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Water Security and Climate Change: Challenges and Strategies
For centuries, food production and hence social development has depended heavily on access to the water needed to grow crops or
rear livestock. Having enough water is only part of the issue, however: it must
also be available when and where it is most needed. In the past few decades,
the balance between water supplies and human need has come under increasing
threat from growing populations, urbanization and, most recently, climate change.
One of the biggest impacts of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere is expected to be a significant increase in rainfall variability and
in the frequency and intensity of extreme events, such as droughts and floods.
Climate change is being widely blamed as a significant contributor to the
devastating floods in Pakistan, for example, as well as recent mudslides in
China and fires in Russia. The likely increase in rainfall variability could
have equally devastating, if less obvious, 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
Freshwater is a scarce resource. Only 2.5 per cent of the 1.4 billion km3 of water on Earth is freshwater fit for human
consumption, and most of this is inaccessible — nearly 70 per cent is locked up
in glaciers, snow and ice. Our greatest source of freshwater is the 8 million
km3 of groundwater, with only 0.3 per cent of freshwater (105,000 km3)
being found in rivers, streams and lakes. 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 can arise from physical scarcity, resulting either from climatic or geographical factors, or from unsustainable
consumption or overexploitation. It can also have economic origins, with poor
infrastructure or capacity preventing access to the water resources available,
or occur where pollution or natural contamination renders water resources
inaccessible. Water insecurity and scarcity already affect large parts of the
developing world. The past century has seen a six fold increase in global water
demand. Nearly three billion people (about 40 per cent of the global
population) live in areas where demand outstrips supply. This situation is set
to worsen in the coming decades as populations grow, economies develop and
agriculture and industry expand.
An additional threat to water security comes from climate change. The world is experiencing unprecedented warming, with
temperatures now approximately 0.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1961–90
average. Climate change has already affected water resources across the world.
It has, for example, increased the global mean sea level by 1.75 mm each year
in the second half of the twentieth century, caused the widespread retreat of
non-polar glaciers, reducing dry-season water flows, and increased borehole and
Solar energy trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases drives the hydrological cycle, so any increase effectively intensifies
the cycle, changing rainfall patterns and exacerbating extreme events such as
droughts and floods. The effects of climate change on water security can
already be seen. Globally, the area of land classified by the IPCC as 'very
dry' has more than doubled since the 1970s. This has been accompanied by
greater flooding in the mid-high latitudes, longer and more frequent droughts
in parts of Asia and Africa, and more frequent and intense El Niño events — all
of which change the balance between demand and supply of water resources.
Water security in the developing world is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, partly because their locations
mean these nations feel the brunt of climate change, partly because their low
incomes and poor institutional capacity limit their ability to cope with
changing water supplies, and partly because they rely heavily on water-based
industries, such as agriculture. Unless national policymakers and local
communities in these regions can adequately anticipate, prepare for and adapt
to such shortages, the result could be starvation for millions.
Water consumption also must be addressed. Agriculture accounts for more than 70 per cent of water use
in the world. Agronomical research and technical innovations are crucial to
maximizing water efficiency in this sector, and they must be taken much
further. But addressing scarcity will inevitably imply revising agricultural
practices and policies worldwide to ensure their sustainability. Policy attention, by
national governments and trans-national bodies will, increasingly, have to
focus on the coordination of water uses across transboundary river-basins and
across different sectors, and arbitration in increasing conflicts over water.
Humanity must begin to resolve this water dilemma. Waiting is not part of the solution.
Ensuring fresh and pure water to every individual is a significant tool of empowerment for the poor and
vulnerable society of the globe. However, inadequate knowledge of policy and
regulatory framework and its poor implementation, combined with a
non-transparent and non-participatory water management process is proving to be
the root cause of many water related problems. Hence, it is 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. The conference will encompass the issues that are mentioned as the
priorities in the 'National Water Mission' which is one of the eight national
missions that are part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The
seminar will provide a space for discussion, interaction, dissemination of
information to policy-makers, water managers, academics, students and the
public in general.
Session-I: Challenges and Opportunities for Water Security: An overview
Climate change is the most severe long-term threat to development for the present and future
generations. The changing climate will exacerbate water management problems worldwide
through its impact on melting glaciers, rising sea levels, variable rainfall
and extreme events like floods and drought. The consequences of climate change
are a major challenge to the management of natural resources and barriers to
the transition from poverty to prosperity. The session will address these
issues from a global perspective and identify the broad parameters for
sustainable adaptation strategies.
Session-II: Regional Water Security, Resource Use & Allocation
The session will focus on the challenges in water resource use and allocation in
view of the increasing water scarcity and regional water stress combined with
the prospective risks of climate change. Discussions would provide insights to
various scenarios on competing water demand amongst the agriculture, industry
and domestic sectors. It shall highlight the mechanisms and prospects on water
use, allocation and sharing in different hydro-geological regimes. Some of the
issues to be deliberated include
Ø The present and prospective scenarios of water stress in the global and regional perspective in light of changing climate.
Ø The existing coping mechanisms for the competing water demand amongst various sectors.
Ø The challenges and benefits through joint management of trans-boundary water resources.
Ø The mechanisms for optimal use and allocation of water resources in river basin systems.
Session-III: Climate Change Impacts on Natural Water Systems
Climate change will continue to have a significant impact on water resources, particularly
in the South Asian region, by virtue of its influence on natural water systems
and the hydrological cycle. This session will focus on various components of natural
water systems like melting glaciers and their influence on river flow patterns,
rainfall variability and impacts on monsoon system affecting water availability
and sea level rise. The discussions shall deliberate on existing capacities,
limitations and knowledge gaps in modeling and prediction scenarios.
Ø The current and future scenarios of climate predictions and variability in different hydro-geological systems and the downscaled scenarios in the region.
Ø Current status of glaciers in the region and their influence on the river basins and flows.
Ø Developments and bottlenecks in the science of climate predictions and the options available to address them.
Session-IV: Water and Food Security
Food security in the developing nations across the globe is a major challenge. It is
a complex phenomenon which comprises of range of factors from access to
utilization of the food products .The session will identify the key challenges
in managing water for food security and specifically deliberate on regional
disparities in crop-water productivities as also the trade dimensions of food
and water security. It would enable discussion on regional perspectives on
water governance for food security including the following key questions
Ø What are the known implications of impacts of climate change on agricultural water security in the river basins of South Asian region?
Ø What are the innovations and mechanisms to enhance crop productivity under prospective climate change scenarios?
Ø How the current water and food policies are ensuring ‘food for all’ in South Asia?
Session-V: Role of Science and Technology in Water Security
Application of science and technology in improving water use efficiency has a major role in
complementing the efforts to ensure water security of a region. This session
shall bring in the latest technological developments and innovations in
tackling water contamination, improving water use efficiency and water
conservation. It will also explore the avenues of technological interventions
needed to respond to challenges in water security. Some of the issues to be
Ø What are the available options for effective technological intervention to improve water use efficiency?
Ø What are the innovations and constraints in development of cost effective technologies?
Ø What role can science and technology play in improving the water security of the region?
Session-VI: Policy, Governance and Regulatory Framework
Effective governance and responsive policies are of paramount importance in defining the
course of sustainable water management. The issue of governance is multidimensional
and a holistic institutional framework that encompasses the social, economic,
political, and legal structures is essential. Developing an appropriate and responsive
policy framework for governance is essential for ensuring water sustainability
and adaptability to climate change. Some of the issues to be deliberated include:
Ø To understand the policy implications of climate change and identify measures for innovative adaptive governance that reduces vulnerability and increases capacity.
Ø To emphasize the significance of mechanisms like climate-centric development, mainstreaming climate change into institutional reforms and strategic development activities.
Ø To recommend renewed policy priorities in response to water security under changing climate.
Venue: Conference Hall, Guru Nanak Bhawan, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Submission of Abstract: May 30, 2011
Acceptance of Abstract: June 15, 2011
Full length papers: August 30, 2011
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