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2013 IWC Masters Scholarship recipient interview - Reba Paul

Read about scholarship recipient, Reba Paul, Civil Engineer, working in water governance in Bangladesh.

What is your professional background?

I am a Civil Engineer specialised in Environmental Engineering, with over 15 years experience in integrated water resources management, water supply and sanitation; renewable energy, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and management. I have also been very instrumental in promoting gender in water and energy sector.

I have international training in environmental impact assessment and review, ecological sanitation, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation, low cost housing and sanitation. My experience in the energy sector helps me understand the water-energy nexus, which is a hot issue now.

I have served in the Global Water Partnership for more than 10 years. I have worked hard to promote IWRM locally, nationally, regionally and globally, and to promote multi-stakeholder platforms at the river basin level to federate the voice of local people on water issues. I have travelled to many countries around the world in various roles, organised seminars and workshops, and presented professional papers on water, energy, gender and environment.

Presently I am working as the coordinator of the Bangladesh Water Integrity Network (BAWIN) under Transparency International Bangladesh. Before joining BAWIN, I worked in WaterAid in Bangladesh as its Head, Policy and Advocacy where I was involved in the development of its five year strategy.

What role are you in now?

Presently I am working as the Coordinator of BAWIN, newly formed under the auspices of Water Integrity Network (WIN) based in Berlin and Transparency International in Bangladesh, to promote this new network and undertake programs that address governance issues, with special focus on transparency, integrity and accountability in the water sector.

At present we are working with WIN on two Dutch funded projects in Bangladesh: the Blue Gold Project (second phase of integrated planning for sustainable water management) implemented by Bangladesh Water Development Board, and the proposed Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 project, based on recent bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and the Dutch government.

Our task is to assess integrity and governance risks of the two projects. Through these two pilot projects we will advocate for the inclusion of an integrity component in all future water projects, so that all governance issues, including participation, access to information, institutional excellence, transparency of funds and accountability can be established.

We are also doing advocacy work and involving local and national organisations for building alliance, to promote integrity in the water sector and build their capacity for scanning the integrity of a water project using various integrity pacts or tools called Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS) as developed by WIN (

Why did you choose that professional path?

Water is the key for development, especially in an agrarian country like Bangladesh, where we live in the conflicting transboundary river basins of the Ganges, the Brahmmaputra and the Meghna, a hot spot of climate change. We are the most downstream country of this basin, and are situated at the meeting point of the three rivers.

The country suffers severe flooding when the water in the three rivers synchronises, with more than one third of the country flooding every year. Water management is very difficult in Bangladesh, being a flat country, and cooperative flood and river basin management with the neighbouring countries, especially with India, is crucial for sustainable water management.
While working in Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) soon after my graduation, I grew my vision of how my country could manage water in an integrated and sustainable manner by following a multidisciplinary, participatory and holistic approach, after I learnt about the consequences of monosectoral development and top down planning in the water sector from my extensive field work through my job.

I have learnt that a project should be sustainable not only from an economic point of view, but also in its environmental and social aspects. IWRM is an approach that can  help ensure the people’s rights to water and sanitation. It has been established that the present water crisis around the world is not due to lack of water, but lack of good water governance.

My present job assignment is to look into the governance issues of water projects with special focus on integrity, transparency and accountability. This is a very challenging area, but interesting, and essential for addressing the rights of the poor and for accelerating achievement of the MDGs, as a significant amount of water sector funding is wasted through corruption and weak institutions.

What attracted you to the MIWM?

I found out about the International WaterCentre (IWC) and The University of Queensland when I was sponsored by the Danish government to participate in the International Riversymposium in 2008 in Brisbane, and again when I was sponsored by the Australian government to present papers at the Riversymposium in Perth in 2010.

I was impressed when I learnt about the technological solutions and innovations in the water sector in Australia from the symposiums, and when I learnt about IWC's Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) and scholarship awards. I believe that developing countries have many things to learn from Australia, especially water technologies and water demand management. I also believe that developing countries have much to share with Australia, particularly in the soft side of water management like participatory approaches, social sides, adaptation to natural calamity and climate change.

A good blend is needed between the hard and soft sides of water management for cost effective and sustainable water solutions. I was attracted to the MIWM program knowing that IWC scholarship is usually offered to build a professional career in the water sector and students from diversified background, experience and culture usually are enrolled in this program.

How do you hope to use what you learn in the program in your current work?

I am currently working on water governance, which cuts across all pillars of IWRM such as management instruments, enabling environment, institutional roles etc. Water governance is defined by the political, social, economic and administrative systems in place, which directly or indirectly affect the use, development and management of water resources and the delivery of water service delivery at different levels of society.

Importantly, the water sector is a part of broader social, political and economic developments, and is thus also affected by decisions made outside the water sector. Water governance addresses principles, such as equity and efficiency in water resource and services allocation and distribution, water administration based on catchments, the need for integrated water management approaches and the need to balance water use between socio-economic activities and ecosystems, formulation, establishment and implementation of water policies, legislation and institutions, clarification of the roles of government, civil society and the private sector and their responsibilities regarding ownership, management and administration of water resources and services.

This program will help me to assess water projects from the lens of water governance, and influence government policy regarding IWRM to ensure people’s rights to water, combat corruption and bring transparency, accountability and integrity to the water sector.

How do you hope the program will help your career?

I hold a very high vision for my future career in the water sector. I have already worked with government functionaries as well as with international water organisations. I hope the experience I gain from the IWC Masters degree and the knowledge I learn of Australian water management practices, combined with this past experience, will help me get an international job in the water sector and also be able to help my continent with its water woes.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I am a very social and communicative person, and I would love to develop friendships with my fellow students and learn about their culture and experience in the water world. I bring strong connections with people from all over the world working in water, energy and environment, and with the governments in south Asia. I hope to have plenty of opportunities to learn and share during my time in Australia.


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