A new India Young Water Professionals (YWP) Program was launched by the Australian Water Partnership (AWP), the Government of India Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), and the Australia-India Water Centre (AIWC)—a consortium of Australian and Indian universities.
More than 100 participants joined the online launch on 29 November with remarks by the High Commissioners to India and Australia, Ministry and Department Secretaries from MoJS and the Australian Government, representatives from the India’s National Hydrology Project (NHP), CEO and staff of AWP, and implementing partners from Australia and India.
India is facing a set of severe water challenges, with demand for fresh water expected to exceed supply by 50 percent before 2030 unless major water management reforms are undertaken. These challenges, combined with the fact that half of India’s population is under 25 years old, demonstrate that investing in the next generation of water leaders is essential, and urgent.
Through the AWP, Australia is working with India to address these water challenges—engaging primarily with the MoJS through the NHP. The YWP Program will equip emerging water professionals with the necessary skills, knowledge, behaviours and networks that will better enable them to contribute to the development and management of water resources in India, and support the NHP and water management reforms in the country.
Australian High Commissioner to India Mr Barry O’Farrell noted the longstanding collaborative partnership in water between India and Australia, which is formally recognised in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership signed by the Prime Ministers of both countries in June 2020.
“Australia and India share many common water issues and challenges and they include national experience of floods and drought; increasing competition for water between urban, peri-urban and rural sectors; and increased threats to water security as a result of climate change. Australia, I believe, is well placed to assist with this journey,” said Mr O’Farrell.
Indian High Commissioner to Australia Mr Manpreet Vohra stated that water is a key priority area of collaboration between India and Australia and both countries are working actively on this front, saying that the YWP Program is a significant milestone in Australia and India’s bilateral water cooperation, which will go a long way in institutional strengthening and capacity building.
AWP has successfully pioneered similar programs in South-East Asia and the Pacific. Through AWP support, the program will be implemented by the AIWC and draws on a co-design workshop held alongside the NHP Sustainable Water Management conference in November 2019. The India YWP Program aims to provide structured capacity development training with strategic and long-term investment to support water management reforms in India.
YWP Program lead Professor Basant Maheshwari from Western Sydney University said that the program was unique compared to typical capacity building and training programs, with about 70 percent of the program focused on project-based learning with real-world situations and clients. The remainder will be through coaching and online workshops over a 10-month period.
Ms Lyn O’Connell, the Deputy Secretary of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, said that Australia is proud to partner with India on the YWP Program. She also urged that: “All governments must continue to develop future water leaders if we are to meet the challenges of this century, and to ensure environmentally sustainable, safe, and affordable water supplies for our communities.”
A total of 20 participants were selected (10 women and 10 men) from central and state implementing agencies of the NHP. The Joint Secretary of MoJS and NHP Project Coordinator, Mr Subodh Yadav said, “selecting the participants from a total of 67 applications was both challenging and inspiring.” He added that based on the success of this batch, a second phase of YWPs will be planned in the latter half of 2022.
Additional Secretary of MoJS Ms Debashree Mukherjee also noted the program’s focus on gender equality and diversity by saying, “the equal participation of women is particularly inspiring because sustainable water management can only benefit from the views and skills of all members of society, and it will also result in more future women leaders in water.”
Australian Water Partnership CEO Mr Michael Wilson acknowledged AWP’s long-standing and productive history with India and the NHP. He also acknowledged the commitment of NHP and MoJS staff and Australian Partners in finalising the challenging task of designing the YWP Program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addressing the YWPs participating in the program, Mr Wilson said, “We view you, and your work, to be incredibly important to the future of sustainable water management in India. This is a wonderful opportunity before you and I encourage you to share your ideas, learn from your peers, and apply these new leadership skills in tackling complex water problems. I wish you all the best in the first batch of the India YWP Program.”