Daily Current Affairs – 16th March, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
The inter-related security
- Water, energy and food are essential for human well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable development. Global projections indicate that demand for freshwater, energy and food will increase significantly over the next decades under the pressure of population growth and mobility, economic development, international trade, urbanisation, diversifying diets, cultural and technological changes, and climate change.
- The prime concern currently has been- achieving food, water and energy security.
- By 2050, India is expected to be the world’s most populous country with 1.7 billion people. Also it shall be world’s second largest economy with a GDP of $42 trillion (in PPP terms).
- This puts the food estimate in 2050 at 333 million tonnes, which can be achieved by increasing annual food production by 30%.
- In addition to it, more than 880 GW of new power generation capacity would be required by 2040.
- These gigantic statistics determine the need of a paradigm shift in managing the resources better.
The interlinked FEW
- In many ways, food, energy and water (FEW) are interlinked with complex and dynamic interactions. Any vulnerability in one of these directly translates into vulnerabilities of the others.
- For instance, agriculture and food production is the largest consumer (about 80%) of freshwater resources in India. Irrigation is primarily dependent on groundwater extraction, which requires electricity. Simultaneously, poor agricultural practices have lead to inefficient use of energy and water.
- Given that 60% of India’s total power production capacity is thermal power, energy production is water-intensive. In fact, 50% of industrial water used in India is for energy production.
- There are other major issues as well, such as the increasing water pollution due to industrial effluents or fertiliser run-offs and erratic weather patterns.
- The problems faced here are carry forward in the food crops being produced which has presence of unhygienic components due to bad water and excess fertilisers.
- Thus, making decisions without considering the impact of one on the other has limited positive impact. This can be seen in power subsidies in agriculture with overuse of ground water. Now rising water stress has raised doubts over sustenance of agriculture.
- Thus, managing FEW independently is no longer a wise option and they should be seen collectively in an environment.
- A holistic approach would reduce negative externalities and trade-offs, build synergies and increase overall resource-use efficiency and improve productivity.
- ‘Climate smart agriculture’ in several States has demonstrated the possibility of saving water and energy while raising yields in a cost-effective manner.
- For example, a technique of rice cultivation without flooding the fields, has benefited farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, West Bengal, among several others, with a higher yield while requiring 30 to 50% less water.
- The Integrated Watershed Development Programme launched by the Government in 2008 and led by NABARD, played an important role in recharging groundwater as well as achieving crop yield improvement in several States.
- Revised tariff, metering systems and improving technical efficiency of pumps is the best solution to use them for groundwater pumping. This will result in less dependency of farmers on energy subsidies and sustainable groundwater level.
- Such examples can boost the cases for integrated approach of having food-water-energy security.
- Adopting energy and resource-efficient technologies and processes in manufacturing and agriculture could be the best possible areas to begin with.
- Here, the role of industrial and financial sectors towards such integrated approach is vital in the face of growing competition to access limited resources.
- Sector-wide adoption of risk assessment tools and reporting structures linked to resource use, such as natural capital accounting, would be essential. Also, there is need for enterprises, investors and lenders to push for greater adoption of such frameworks.
- Investors and financial institutions can play a catalytic role in promoting the FEW nexus approach for project design and development, and mainstreaming it across the economy.