Manish Shrestha

Manish Shrestha at SEI Asia. Photo: Noraset Kunjara Na Ayudhya / SEI.

  • Q

    Where did you grow up, and where did you do your studies?

    A

    I’m originally from Nepal, from Kathmandu. I did my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in Kathmandu Engineering College, which is affiliated with Tribhuvan University. After that I worked as a site engineer in Nepal for a few months in the gap between my bachelor’s and master’s, then came to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand to do my master’s in Water Engineering and Management. I also went for an internship in Japan for a few weeks.

    After graduation in 2014, I worked with my professor at AIT for a couple of years, then I joined SEI in February 2017.

  • Q

    What’s the transition between different countries been like?

    A

    Before coming to Thailand I had never been abroad, so it was a new experience and I was really nervous. But AIT is a very multicultural place, and there were around 18 students from Nepal in my batch when I was there. So the transition was quite good.

    When I went to Japan, the culture was totally different. Even though I couldn’t stay there for long, I learnt a lot about Japanese culture – how hard they work, and how hard they party.

    Here at SEI Asia in Thailand, it’s also a very diverse place to work. We have people from at least 10 different nationalities. You can learn a lot about each other’s cultures, and a little bit of all the languages.

On the left: Manish and two others draw on paper at the front of a workshop. On the right: Manish presents a graph with an upwards trend.

Left: At a knowledge exchange workshop identifying biodiversity hotspots and development threats in the Chindwin River Basin, Myanmar. Photo: Thanapon Piman / SEI.
Right: Sharing results of climate change analysis on Stung Chinit River Basin at Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Photo: Laura Forni / SEI.

I’ve learnt that I really enjoy when people from different countries mispronounce my name. I never try to correct them. Some use a different emphasis or tone, and some pronounce the vowels with their own accents. It’s quite interesting for me – it lets me in to their world and shows me their perspective, in a small way.

  • Q

    What influenced you to work with environmental issues?

    A

    There’s a big river in Kathmandu called Bagmati, which is really polluted. I noticed the problem and really wanted to see it get cleaned up. Unfortunately I never worked in that precinct, but it made me realize that I wanted to work on these issues – not as an environmentalist, but as a civil engineer.

  • Q

    What kind of work do you do today at SEI?

    A

    I do a lot of hydrological modelling, and I use GIS. The project I’m involved with right now is looking at the effects of development activities like mining and deforestation. After finding out the exact focus area, we go there and survey how the environment is degrading. I also do modelling of basin-wide management to see how much water is available and how we can privatize diverting water to each of the water sectors.

  • Q

    Which regions do you work with?

    A

    I mostly work with areas of Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Manish sitting with two others, looking at a computer screen.

Manish (centre) co-developing a hydrological model with the National Center for Water Resources Planning and Investigation (NAWAPI) in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Karthi Matheswaran / SEI.

  • Q

    What’s next for you in your career?

    A

    I would really like to go to the next step of my career, in terms of position. I also would like to do my PhD – I feel like it’s time to do that. I’m interested in expanding my work, combining hydrological modelling with more social aspects.

  • Q

    What would you say to someone who’s considering a career at SEI?

    A

    SEI is a very great place to work. You can learn every aspect of working in development – research, logistics, and capacity-building work – it all comes as a package. When I worked at a university, my work was more focused on the research part – doing modelling and those kinds of activities. But at SEI I go into the field, talk to people, get to know them. I also have opportunities to travel to different places, meet different people, and learn their culture. So if that interests you and there’s an opening, I really encourage you to apply.