River Basin Planning Workshop
Convened by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP)
Friday 16 March
(check against delivery)
Thank you very much David. [Mr David Harriss, AWP convenor]
Good morning everyone, and welcome.
I would like to acknowledge Mr Pradeep Kumar, who is a Member of the Central Water Commission.
A warm welcome to all participants, especially to the state representatives, whose input is integral to the success of today’s workshop.
And of course, welcome to the AWP river basin team, who have travelled from Australia.
I’m delighted to be here this morning. As Australia’s High Commissioner to India, I’m always very happy when I see active collaboration between Australian and Indian government agencies. As I’ve been saying in conversation with some of you this morning, water is a sector in which there is great scope for meaningful engagement between us. There is, on both sides, significant knowledge and experience in managing water resources, and cooperation to share that knowledge and expertise can only be to the benefit of all of us.
The AWP workshops this week build on a solid foundation of collaboration between India and Australia on water, dating back to 2009 and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Water Resources Management. River basin planning, in particular, has been a central theme of our collaboration to date, reflecting both Australian expertise in this area, and its applicability to India.
As many in this room will know, in 2014, Australia’s national science and technology agency – CSIRO – and MoWR undertook important modelling work on the Brahmani-Baitarni Basin [Bra-MAR-ni Bet-AR-ni]. That was one of our first collaborative successes. I hope that the discussions today on the Krishna, Godavari and Mahanadi basins will open up new opportunities to continue our engagement in this area.
Of course, there are a number of other dimensions to the India-Australia water relationship. In fact, it has become a busy space, and I’ll cite a few examples: we’ve had reciprocal visits to progress hydrologic forecasting work between our Bureau of Meteorology, the MoWR and the National Institute of Hydrology; our Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has hosted a MoWR delegation in Australia late last year; and, at the state-level, the opening of the Rajasthan Centre of Excellence in Water Resources Management (RaCEWaRM), which was developed under a Sister State agreement between Rajasthan and South Australia.
Before I go on, I would just like to say a few more words here about RaCEWaRM, because to my mind, it has been one of the stand-out achievements in the Australia-India water partnership to date. South Australia has its own International Centre for Excellence in Water Resources Management (ICEWaRM), and it has worked closely with Rajasthan Government officials over several years to establish RaCEWaRM. Like ICEWaRM, it will build academic and research partnerships to advance collaboration on water resources management. RaCEWaRM and ICEWaRM will continue to support each other’s endeavours. Last September, the two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support ongoing exchange of water-related scientific and technical information, and best practice approaches. I congratulate both the South Australian and Rajasthan Governments on their initiative; and ICEWaRM, whose Managing Director, Mr Darryl Day, is here today.
So, these are just a few of the activities that have taken place recently, and I’m told there will be many others this year. I was particularly pleased to hear that DAWR will host a senior-level MoWR delegation for the Joint Working Group on Water Resources Management, in early April. One of the objectives of that meeting will be to devise a workplan to take forward together under the MoU between our two countries.
Of course, the AWP is itself engaging on a number of fronts, including on one of India’s most ambitious, far-reaching projects: the National Hydrology Project (NHP). AWP is working closely with the World Bank and the MoWR’s NHP team, to extend technical support related to basin planning and the National Water Information Centre; and to work on capacity building for ground water modelling and management. As David mentioned in his remarks, after the current workshops on river basin planning, AWP will host an Exposure Visit to Australia by Indian water officials, to showcase some of our own approaches and initiatives.
As all of you here would know, the AWP has been active in the Indian water sector since 2014. Last year, it established an in-country presence with the appointment of Mr Vijay Kumar, here in New Delhi. Vijay is very well known to us at the High Commission, and I gather he has been kept very busy since taking up his position as AWP’s South Asia representative.
The decision by the AWP to anchor a representative in the region is a very positive development. It is clear evidence that AWP and its partners see potential and opportunity in continuing the engagement on water between Australia and India. To my mind, this optimism reflects the current bilateral relationship between Australia and India as a whole – it has never been stronger, and there are a number of emerging areas in which our two countries see mutual benefit in working together. I see water as one of those. In fact, I see water as one of the principal areas in which India and Australia can work together.
In fact, since taking up the role as High Commissioner in India two years ago, I have noticed that an increasing number of my engagements relate to water. I’ve attended many workshops and dialogues such as today’s; I’ve addressed a number of summits and conventions on different aspects of water management. I’ve also observed how the issue of water resources – specifically, how to ensure sustainable supplies for future generations – is gaining in profile and urgency in public discourse across India. And you don’t need to go far to see that – water is an issue that is occupying the minds of many in the community at present.
So I do take pleasure in supporting interactions such as these, which bring together policy makers and practitioners, to share knowledge, technology and experiences to tackle the most serious environmental challenge of our time.
I thank the AWP for the invitation to open the workshop today. I very much look forward to hearing the outcomes of your discussions – in fact, I regret that I can’t stay for all of the sessions, as there are several issues on the agenda that I would like to know more about! But I wish you well for today, and hope it will lead to new opportunities to progress the India-Australia partnership on water resources.