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Made in India Magazine | October 22, 2020

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Deepak Gopalakrishnan


Both India and Australia are dry countries that get a similar amount of rainfall every year per capita, but India fights water scarcity every year while Australia seems to manage their water very well. A new exhibition called ‘Water Science’ paves the way for expertise transfer from the Kangaroo nation so that India can become ‘water smart’.

Australia and India are more similar to one another than what one may realise at first glance. If we put the multiculturalism, love for cricket and democratic structures aside, the one thing that unites the two countries is their approach to water.

Australia is a dry, arid country, and water management is an important part of life. Water scarcity is prevalent, and perhaps for this reason, all its major cities are located around the coast, with vast desert areas in the middle of the continent remaining uninhabited by human beings.

India, too, apart from the three month monsoon that sweeps the country every year, remains dry throughout. Orange and red are the colours that one associates with India, and even the big cities of the country suffer from water scarcity. Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi – metropolitan cities, all three – approach a water crisis nearly every year.

So it is with great joy and a sense of relief that In August this year, Chennai hosted a photographic exhibition titled ‘Water Science: Journeys from Australia to Madras’, showcasing Australia’s knowledge and expertise of water sciences, with special focus on Chennai and its history in irrigation and water management.

The exhibition begins in late nineteenth century, with the visit of Mr Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second, fifth and seventh Prime Minister who travelled the world and came to South India in 1890. He wrote about the then Madras Presidency glowingly, referring to Madras’s superior irrigation and canal systems.

From then to now, much has changed. What was then ‘superior’ has now become outdated, with the South Indian city ravaged by water scarcity every year like all other Indian cities. Now, it is the turn of Australia to teach us water management techniques. Chennai shares geographical similarities with Australian cities because it’s a coastal city, so many of the processes may be directly implementable here.

Students and faculty of Anna university, who hosted the exhibition, said that they benefited from the expertise transfer. The big takeaway was that the number of surface drinking water reservoirs is much higher in Australian cities than in Chennai. Indian cities need to be much more efficient in their rainwater harvesting processes if water scarcity in the country is to be fought effectively.

And it’s good to know that Australia is ready to help with their expertise. We hope that more such events and workshops happen in different parts of India so that we become more water-aware as a nation.

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