From the CEO
Friday, 20 July, 2012
The current discussions over future water use in the Murray-Darling basin have implications far beyond Australia’s shores.
The art of the deliberations will be to establish an appropriate balance between the river system’s fragile environment and the requirements of water users, who, in many cases, believe their livelihood and the very existence of their communities are at stake.
Those competing demands are age-old issues in many nations – especially in the world’s most rapidly developing regions – which now are closely watching the outcome of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan discussions.
Organisations such as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and, more recently, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) are seen as the forerunners of water resources management for large cross-boundary river systems.
With finance of more than $960 million from the World Bank, India recently established the Ganges River Basin Authority to administer the nation’s most sacred waterway.
The Ganges is a cornerstone of India’s economy as well as its religious beliefs. On top of its holy status, the Ganges is India’s longest river, running for more than 2500 kilometres, and its fertile flood plains (plus underlying groundwater) support around half of the nation’s population of 1.2 billion.
But the significance of the Ganges to India cannot be taken in isolation – important tributaries for the river flow through northern neighbour Nepal and, to the south, Bangladesh relies on the waters in the Ganges delta.
Informal contacts have been established with those two countries to open up discussions with the Ganges Authority on the management of their shared resources.
As well, the discussions will need to include consideration of the other great river systems of the eastern Himalayan region, including the Brahmaputra.
Similar challenges are being faced in most of the major river basins in the world. ICE WaRM has hosted academics and water managers from the Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, Yellow and Yangtze River basins, among others.
As these steps to create a fresh and more sustainable approach to river systems across the region are launched, Australia is seen as a valued source of insights and experience – especially through whole-basin level organisations such as the MDBA and the many local-level service delivering agencies throughout the catchment.
The recently-signed Memorandum of Understanding between the MDBA and the MRC is an important step in sharing knowledge of water resources management and it is hoped that similar alliances with other river authorities in the region will be forged in the years to come.
ICE WaRM is delighted to have a role in facilitating these relationships, as well as delivering educational and training opportunities – and we look forward to working with water professionals from a growing number of countries in the near future.