A Regional Dialogue on Responding to the Challenges of Water Scarcity and Floods in South Asia was held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 10–11 December 2018.
The Regional Dialogue provided an opportunity for participants to exchange information generated through research and practice, and share experience gained from projects and programs on effective responses to water scarcity and floods. It was also an opportunity to enhance regional collaboration for tackling these shared challenges, with participation across multiple sectors.
The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) was represented by AWP Partnerships and Knowledge Manager, Dr Marian Neal, and joined by partners including eWater CEO, Dr Robert Carr, Global Change Advisory Principal Prof Rob Vertessy, and Aither’s Mr Will Fargher and Mr Huw Pohlner.
During the dialogue, Prof Vertessy presented a keynote on Australia’s Water Reform Journey, highlighting that Australia has made great progress in water reform over 30 years.
“Key to that progress has been creating a compelling narrative, underpinned by solid knowledge, a commitment to stakeholder consultation and championed by aligned leaders committed to evidence-based policy. Water reform is never complete and one of our biggest challenges has been to maintain momentum and become proactive rather than reactive,” says Prof Vertessy.
Dr Neal moderated a successful session on Nature-based Solutions for Water Scarcity and Floods in South Asia. The session explored pathways to increase investment in nature-based solutions and ‘natural infrastructure’ for disaster risk reduction and managing water extremes in South Asia. Speakers included representatives from ARCOWA, WWF-Pakistan, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Mr Fargher and Mr Pohlner convened a separate workshop with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the topic of ‘Working at the science-policy interface: Approaches and insights’. Hosted by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, the session also ran as a webinar to enable remote participation.
Following introductions from Dr John Dore (DFAT) and Dr Mark Smith (IWMI), various presenters shared their experiences on working at the science-policy interface. For Australian presenters Mr Fargher, Prof Vertessy and Dr Carr, these presentations covered ‘Lessons from the science-policy interface in Australia and Jordan’, ‘Responses and reflections from the Australian water reform journey’, and ‘Australian WaterTools: Science to policy applications’. IWMI’s Dr Diana Suhardiman also presented on ‘Working at the science-policy interface: From muddling through to strategic navigation’, and discussions followed on the potential for cooperation between IWMI and Australia using WaterGuide and WaterTools.
For AWP, the dialogue offered an excellent opportunity to meet and collaborate with colleagues in South Asia, to strengthen its visibility in the region and to share valuable information on Australia’s water reform journey – including lessons, products and initiatives which may assist others facing the challenge of water scarcity.