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Event | March 2014

Teri Sustainable Development Summit | Moving towards energy security: A roadmap

Sustainability must be at the core of national policy-making, is what the need of the hour. The numbers project a grim reality. According to a World Bank study released in 2013, by the 2040s, India will see a significant reduction in crop yields because of extreme heat. Reduced water availability due to changes in precipitation levels and falling groundwater tables are likely to aggravate the situation in India, where groundwater resources are already at a critical level and about 15 per cent of the country´s groundwater tables are over exploited. The report further adds that in India, more than 60 per cent of the crop area is rain-fed, making it highly vulnerable to climate-induced changes in precipitation patterns. It is estimated that by the 2050s, with a temperature increase of 2¦C-2.5¦C compared to pre-industrial levels, water for agricultural production in the river basins of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra will reduce further and may impact food adequacy for some 63 million people.

With two-third of the world´s hungry people in Asia, the problem of food security is gaining gigantic proportions. The nexus - between water, food, and energy, central theme of the recently concluded Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS), organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) saw thought provoking debate and discussions on the theme ´Attaining Energy, Water and Food Security for All´. While industry experts and policy makers debated upon the imminent dangers looming large over the global and the Indian community, it was widely acknowledged that the nature of the challenge and the desire of the institution did not match. The issue gains significant importance for India owing to its size, endless power shortages, production and distribution, rapid urbanisation, adding a lot of pressure to the existing resources. The strong nexus between energy and water, both of which are getting increasingly stressed, is also adding to the urgency for adopting smarter ways of energy usage.

Experts at the summit called for an abolition of oil subsidies and the policy of providing free power to farmers by various state governments in India with taking every possible step to improve the existing energy security with increased investments in renewable energy. Nobel laureate and former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan warned India of the growing challenges noting that each year 10 million people in India alone move to towns and cities as a result of population growth and urbanisation. "It is now estimated that by 2030, we will need 30 per cent more water, 40 per cent more energy, and 50 per cent more food," he said. Underlining that the "sustainability must be at the core of national policy-making", he appealed to the participants including policy-makers from across the world to promote integrated policy making which addresses social and environmental goals, and not just economic targets.

'Asian Water Development Outlook 2013' by Asian Development Bank (ADB) noted that 36 of its 48 Asian member countries, including the Philippines, China and India have poor water security. The report added that "Public utilities responsible for providing water and sanitation services to communities in India and the Philippines were found to lack capacity in all aspects of sustainability, including effective funding, financing and demand responsiveness." Amina J Mohammed, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, United Nations, USA, in her special address said: ´Climate change is affecting not only the poor, but also business. Therefore, businesses need to engage with climate change. Partnerships need to be nurtured to work towards a universal agenda and with an inclusive approach, which would help countries worst affected by climate change, especially developing countries, to mitigate the crisis.ö And with young businesses becoming a part of the change and making the effort, Mahammed suggested that partnerships needed to be redefined, involving all stakeholders.

While developed nations, having attained economic and social security, can focus primarily on ecological conservation, India, however, can't "afford the luxury" of concentrating solely on the environment as there are social challenges that need to be addressed at the same time. Indicating that the top down approach to address these issues was extremely slow as it was extremely getting difficult to get consensus on top, Arun Maira, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India suggested the bottom up approach to become stronger. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia identified distribution as a major issue in the energy sector in India and added that the country needs to harness the potential of other sources of energy such as wind, hydro, solar and nuclear. Ahluwalia suggested that India can reduce the import dependency either by saving on energy demand by being more energy efficient or by increasing domestic supply.

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