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Experts: Need for nexus planning to ensure water, food security in GBM basin

  • Published at 05:08 pm July 24th, 2020
Hardship following floods
Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

IUCN hosted the webinar recently on nexus planning for water, food, energy, and environment security in the transboundary river basins

Experts at a webinar stressed the need for nexus planning for water, food, energy, and environmental security in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river basin.

They said the nexus thinking (or “nexus”) refers to the integrated planning process that promotes sustainable socioeconomic development, and also reduces the risks emerging from resource constraints and inter-sectoral conflict.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosted the webinar recently on nexus planning for water, food, energy, and environment security in the transboundary river basins.

The webinar shared the ongoing works and case studies on nexus planning from across Asia and provided a platform to discuss the role and entry points for the Civil Society Organizations’ (CSO) engagement in river basin management, an IUCN press release said on Friday.

More than 100 participants from the CSOs, academic institutions, and young water professionals from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan joined the webinar and shared their views and questions on nexus planning.

While making a presentation at the webinar, Head of IUCN’s Global Water Program Dr James Dalton said in the next 50 years, the global population is projected to increase from 7 million to more than 9 million, which will put increasing pressure on the river basin resources and conflict among sectors and countries.

The improved understanding of inter-linkages among the water, food, energy and environment, the CSOs can hold the government and private sector accountable and help in prioritizing investments that are equitable, and can ensure long-term water security, he said.

Dr Shahriar Wahid, principal research consultant – Basin Management, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Canberra, shared the role of simulation tools in nexus planning, using examples from Kabul Basin shared by Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the Koshi Basin shared by China, India, and Nepal.

He said both these basins suffer from the impact of climate change, such as increased flood frequency and changing precipitation pattern.

“Through a combination of scenario building and modeling, critical planning goals were evaluated and investment priorities were identified, such as aquifer recharge for improved domestic water supply in Kabul river basin,” he added.

Jake Brunner, head of IUCN Indo-Burma Group, shared insights from the IUCN initiative on measuring, understanding, and adapting to nexus trade-offs using the example from the Sekong, Srepok, and Sesan rivers shared by Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

He said the assessments identified that transforming the coffee monoculture into an agroforestry-based coffee plantation in Vietnam can help improve the dry season water flow for Cambodia by 70%.

Role of smart technologies

Dr Ashok Das, founder CEO, SunMoksha, Karnataka, India, shared the role of smart technologies in reducing input cost for farmers, and increasing their income.

The organization is working with 41 farmers in the state of Odisha, and has trained them on the use of solar-driven smart pumps to ensure the right quantity of water, at the right location at the right time.

He said it is important to build local capacity and partnership with local women leaders to ensure the sustainability of technological interventions.

Dr Medha Bisht, senior assistant professor, department of international relations, South Asian University, Delhi, reflected on the nexus approach and its utility in building cooperative hydro-diplomacy.

She said, to be effective, nexus assessments and planning needs to consider geopolitics, which is the main factor in determining transboundary cooperation for integrated management of the river basins.

Transboundary river management

This was the first in the webinar Series: Strengthening Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) engagement in water governance in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) River Basin.

The speakers provided insights on how nexus planning is used in transboundary river management.

The two upcoming webinars will focus on nature-based solutions and its application in river basin management and hydro-diplomacy as a tool for cooperative water governance happening on 29 July 2020 and 5 August 2020, respectively.

The webinar series is part of the BRIDGE GBM project, facilitated by IUCN, and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) through the Oxfam Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (Trosa) program, aims to build the water governance capacity of a network of CSOs in the GBM River Basin.

Its focus is to strengthen the CSO engagement in transboundary water management issues.

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