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Oct 24 2008
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Securing the Right to Water—Challenges and Solutions in Asia (September 23-27, 2008)
IC&SR, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India

On 23rd September, a Pan-Asian Water Colloquium was kicked off in Chennai, as a curtain-raiser to challenge the 5th World Water Forum to be held in Istanbul, Turkey in March 2009. Spread across five days, this gathering of 60 experts on water is taking place at a continental level, as part of the global debate on today’s most urgent issue – the right to water and battle for its democratisation.

As part of the colloquium, 22 foreign delegates undertook field visits on Tuesday. Representing 17 Asian countries as well as water networks from Palestine, Mexico, Turkey, The Netherlands and Canada, the vibrant team of international delegates first went to Vizhukkam of Gingee Block in Villupuram District. They were warmly welcomed by the villagers and engineers from eight line departments of the State Government.

After presentations by officials on the work done on water, the delegates spent time interacting with the villagers. They also saw the System of Rice Intensification in practice at Vizhukkam, and planted a new variety of thorn-less bamboo seedlings on the occasion. The sharing continued in the afternoon, while the evening saw visits to Endal in Thiruvannamaalai District and Pagalmedu in Thiruvallur District. In Endal village, the delegates visited a well with a famous legend linked with it, and in both places they spent some hours with the villagers, sharing experiences.

On Wednesday the 24th, the team spent half a day at the PWD complex, meeting senior engineers. The Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage (TWAD) Board, Agricultural Engineering Department (AED) and the IAMWARM project that manages water State-wide, hosted a remarkable exhibition. This detailed their journey over the past several years in an unprecedented successful experiment in governance reform. The engineers talked the delegates through the process undertaken by their Change Management Groups.

These reforms have not only gained prominence, but are eminently replicable. Already, over 500 villages across Tamil Nadu have made fantastic strides in water resource management and distribution systems. The meeting was an important occasion in that it enabled the unique sharing of experiences between domestic water operators and water rights activists, unionists, academicians and policy makers on a global level. This direct expression of interest marks the latest in global attention that the exciting developments at TWAD, AED and IAMWARM have attracted in the recent past.

These two days mark the commencement of the Pan-Asian colloquium, which now shifts to IIT Madras for 25th-27th September. The delegates have come together to present a strong, balanced and considered call for water democratisation in Asia.

24th September, 2008


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