Growing water scarcity and degradation pose rapidly growing challenges to global food security and human well-being. Unless important policy reforms are undertaken today, water scarcity and pollution will adversely affect most, if not all, livelihoods in the coming decades.
Development decisions are often framed and made with limited engagement with local communities. A new book examines collective action and shows how it can provide us with a better definition of development that ensures its benefits and risks are shared more fairly.
If we utilize our water better upstream, what will happen downstream? Will water availability decrease? Is watershed improvement a zero-sum game with the gains upstream deducted from the situation downstream, or is it an overall system improvement? Or if we take a broader view of water-related ecosystems services, how does more intense upstream water use have an impact on all relevant ecosystem services in the entire area? Who are the winners and who are the losers? Frank van Steenbergen, Tesfa-alem Gebreegziabher Embaye and Eyasu Hagos take a crack at answering these questions.
While pollution of the Ganges appears to be an insoluble problem, demand for water – driven mainly by farming – is actually drying out certain sections of the river. Solutions exist but they require a complete rethink of current institutional frameworks and business models.
Hydropower development in Uttarakhand, India has been stalled due to disagreements with local communities. A research project recommends new policies on fair and structured benefits-sharing to ensure mutually beneficial and sustainable hydropower development.
In response to problems that have come about related to water resources and ecosystem services in the Red River basin, one project has combined high level technical approaches, including remote sensing data, with citizen science in order to pilot more holistic solutions.
A study in Nepal’s Tarai-Madhesh region highlights that, despite changes in the roles women are playing in agriculture, many of them are having trouble accessing water resources for irrigation. Recommendations have been developed in a new technical brief.
Agricultural landscapes are the most important solution space for addressing Sustainable Development Goals on environment and food security. The ESR framework can help tackle the complexity of these landscapes so that the right research and interventions can be designed and carried out.