Your support is very much appreciated by both the Bureau and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the support and enthusiasm of Dr Singh, Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, for the program of collaboration between the Bureau and the Ministry.
This is the third time the Bureau and the Ministry have partnered to present a workshop on weather and water forecasting. These are really important areas of work for both our governments. I know this because I worked for six years on climate issues in the Department of Climate Change and Environment in Australia. We know that climate conditions are changing around the world and, as a result, we are seeing more extreme weather events and natural disasters. Both Australia and India are experiencing droughts and floods with increasing frequency. There’s a huge economic cost to this, but far more devastating is the impact such events have on communities caught unawares or ill-prepared.
As we know, the geography of South Asia makes it highly susceptible to natural disasters. Since 2004, recurring floods and droughts across the region have caused great loss of life and property. The devastating floods and landslides in Uttarakhand in 2013 was one of this country's worst natural disasters.
Of course, as we speak, Gujarat is recovering from massive monsoon flooding, which has claimed over 200 lives and impacted more than a million households, with around 80,000 people relocated. Crops and livestock have been lost and significant damage caused to roads and other infrastructure. Thankfully, the flood waters are now reported to be receding.
Australia, too, is a country impacted by climate extremes – in fact, it is through one of our most celebrated childhood poems that we learn of ‘droughts and flooding rains’. Between 1997 and 2009 we experienced severe and prolonged drought conditions – referred to as the ‘Millennium Drought’. It was followed by serious flood events in parts of Australia in 2010-2011. This was all the more devastating because the floods occurred in the centre of one of our largest and most modern capital cities. It was quite a shock to see how such a modern centre – Brisbane – could be so severely flooded in the way it was.
The Millennium Drought touched many Australians. At that time I was living in Canberra, a city that is not usually affected by climate extremes. We had water rationing for several years, including at the time of the Brisbane floods, and there were signs up around the city telling us how much the dam waters had receded. This really brought home how much the drought affected people, no matter who they were or where they lived.
Technology that enables us to predict, and plan for, extreme weather conditions is critical. This technology, together with sharing knowledge with agencies responsible for disaster response and community safety, could save countless lives, improve management of water scarcity, and protect vital infrastructure and livelihoods in both our countries.
So it is fitting that the Bureau and the Ministry, with the support of other technical agencies, are partnering to share experience in water information and forecasting, to assist India to build up its resources and capability in this area. It’s a great example of the ongoing, practical collaboration between our two governments under the Memorandum of Understanding on Water Resources Management that has been in place since 2009. In addition to water forecasting, our collaboration has focused on water quality, groundwater potential and river basin management.
All of this work is important because, in the future, freshwater will become the most valuable resource on earth. Already, demand for water around the world is increasing, and placing great pressure on river systems. As we know, in India this demand is increasing at an accelerated rate, due to the rapid growth of population, agricultural development, urbanisation and industrialisation. Perversely, water scarcity is increasingly matched by over-abundance of water, as climate variability and change causes more extreme weather events.
Responding to these challenges means managing community safety during extreme drought and flood events, and that is why water forecasting – this work – is essential to safeguard water resources for our own and future generations.
The Indian Government has embarked on an ambitious reform agenda in the water sector, and Australia is keen to contribute its experience where it can be useful to India and, at the same time we are very keen to learn from the Indian context.
In addition to the forecasting workshops here in India, there are plans for a delegation of senior Indian water scientists to visit the Bureau in Canberra later this year. I also understand that the current collaboration will include a Roadmap for hydrologic forecasting in India. I hope the launch of this document and the visit by the Indian delegation to Australia, will lead to further cooperation in weather and water forecasting.
As I noted earlier, this workshop is one of several successful ventures between Australian and Indian experts in the water sector. We have a natural complementarity, a natural partnership that workshops such as these can take forward. I wish you all the best for today, and look forward to continuing this important partnership between our countries.