Australia Award Fellows creating change in Sri Lanka

Australia Award Fellows creating change in Sri Lanka

Senior Project Officers Kylie Milligan and Pablo Orams have returned from an in-country follow up visit to Sri Lanka as part of the 2016 Australia Awards Fellowship (AAF) program titled Sustainable groundwater management through IWM.

Australia Award Fellows creating change in Sri Lanka

Kylie and Pablo with Australia Award Fellows in Sri Lanka

The International WaterCentre Training and Capacity Development Team recently returned from a trip to Sri Lanka to follow up on the progress of the Change Projects developed and currently being implemented by 14 Australia Award Fellows from Sri Lanka.

The week-long visit leads on from a five-week training program delivered by the IWC to the Fellows in Australia in late 2016. The IWC team used the week to review the progress made on the Fellows’ Change Projects, discuss challenges faced and provide support to overcome these challenges. The trip also included an Advocacy Workshop with high-level officials from various water-related government institutions and donor organisations, and presented an opportunity for various stakeholders and institutions to engage and collaborate with the Change Project initiatives.

Australia Awards Fellowship program

In November 2016 14 water professionals from Sri Lanka joined the International WaterCentre for a five-week training program in integrated groundwater management as part of round 16 of the Australia Awards Fellowship (AAF), funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and developed in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The group included representatives from regional and national government departments, research institutions and universities, with a range of professional backgrounds including technical experts, policy makers and academics. Through a mix of lectures, workshops and site-visits, Fellows were able to gain understanding of Australian groundwater management practices. Program highlights included the participation of Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines, who shared their experience in groundwater governance and facilitated a 1-week study tour to the Coastal Burnett Groundwater Management Area in Central Queensland – one of the most advanced integrated groundwater management schemes in the world.

As part of the five-week program the IWC guided delegates in the development of Change Projects; project plans that outline a vision for change, and the actions needed to achieve it. It is envisioned that through these Change Projects, delegates can help drive positive change in their country’s groundwater sector.

Change Projects

During the Australian training program Fellows formed two teams and worked on one Change Project each. Below is a summary of each Change Project and their status update from the in-country follow up. The IWC Team found that both Change Projects have advanced well in accordance with their work plans.

  • Change Project 1 – Conjunctive Use of Surface and Groundwater for Sustainable Agriculture in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka

This project has a strong focus on implementing a groundwater monitoring system. It leverages from work done by IWMI in the Mahaweli dry zone area, piloting locally made state-of-the-art monitoring devices that can help collect real-time data on various groundwater indicators. This data is intended to be shared openly across stakeholders and to help prepare ground water management guidelines for agricultural users, and ultimately inform regulation.

During the follow-up visit the IWC team found that the lessons Fellows learnt in Australia had assisted with the improvement of stakeholder engagement efforts and the inclusion of the community in implementing monitoring wells across the pilot area. Universities are now also involved in supporting the monitoring efforts and the team are looking at ways to align efforts with a similar projects run by other institutions. Maintaining momentum and engagement with the community to improve groundwater management and aligning stakeholder visions for the project are challenges the team identified as needing to be addressed.

  • Change Project 2 – Developing a Draft Proposal on Regulatory Measures for Groundwater Management in the Jaffna Peninsula

This project considers three aspects – (i) institutional, (ii) political and (iii) technical – to ultimately develop a water management policy for the Northern Province region, with focus on the Jaffna Peninsula. The initiative looks at advocating for the implementation of a groundwater monitoring network to build evidence for decision making, as well as establishing communication mechanisms for improving coordination within the water sector and stakeholders, and gain political support for more sustainable groundwater management practices.

The IWC team reported from the follow-up visit that a draft policy for water management in the Northern Province had been written and a colloquium with over 70 participants (both national and international) was carried out to collect feedback on the document. From the colloquium a revised policy was drafted, and proposes the formation of an overarching water authority to address the overlapping/conflicting governance of water resources carried out by multiple institutions.

The project is also supporting the infrastructure and monitoring and evaluation efforts to address water challenges in the region, along with capacity development training and building community awareness in sustainable water management. A key challenge for the team is managing water as a very sensitive socio-political issue in the Jaffna Peninsula.  

More information

The AAF delivery concluded in early December 2016. The IWC is committed to continuing to supporting water professionals around the world through the AAF program and other mechanisms.

For more information on our training program or AAF hosting please contact,
T: +61 7 3028 7600


The Australian Awards Fellowship Program is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australian Aid_w

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