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Water Security And Climate Change: Challenges And Strategies

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Compiled and finalized jointly by Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth and Dr Archana Sinha from Indian Social Institute New Delhi; with inputs from Shri Sanjay Soni and Dr. K. Subramaniam, Managers from National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development Regional offices of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow and Haryana, Chandigarh respectively

Global warming and the subsequent climatic change over the Himalayas, South Asia’s major water source is a topic of intense debate and scientific researches as it has huge ramification for both security and socio economic scenario in future. With global warming altering weather patterns and affecting fresh water availability, it has been often stressed that the next war will be fought not over oil but cover water. As the world gears up for the next round of United Nations climate-change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, in November, Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies called for its 3rd IDSAsr International Seminar to provide much needed scientific exposure about water stress and water security concerns and provide a road map for better water resources in the future.

The seminar was jointly sponsored by Government of India through its Ministry of Earth Science; Indian Council of Social Sciences Research; Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development. Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies is a centre for advanced research and training in multi-disciplinary areas under the aegis of Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies Society Amritsar. The main objectives of this seminar has been to contribute to the understanding of the development processes and problems related to water security and climate change; to focus on studies relating to this problem of the by-passed section and regions; and to provide a forum for dialogue on the subject.
Food production and social development has depended heavily on access to the water needed to grow crops or rear livestock.

In the past, balance between water supplies and human need has come under increasing threat from growing populations, urbanization and climate change. The likely increase in rainfall variability could have devastating effects on food production and rural livelihoods. Even a short dry spell during the growing season where farmers rely almost entirely on rainfall to water their crops, can devastate food supplies. Freshwater fit for human consumption is a scarce resource. Discussions about freshwater availability increasingly focus on water security, which refers to people’s access to enough safe and affordable water to satisfy their needs for household use, food production and livelihoods.

Water insecurity and scarcity already affect large parts of the developing world. An additional threat to water security comes from climate change. Climate change has already affected water resources across the world. Agriculture accounts for more than 70 per cent of water use in the world. Addressing water scarcity will inevitably imply revising agricultural practices and policies worldwide to ensure their sustainability. Inadequate knowledge of policy framework and its poor implementation of water management process are proving to be the root cause of many water related problems. Hence, it is felt necessary to deliberate these issues both scientifically and socially with policy makers, international and national water experts. The seminar endeavors to share latest as well as traditional water knowledge and best practices on this issue, and discuss the possible options available for integrated water resource management. This seminar has provided a space for discussion, interaction, dissemination of information to policy-makers, water managers, academics, students and the public in general.

Dr Rajinder Singh Bawa, Chairman Research Advisory Council of the institute while delivering his welcome address reflected on the main purpose of holding the seminar. He welcomed Dr Gurdev Singh Khush, the chief guest to inaugurate the seminar, who is one of the global leaders on crop breeding and a major brain behind the development of productive rice varieties and the Green Revolution in plant breeding and contributed to food security. He also welcomed Dr. Ashok Gulati, Chairman, Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices, Government of India for presiding over the seminar. He expressed his appreciation for Dr. Gulati as one of India’s sharpest and most respected agricultural economists, besides his wide publications in national and international research journals, rendering policy advice to the Government of India.

Dr. Bawa also welcomed all the distinguished representatives from government and non-governmental organizations present in the seminar. He stated that in terms of water, India stands among those most challenged, because with 16 per cent of world population, India has just 4 per cent of its available fresh water. At the end, he commended the efforts of Dr. Gursharan Singh Kainth and his team for the untiring efforts in organizing the seminar.

Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth Seminar Director delivered his introductory remarks on the theme of the Seminar. While welcoming all the key speakers, session chairpersons, distinguished guests and participants stated that this periodic seminar aims at providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and presentation of viewpoints related to sustainable management of water resources. Dr. Kainth said that freshwater is a scare resource and issues about freshwater availability increasingly focuses on water security, which refers to people’s access to enough safe and affordable water to satisfy their needs for household use, food production and livelihoods.

Water insecurity and scarcity already affected large parts of the developing world. Further, last century has seen a six fold increase in global water demand. India currently has among the world’s most destructive approaches to water consumption and where 85 per cent of the country’s water goes each year to agriculture sector. Domestic consumption accounts for just 7 per cent of the total, and industry, energy generation, and other uses the remainder. Dr. Kainth highlighted the need to ‘fix’ irresponsible usage, theft and leakage of water. India’s long standing emphasis on water—intensive crops such as grains and even sugarcane needs also to be re- assessed and planned afresh for if our equal need for water is to be responded to appropriately. This will acquire a greater urgency now, given the government’s commitment to the Food Security Act. At the end, Dr. Kainth re-emphasized upon this periodic seminar aiming at providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and presentation of the viewpoint’s related to the sustainable management of water resources. He concluded by stating that the time has come for us to draw deep from this tradition and launch India and its billion people on a path of ecologically sustainable development.

In his Inaugural Address, Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush FRS Member US National Academy of Sciences, Adjunct Professor University of California, Davis, and Former Head Department of Plant Breeding Genetics and Biotechnology, IRRI, Philippines complemented Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies for organizing this conference on climate change and water security. Water is earth’s most vital resource. He stated that climate change shall affect our lives mainly by impacting water supplies for agriculture, as emphasized in ‘Gurbani’ the three most important things that sustain humans are air, water and earth (Pawan Guru, Pani Pita and Mata Dharat). Also from our worldly entrance in a burst of amniotic fluid to the ritual washing of the dead, water flows through our lives; and, more than 75 per cent of our bodies are water.



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Dr. Gursharan Singh Kainth

Dr. Gursharan Singh Kainth

Dr. Gursharan Singh Kainth is Founder–Director of Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies

One thought on “Water Security And Climate Change: Challenges And Strategies

  • Avatar
    March 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm
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    Do creatures of subhuman species mount water wars? Humans have done so for centuries. Now NAWAPA (North American Water and Power Alliance) has been re-introduced to the People of North America as a solution in much the same way India proposes to address their infrastructure issues. With the galactic challenges to Earth including quakes, extreme weather, not to mention asteroid near misses, we must develop our capacity to survive these challenges or not. Thanks for your enlightening article.

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