‘Indo-Australia Workshop on Advancing research cooperation through joint workshops between Australia and India: Water Scarcity and ways to reduce the impact’
Remarks by the Australian Consul-General to South India
Mr Sean Kelly
IIT Madras, 15 February 2016
Dr Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director IIT Madras
Mr K Skandan, Chairman, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board
Professor Jega Jegatheesan, RMIT University
Professor R Nagarajan, Dean International and Alumni Relations, IIT Madras
Mr Ashok Natarajan, CEO, Tamil Nadu Water Investment Co
Professor Ligy Phillip, Department of Engineering, IIT Madras
Distinguished academics from both Australia, India and other participating academics
Ladies and gentlemen
It’s a privilege to be here this morning at the invitation of the organisers of this Workshop to discuss the important issue of water scarcity.
First I would also like to thank the many esteemed experts for your participation here today. Together you possess an enormous body of knowledge on issues of industrial and urban water management and I am sure today’s sessions will be very productive. The fact we are here today exemplifies the exciting work already taking place between India and Australia to advance research in water management issues.
This workshop is part of a joint research project between IIT Madras and RMIT University in Australia supported by the Governments of Australia and India under the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.
Both IIT Madras and RMIT are leaders in the field of industrial and urban water management, and I have no doubt that their partnership will foster greater understanding around ways to reduce the impact of water scarcity for future generations.
Australia and India share the challenges of managing limited water resources, sharing water resources equitably and dealing with drought.
Like India, Australia is a land of extremes. It is the world’s driest inhabited continent – but some regions are among the wettest on earth. It is a sparsely populated nation but one of the world’s most urbanised.
These difficult conditions have fostered innovation across the urban and industrial water industries, resulting in a range of technologies and systems that address concerns over water security, environmental management, public health and more.
Australia’s innovative culture has driven responses to the country’s extreme climate with widespread practices promoting efficient water use and incorporating the best scientific research to achieve productivity gains.
Increasing climatic variability has led governments, industry and the population to prioritise and improve water management. This focus has cultivated distinctive approaches to governance, behavioural change and technology innovation. This focus has also made Australia a world leader in integrated water management.
Australia stands ready to share our expertise and experience in our water sector capabilities. In September 2014, the Australian Government established the Australian Water Partnership, an initiative designed to support public and private partnerships for sharing Australia’s water sector expertise in the Indo-Pacific region.
Given that water security remains one of India’s top concerns, the AWP has already identified a number of projects and priority areas in India.
I am pleased to announce that this month the AWP approved funding of $1.15 million over two years to support the World Bank’s National Hydrology Project in India.
As you are probably aware, this national project will not only improve the reliability and accuracy of hydrology and ground water data throughout India, it will also improve access to this information.
Phase 3 of the project will commence shortly and AWP partners will be offering expertise across a range of relevant water policy, management and technical areas.
At the regional level, AWP’s implementing partner, eWater, is taking forward work on applying Australian water basin modelling and and resource management technology to assist in providing innovative solutions to entrenched issues regarding water management.
Like India, Australia shares the similarity of having multiple tiers of government. As you are aware, this adds complexity to the issue of resolving disputes between states and the central government, particularly when water resources are shared by multiple jurisdictions.
In Australia, our Murray-Darling River System, which passes through four states and some of the nation’s most productive farmlands, has long been subject to debates surrounding appropriate resource management.
One key innovation that came from this dispute was ‘Source,’ an integrated river basin-scale modelling platform, developed by eWater, which has become Australia's hydrological modelling platform.
In Manhrastra, under a state-to-state MOU with the Australian New South Wales government, ‘Source’ has been introduced to help address governance issues relating to the Upper Goldavari Basin.
Following the success of this project, eWater is now looking to partner with other Indian states facing similar water management issues.
eWater is currently finalising discussion for a proposed project for integrated water resource management for Andhra Pradesh in the water-scarce region of Rayalseema.
Once concluded, the project will provide Andhra Pradesh with a state of the art hydrological modelling, analysis and decision support system.
It will also provide related expertise to enable Andhra Pradesh to most effectively manage and allocate scare water resources - an important step in water resource cooperation.
Through the Australian Water Partnership, we are also working with the Andhra Pradesh Government to take forward plans for a Water Science Centre of Excellence that will lead to the establishment of a full-fledged Water Sciences University.
Once established, we expect the Centre of Excellence will draw Australian expertise from a number of Australian universities and research establishments to share expertise in water-related technologies.
Australia has also been stepping up its engagement in commercial partnerships with India. Last year, with the support of our Australian Trade Commission, we held the inaugural Virtual Water Innovation Showcase.
Participation included seven major Australian firms specialising in innovation water solutions interacting with almost 30 Indian companies across Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai. By utilising technology, the virtual showcase encouraged collaboration between Australia and India to build innovative partnerships in the water sector.
Innovation in water management also played a lead role during the 2015 ‘Australian Business Week in India’, which coincided with India Water Week in January last year. Over the course of the week, more than 50 delegates from 35 Australian water companies visited India to discuss experience in water reform, water technology, water quality and dry-land farming.
And here in Chennai, Australian firm Hydronumerics has been assisting the Tamil Nadu Water Investment Company with desalination outflow modelling.
These examples highlight a few of the many areas in which Australia and India are engaged on the issue of water scarcity.
Water scarcity remains one of the most critical issues facing the world today and is the major factor in the water-food-energy nexus. Australia has a significant role to play by providing cutting edge solutions to some of these issues.
I hope during the course of these two days you will have the opportunity to explore fully the enormous scope there is for building mutually-beneficial collaboration in approaches to the problem of water scarcity and deepen our economic partnership to address this critical challenge.