Special Address by H.E. Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner to India
Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) Triveni Water Institute
4th Water Innovation Summit 2018
NATIONAL WATER AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN WATER MANAGEMENT
Thursday 4 October, the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi
I am very pleased to be here today to address the 2018 Water Innovation Summit. I would like to thank the CII Triveni Water Institute for convening and hosting this forum again, and also take the opportunity to acknowledge:
- Mr Ramesh Datla, Chairman, CII National Committee on Water;
- Dr Anil Kakodkar, Chief of Jury, CII National Awards for Excellence, and member of the Atomic Energy Commission;
- Mr Rene Van Berkel, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation Representative in India;
- Mr N K Ranganath, member of the Institute’s Advisory Board, member of the Jury, and CO Chairman; and
- Dr Kapil Narula, Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director of the CII Triveni Water Institute.
It is also my pleasure to acknowledge the support of the Australian Water Partnership as partner sponsor of the Summit, and the presence of The Honourable Karlene Maywald, former Minister for Water and current Adviser on International Water Trade and Investment for the South Australian Government, and other members of the delegation. Welcome.
Water security is not only paramount to our survival, but also essential if we are to improve human development outcomes and drive economic growth – these are two critical elements of a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. I commend the Confederation of Indian Industry for focusing on these challenges in the context of water scarcity, which many countries in this region are already experiencing.
In addition, this year’s Summit recognises that solutions to these challenges must address water security in the face of a changing climate. Indeed, the solutions must build resilience and
liveability in our cities and provide water for food security and economic development, whilst supporting environment outcomes.
I have been attending forums on water management for some time now. The urgency to find ways to secure reliable water supplies for the future and to balance the competing uses of water for food, energy and industry has been growing in the region, as well as internationally. However, urgency alone is not a solution. The scale and complexity of the world’s water problems require a paradigm shift in thinking if future generations are to live and prosper. Water reform requires behavioural change, innovation, and new ways of collaborating – and learning together – within communities, across countries, and across our region.
Life and well-being cannot be sustained without good management of our water resources. Water-rich and water-poor countries, at different phases of development, face this challenge equally. The importance of water for survival has led people to see it not just as a resource, but also as a part of our culture with strong spiritual significance. This is certainly the case in Australia, which is the driest inhabited continent on earth. For our indigenous peoples, water has held vast social, cultural and economic importance for tens of thousands of years. One of the most well known stories that Australian schoolchildren read is that of the Rainbow Serpent, which tells of the creation of the landscape and highlights the fundamental role of water in nature’s cycle of growth and regeneration.
In India, too, spiritual and cultural rituals associated with water date back thousands of years. Rivers have been accorded human rights, and bathing in the Ganga – the holiest of the holy rivers – is said to absolve devotees of all sin. While water is celebrated, the fact is that both our countries are highly vulnerable not only to water shortages, but also excesses. We saw the effects of excess water just recently, when hundreds of thousands of people were impacted by the devastating floods in Kerala.
Australia’s water story is one of adapting to the environment, and the environment to us. Australia has a variable climate, and we have had to develop resources to manage water in times of both scarcity and excess. This has helped us to develop a thriving and diverse agricultural sector, and to export our products around the world. However, we are cognisant that we need to continually adapt. This has been brought home recently by sobering images of the impacts of the record dry conditions that are currently affecting crops, livestock, and thousands of farmers in the east of Australia.
Water security requires managing both scarcity, and abundance.
I must congratulate the organisers of this year’s Summit for recognising the importance of applying integrated, multi-sectoral approaches to manage water resources and to safeguard supply. No one sector alone can solve the challenges we are facing. We need a deep understanding of scientific, economic, political, social and environmental issues, and we must
embrace new and innovative ways of thinking to break down the siloed approach to water management that has been used in the past.
Managing these demands requires consideration of the interlinkages and interdependencies – the "nexus" - between food, energy and water systems. South Asia is a comparatively dry region with around eight per cent of global water resources, for more than 21 per cent of the world’s population. In India, irrigation consumes around 80 per cent of total water use, and the share used by industry and energy generation is increasing. At the same time, river basins are facing water scarcity as groundwater is depleted, water availability is being challenged by rising pollution levels, and rainfall patterns are changing.
Achieving water security requires an integrated approach that considers food security, sustainable agriculture and efficient energy production. All three elements of the nexus underpin several of the Sustainable Development Goals, to which all countries have committed. There is a huge opportunity to highlight the linkages in policy frameworks to help ensure that progress in one element supports progress in others.
For example, access to safe water and sanitation has had a huge impact in improving infant mortality and public health. Adoption of climate resilient farming techniques – such as those piloted by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research in West Bengal and in Bihar - has increased crop yields for around 25,000 farmers while using less water. Not considering the interdependencies of our critical resources risks losing some of the many gains that have been made in human development, with implications for economic well-being and security.
Water management will also underpin our collective ability to strengthen engagement in the priority sectors of Australia’s recently released India Economic Strategy, particularly agribusiness and energy.
Let me turn now to innovation, which is one of the most important focuses of this Summit. The word brings to mind new and exciting technologies that can support improved management of water resources, like smart sensing, green infrastructure, and mobile apps. The National Awards for Excellence that will be presented at this Summit tomorrow will showcase some of the new and promising solutions that are being developed in India.
Innovation doesn’t just mean technology. It is also about new ways of thinking, to derive "out of the box" solutions to complex challenges. Centres of Excellence – like the Rajasthan Centre of Excellence in Water Resource Management (RaCEWaRM) – have become an important part of this. They are best practice models, which bring together government, research institutions and the private sector, to provide an evidence base for policy and practice. They also provide a framework for international engagement – in July this year, under the Australia Awards Fellowship program, Australia’s International Centre of Excellence in Water Resource Management (ICEWaRM) hosted 14 engineers from the Rajasthan Public Health Engineering
Department to discuss how Australia’s water experience could inform decision making in Rajasthan. I am delighted that delegations from RaCEWaRM and ICEWaRM are participating in this Summit.
Innovation is also about planning. Australia has an international reputation as an innovative and efficient water manager. This is in part due to the Commonwealth government prioritising investment in water management, water research, science-driven policy, innovative water markets, and forward planning. Planning for the future – ensuring sustainability of supplies - is top of mind, and Australia is already using sophisticated climate change modelling to predict how much water will be available in 2030.
And, perhaps most importantly, innovation also means partnerships and new ways of working together. Enduring and inclusive solutions require the full engagement of partners across government, industry and civil society. And, of course, institutional architecture that supports creation of enabling environments. In recognition of this, in 2015 the Australian Government established the Australian Water Partnership to bring different actors together to foster cross-sectoral collaboration needed to enact meaningful change. I am delighted to note the AWP’s role in bringing together Indian and Australian technical experts, policy makers, and industry representatives to help ensure a sustainable future for our region. The provision of technical advice to India's National Hydrology Project is perhaps the best example of this.
The relationship between technical expertise, public policy, industry and sustainable development will be illustrated at this forum tomorrow. The presence of Secretary U.P. Singh, and of course Mr Raghupathy and other senior CII representatives, reflects the high priority the Indian Government assigns to water management issues.
Managing our water resources requires ingenuity, resilience and resourcefulness and I believe that Indians and Australians share these qualities. This also means we are natural collaborators when it comes to complex problems. Australia and India already enjoy a high level of technical cooperation on water resources management. Our government-to-government engagement occurs under the auspices of a Memorandum of Understanding between our Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. We were delighted to welcome the Indian delegation, led by Secretary Singh, to Australia in July this year for the fourth Joint Working Group meeting on Water Resources Management. I understand that a workplan of activities is jointly being developed, and I look forward to continuing and strengthening our partnership as these are implemented.
Water management is not only a growth area in the bilateral relationship between our countries, but collaboration between India and Australia going forward will be a critical element in fostering a stable and prosperous Indian Ocean region. Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper highlights the rising demand for food, water and energy, and the potential implications if these are not managed collectively. Governments cannot do this alone, and partnerships are needed to provide opportunities and a broader platform to share experiences and knowledge for the
benefit of both countries. The ongoing and maturing relationship between CII-Triveni Water Institute and its Australian counterpart, the Water Industry Alliance will be part of the solution going forward. I am also very pleased to see representatives from Osmoflo – an Australian-based company with a significant presence in India - here today.
Platforms such as this, as well as ongoing cooperation between Indian and Australia by industries and government representatives, are essential to building and applying knowledge to safeguard water resources for present and future generations.
I’d like to thank the organisers for the opportunity this Summit provides to: facilitate knowledge sharing and education; showcase best practice; and, most importantly, recognise and reward those making a difference. I wish you all the best for today and heartily congratulate and encourage those amongst you who are working on innovative solutions for the benefit of the community – both regional and global.