Nowhere else in the world is there a greater need for investment to address water management issues than the Indo-Pacific region, and especially SE Asia.
The region represents the confluence of outstanding freshwater biodiversity values, high societal dependence on fisheries (and other ecosystem services that healthy rivers and wetlands provide), and a high level of threat to these values from water resource development and pollution that is rapidly intensifying.
The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) was established in 2015 and coordinates the Australian government’s international investment to assist developing countries with these water management challenges, with a specific focus on the Indo-Pacific. Initially funded through the Australian aid program (DFAT), the AWP aims to provide more efficient access to Australian water sector experience and expertise in response to growing demand for collaboration from governments and multilateral agencies in the region.
Griffith joined the AWP in July 2017, led by Professor Stuart Bunn at the Australian Rivers Institute, but has also been involved since it began through an affiliation with the International WaterCentre.
“Our main focus has been in the area of environmental water management, and we have led several activities in the short time we’ve been a member,” Professor Bunn said. “This has included leading the organization of the Ecosystems theme of the World Water Forum in Brazil in 2017, on behalf of the Sustainable Water Future Programme. This is the world’s largest water event featuring over 10,000 delegates from 172 countries.”
As part of the AWP, ARI has also undertaken an initial assessment of the ecohydrology of the Ayeyarwady Basin (Myanmar), as part of a larger ongoing study supported by the World Bank.
“This project aimed to characterise status and trends in the key attributes of the flow regime of the Ayeyarwady River Basin that are likely to be of importance to biodiversity, fisheries and the ecological processes that sustain them. It also explored the associated risks to these environmental assets from water infrastructure development (including hydrologic alteration, river impoundment and longitudinal fragmentation by large dams),” Professor Bunn said.
“We are hoping to build on this preliminary assessment as part of the ongoing study of the water resources of the Basin”.
ARI is currently leading a scoping project to explore opportunities to build AWP’s work portfolio (and ultimately Australia’s impact) on environmental water issues, with a particular focus on aid-eligible countries in South Asia, South-East Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.
DFAT, through the AWP, is also coordinating the Australian Government’s participation in the High Level Panel on Water. This group, comprising 10 heads of government – including the Australian PM – was established by the UN and World Bank with the aim of accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goal for Water. Griffith is seeking to partner with the AWP to support the activities of the Sustainable Water Future Programme, and one of its major initiatives – the Comprehensive Water Assessment (COMPASS) – as part of Australia’s commitment to the ongoing activities of the High Level Panel.