Two IWA development awards celebrate excellency in research and practice in water and sanitation

The International Water Association has announced the winners of its 2019 Development Awards, honouring Dr Miriam Otoo and Mr Sikandarsab Meeranaik for their contributions to progress on water needs in low- and middle-income countries.

The winners received the awards and certificates by the honourable Vasudeva Nanayakkara, State Minister Urban Development, Housing & Water Supply of Sri Lanka, and Diane D’Arras, IWA President at the opening session of the IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in front of 1000 international water professionals, high level politicians and representatives from civil society.

Dr Miriam Otoo, recipient of the 2019 IWA Development Award – Research
Dr Otoo is Research Group Leader – Resource Recovery and Reuse at the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka.

Her research work in the area of resource recovery and reuse (RRR), with a focus on business models that work for low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), was considered by the Award jury as being crucial to the progress of the sector.

Dr Otoo’s work goes beyond addressing the technical challenges of RRR and has influenced policy and adoption in international guidelines in LMIC.

The scientific rigour, the real case studies that demonstrate the application of RRR business models, and the innovative approach to RRR in LMIC, together with the policy influence of the work developed, were the main supporting reasons for the jury’s unanimous decision.

Photo from left to right: Diane D’Arras, Miriam Otoo, and Vasudeva Nanayakkara

Mr Sikandarsab Meeranaik, recipient of the 2019 IWA Development Award – Practice
Mr Meeranaik, CEO of the Sankalpa Rural Development Society, started a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that installs rainwater harvesting recharge systems in bore wells in rural India.

The low-cost technology implemented in extremely vulnerable dry regions was considered to epitomize the spirit of the IWA Development Award – Practice. The business model incentivizes the transfer of funds from companies to farmers, having a strong direct impact in the communities served, as well as contributing to maintenance of food production in times of drought.

To date, Mr Meeranaik has implemented the system across India, in over 1,500 bore wells.

On receiving the award, Mr Meeranaik commented “I am so honoured to have been chosen for this Award. All my working life has been focused on how to save rainwater for a better tomorrow. This award will help me and my team to spread our technology of rain water harvesting throughout India and to scale up to reach those who are also in need in the wider world.”

In continuation he said, “it will give me a stronger voice to speak up for water. The seeds I have planted over the past 11 years are growing and the work is spreading – thank you helping me to realise our vision of ‘enough water for all’.”

“I am extremely honoured to be receiving this award from IWA, which I share with colleagues of the International Water Management Institute. I am earnestly grateful for the recognition given to the importance of business innovation in resource recovery and reuse (RRR) for sustainable sanitation and water management” said Dr Otoo.

“Whilst many technical options are available, particularly in developing countries”, she continued, “workable business models that incentivize private sector participation, leverage private capital and form functional public-private partnerships, which help realize commercial or social value, shifting the focus from treatment for waste(water) disposal to treatment of waste as a valuable resource for safe reuse, are critical in achieving sustainable sanitation and water management.”

Unprecedented interest
This year’s awards attracted and unprecedented level of interest, with 74 valid award peer nominations from 29 countries.

Nominated candidates were invited to make submissions on the direct and indirect impact and the innovative nature of their work, emphasising contributions to poor communities in low- and middle-income countries.

A total of 41 completed applications were received from 19 countries, with 25 candidates in the Research category and 16 candidates in the Practice category.

The IWA secretariat then invited an expert jury of members involved in water development in LMIC to score each proposal. Given the high number of candidates, the evaluation process ensured at least 2-3 jury members considered each submission.

Each category jury then held a teleconference to discuss the merits of the four top-scoring candidates in their respective category and to reach a consensus on the proposed winner. Final endorsement of the winners was by IWA’s Governance and Nominations Committee.