Building healthy and resilient rivers: Outcomes from the 22nd International Riversymposium

The 22nd International Riversymposium was held in Brisbane on 20–24 October. The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) was again involved in a program of events and initiatives throughout the three-day event, which attracted delegates from 36 countries and focused on building healthy and resilient rivers.

AWP supported Riversymposium as ‘Diversity in Water’ Partner for the 2nd year in a row, enabling a special evening event focused on celebrating diversity in all its forms. The evening incorporated networking and a panel discussion chaired by Prof Poh-Ling Tan, Professor for Water Law and Governance at the International WaterCentre, Griffith University, with four panellists: George Gorringe, Mithaka Traditional Owner from the Western Rivers Alliance, Lake Eyre Basin; Edith Kamundi, WASH and Behaviour Change Consultant with a background in the community sector; Anne Cleary, Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland; and José Fernández López-Lavalle, winner of the 2018 Emerging River Professional Award and Masters student in Integrated Water Management, International WaterCentre.

The event aimed to inspire diversity in gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and disability by promoting behaviours that welcome and embrace diversity. Panellists shared their personal thoughts, experiences and ideas from Peru, Africa and Australia, provoking thoughtful and insightful discussion from the audience.

Delegates were supported by AWP to participate in the Riversymposium—Rashmi Shrestha from Nepal, U Kyaw Zin Than of Myanmar, and Shar Myagmar and Chimid-Ochir Munkhzul from Mongolia—as well as 13 Young Water Professionals from Myanmar to participate in the Emerging Water Professionals Program.

Ms Shrestha, an Independent Research Consultant, was invited to present on the topic of ‘Harnessing the hydropower boom in achieving Sustainable Development Goals: Innovative practices in Nepal’. Her presentation discussed the issues and challenges of hydropower in Nepal, as well as the advantages and how it can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the country.

Ms Shrestha said, “Participating in previous Riversymposia gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with many valued professionals. My goal was to engage with River Basin Management communities around the world to share and learn, and to bring back knowledge and partnership opportunities for my country”.

Shar Myagmar and Chimid-Ochir Munkhzul from Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and U Kyaw Zin Than, Deputy Director of Myanmar’s Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems, participated in the International RiverFoundation (IRF) High Level Delegates program—sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). As part of this program they attended a ‘speed networking’ breakfast with the opportunity to meet counterparts from eight other countries, and joined AWP CEO Prof Nick Schofield in mentoring a group of Emerging Water Professionals as they pitched ideas in a special ‘Shark Tank’ session. Prof Schofield also took part in a ‘fishbowl’ session with the Emerging Water Professionals, giving insights on effective networking to put into practice during conference social functions and scheduled program breaks.

AWP and DFAT also hosted the Australia booth in the RiverExpo, which acted as a hub of information on Australia’s river basin planning activities and publications, and meeting place for the many AWP Partners in attendance.

In a session on water governance and financing, Aither’s Huw Pohlner shared lessons from their work in Jordan with ‘WaterGuide’—an AWP publication which is being used as a framework to foster more sustainable, equitable and efficient water management in a water-scarce context.

A presentation by Ms Seyitmyradova focused on how more and more countries are experiencing water stress due to drought and climate change, and how efficient use and management of water is critical in addressing the growing demand for water. It also highlighted how Australia is seeking to achieve resilience in water management and assist countries in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as AWP’s progress against SDG6, SDG17, SDG5 and SDG2.

A social highlight for AWP staff and Partners was the 20th Anniversary Riverprize Gala Dinner, which saw the prestigious International Riverprize awarded to the James River in Virginia, USA. The James River Association committed over four decades to transforming the James River from one of the most polluted in the country to one of the most improved. This was achieved by strengthening public awareness and appreciation, and through many years of public and private investments in conservation projects.

The Riverprize awards and the annual International Riversymposium are managed by the International RiverFoundation (IRF). The Brisbane-based not-for-profit organisation champions integrated river basin management for the restoration, protection and sustainable management of the world’s rivers.

Feature photo: James River, Virginia USA (Credit: PT Hamilton)
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