IGB project : Knowledge generated from research put to practice, to make an impact



Research has seldom been a goal in itself. The ultimate purpose of engaging in this endeavour is to advance our understanding in that specific field of enquiry. All those revealing insights, findings, analysis, results...if they dont translate into an actionable form and benefit the humanity then they are of little consequence. In the development sector, the end of a research project is a beginning in itself! It marks the end of only a phase.

The transition of the knowledge generated from research into an impact on practices and incorporation of the findings into the processess, is the ultimate destination of the new knowledge. Towards this, IWMI puts a heavier emphasis on impact that all its projects ought to make in the communities where they are carried out.

The worskhop concluded with a panel discussion on Impact and Way Forward. The panelists Simon Cook, Madar Samad, William Collis, Vladimir Smakhtin and Himanshu Thakkar presented their recommendations on how the knowledge generated from this IGB project could be translated into significant impact on the ground.


Madar : When we conduct projects we discuss the impacts last! Usually we do this - we publish papers, then call for a workshop and then send the reports to the donor agencies. And finally call it DONE! We need to transfer the findings into impacts in a way that we alleviate poverty and sustain environment.

We have had discussions on it and in the next months we will take action in order to reach out and make an impact. The policy brief for researchers are different. We will be using other forms of interventions like meetings with key stakeholders. This is a key area to focus on and this will go on for the next few months. The recommendations generated through this project will be pursued further.

Simon: “Better having done it right than not at all” he says, referring to Vladimir’s "better late than never" comment  made at the start of the workshop.

Usually the scientists coming from one base to the other base of science tend to ignore certain things. This project has been different in a manner that a lot of diverse issues have been accounted for and researched upon. We heard about water, livestock, fish etc. Most of them are broad livelihood issues

We saw these issues in different scales - basin and district; local, regional and international.This is much needed. It needs to happen, we need to put these aspects together so that people can solve their political problems!

Notable Features of the project:
-Richness of insights
-Important in demonstrating the significance of the basins.
- Networks people, stakeholders, and agencies.

At the next level we need to see who would carry the work forward and how?


Vladimir: Its very interesting to see how the story line develops and how bits and pieces of the puzzle come together at the end of the day! Water management in the IGB was a comprehensive assessment.There were several CPWF projects which came to an end in 2007. They have produced a lot of information. People who require distilled information come into the picture now.

The results of the projects should be covered in visible and popular media…like Time Magazine. Some catchy headline… something good about it . It should be shared with economists, with people internationally.

We need a simple scheme in mind. How do we want this river basin to look like in my generation? That is something which is not clear in my generation. May be we need to sit together to talk about this. Make organizations aware about what needs to be done. How to get there? It is important to tell them the cost of inaction, consequences of not listening to the scientific findings.

I’d like to make few observations:

-Issue of glaciers. It’s important and will have a big impact. There are two contradictory statements , one by the World Bank and the other by the Indian government about the glacier melt.

-Climate Change is high on the agenda. It is good that we bring it into picture but lets not overdo it .
There are lots of other drivers even if we exclude climate change from our list. We still sit with a number of factors to be worked upon !

-What is our position on climate change? Let us talk about it.

-In water availability, water simulation modeling we must talk about our work to other research groups who are doing the same thing. We need to talk to them and share what we have done. We can save them their donor money, and help not reinvent the wheel.

-Referring to U.N. Panjiar, he welcomes the Water Information System of India.

- Water Policy was an interesting presentation. What actually worked and what didn’t? We need to see this. Simple analysis would be of academic interest but there should be analysis that leads to development.

Lastly, we need more synergies between various stakeholders and partners. Like Bangladesh and India. The impact of the project should be judged by the number of issues that we take off the agenda in times to come. How to get there is the issue.


William: Fisheries group is a part of the water issues. I have heard about issues which we normally do not hear in fish circles. Aquaculture is high value agriculture. It is growing. From the water point of view. most of the ponds are rain fed. We have issues with that (cites Himadri Sen’s presentation). For the poorest people in rural Bangladesh water is critical. Lets ensure they don’t lose access to it. I would be interested in knowing about valuations. People are changing wetlands into rice fields. We did an economic valuation of these areas and it clearly showed that rice fields were more valuable than the wetlands. Wetlands had benefits which will reach to many but benefits from fields go to those who own them.


Himanshu: The information presented here was voluminous. The issue of glaciers is important. The presentation made yesterday was eye opening. People have been asking me statistics on the Ganges. I found them here! This kind of data isn’t available with the Government of India too.

About the issue of governance we must be proactive. Example: reservoirs. Does anyone know they are operated? An instance, between March 15 and June 15, 1999 Bhakra dam was completely depleted. When monsoon fail who decides upon the reservoir operations and why is the information not in public domain? These issues are very important!

All the huge hydropower projects in the northern states - each of them is generating millions of cubic meter of muck, sand and construction waste. Where will it all end up? There are so many issues. We should take up these issues as these are connected and will decide the final outcome.

Aditi Mukherjee, Tushaar Shah and many others are doing good work but translation into policy changes is absent. We should look into it.

If we want impact on the ground, on policy, on the way we think then we need to take it to the public. It should move out of the research websites and come into popular media, different channels different ways need to be adopted.

This is a huge area that IWMI has picked up. It should be taken directly to the stakeholders, particularly to those who are in a position to take action.

In closing, Bharat Sharma concluded with this.

Where do we go from here? The answer is, we have published a lot into peer reviewed journals during the lifetime of the project. We look forward to publish more on:

  • Poverty, water and productivity nexus
  • Water res assessment
  • Water Resources and Hydrogeology of IGB

Let us look at areas which are crying out for attention, which have not been addressed by all these green, white and blue revolutions. If there is substantial interest generated then we will do capacity building for local researchers in GIS RS, like what has been done in China.