Twenty young water professionals recently completed a year-long program to enhance their planning, design, implementation and management of projects and initiatives. The innovative training program was led by Western Sydney University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, on behalf of the Australia India Water Centre (AIWC).
The program was a collaboration between The Australian Water Partnership and the National Hydrology Project under the Ministry of Jal Shakti in India. Due to the program’s success and relevance, the Ministry of Jal Shakti will fund the next cohort of Young Water Professionals.
Program participants learned and interacted with researchers and experts from both Australia and India, receiving expert supervision and mentoring in developing leadership and project management skills.
The training program included 50 online workshops, lectures and seminars, access to resources and participation in an ongoing project with an industry client. With a focus on practical application of transdisciplinary and systematic approaches, participants were able to understand the complexities of managing water sustainably, communicating effectively with various stakeholders and improving professional practice and leadership skills.
From commencement in December 2021, the program included ten men and ten women under 35 years of age from water resources departments, and culminated with the Water Conclave in November 2022 in New Delhi, attended by a range of stakeholders including the Young Water Professionals, AIWC and key staff from the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
The event was attended Ms Debashree Mukherjee, Special Secretary of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Professor Deborah Sweeney, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President, Western Sydney University, Professor T.G Sitharam, Director, IIT Guwahati, and Mr Anand Mohan, Joint Secretary, the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
In her address at the Conclave, Ms Debashree Mukherjee said, “this collaboration to train Young Water Professionals is an important step in the right direction. I am particularly inspired by the equal participation of women. She stressed the need to orient capacity-building initiatives to meet the challenges likely posed by climate change and emphasised that the departments, institutions, and academia need to break the silos in which they are working, and an integrated approach be adopted while dealing with water.”
As part of the training, participants took part in a Situation Understanding and Improvement Project where they worked with a real-world client to manage a water issue and produce a report of recommendations. It is expected that solutions or recommendations will be adopted or considered by the client and result in real-life impacts.
Dr Alok Kumar Meher summed up his experience: “Before attending the Program, I was unaware of using a transdisciplinary approach as I am a scientific researcher. I thought technology was the solution. The other aspects, such as the natural, social, cultural, economic and political issues, should be considered for a holistic approach to long term sustainable outcomes. Technology may only play a minor role in [addressing] the problem.”
“From my learning and development it has reduced the need for supervision from senior colleagues. I am more able to work independently. I feel confident that I can train colleagues in what I have learned and share my insights. I can also be a good mentor to Young Water Professionals in the future.”
Ms Annie Maria Issac, said: “The Young Water Professional program was an opportunity to interact with many people who are contemporaries and who have excelled in the field. It was a learning curve on handling multiple projects and managing time and work stress.”
“My mentor gave advice which helped me manage time at work and multiple tasks. Right after the program, I was put in charge of organising a workshop. The advice I got was very helpful in managing multiple teams and multiple tasks and making the workshop successful.”