Alumnus to lead a billion dollar water resources project in Afghanistan

Hans Woldring (in the red shirt) and colleagues on a site visit in Kandahar

International WaterCentre (owned by Griffith) alumnus Hans Woldring will lead a $1billion priority water resources project in Afghanistan after the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved one of the largest grants it has ever awarded.

ADB will fund more than half of the Arghandab Integrated Water Resources Development Project to develop water resources in the Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, which will help improve the country’s agricultural productivity, water resources management, energy generation and growth outlook.

This integrated approach to water resource development will meet the needs of rural and urban communities downstream of the province’s ageing Dahla Dam and improve how water resources are managed and used in the Arghandab River Basin.

Woldring, Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist in the Central and West Asia for ADB, started work on the project a few months after graduating from IWC with a Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) in 2015.

IWC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Griffith and located at Nathan campus. Woldring completed two thirds of the program part-time remotely, while stationed in the ADB’s resident mission in Afghanistan, and later transferred back to ADB’s Australian headquarters.

“The project preparation took more than three years — working with multiple funding sources and government agencies added to the timeline,” he admitted.

“There were 155 people in total who worked on the project — a third from government, a third from consultancies and a third from ADB.

“It’s an enormously complex project, because of its size, because of security issues, because it’s Category A environment and has Category A resettlement. There’s complexity at multiple points.”

The Dahla Dam has lost almost 40 per cent of its storage volume because of siltation after 65 years of dam operations. Under the project, the ADB will fund the raising of dam structures to increase its storage volume, and fund irrigation and agriculture development, capacity building and policy reform.

“The project has four main outputs. Increase the capacity of the Dahla Dam, increase the reliability of irrigation water supply, improve agricultural water productivity and strengthen the capacity for local government staff to manage their water resources,” said Woldring.

“It will bring potable water, additional power and increased agricultural output benefits to around 1.2 million people.

What can Queensland take away from the project?

Woldring said while we are well advanced in terms of integrated approaches to water resource management there were still lessons to be learned for Queensland from the Arghandab project.

“With increased drought the challenges are ever increasing,” he admitted.

“If there was any lesson from this very large project preparation effort, it is the importance of ensuring the community is well informed, and to the extent possible, supportive of proposed developments.”

New world-leading courses

The IWC recently announced two new courses for 2020, including a world-first water catchment dedicated post-grad program.

The Master of Catchment Science, which is the only catchment-dedicated postgraduate degree in the world, has been developed in collaboration with IWC, ARI and the School of Engineering.

Griffith is also leading the way in water leadership, offering the only formal water-dedicated leadership qualification in the world, the Graduate Certificate in Water Leadership.

It is the formalisation of a previous non-award course that more than 200 emerging water leaders have already completed. Scholarships are available.