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Vaibhav Chaturvedi from CEEW presents at the Research Councils UK's roundtable on food-energy-water nexus
13 Nov 2013

Dr. Vaibhav Chaturvedi was invited to make an overview presentation on the research taking place in India on the issue of food-energy-water nexus. The participants of the meeting included experts from both the UK and India interested in knowing the key nexus issues in both regions, as well as explore areas for potential research collaboration between UK and India. Vaibhav began the presentation by highlighting that the key driver for the discussion of energy-water nexus for India is the fact that India is a water stressed nation, and limited development of surface water sources has lead to a huge pressure on India's groundwater resources. The presentation then discussed three key themes of the energy water research landscape for India.

The first theme was irrigation-energy nexus. Dr. Chaturvedi highlighted that this is an area in which researchers from India have been doing research for some time, and so there exists a knowledge base. The critical point made here was that the research on irrigation-energy nexus has focused on management challenges rather than technological challenges owing to the nature of fragmented land holdings and a large number of small and marginal farmers withdrawing groundwater. Irrigation water is a common property resource issue and that is how it has been addressed in terms of research. Distorted market subsidies  for electricity inducing wrong incentives for farmers are widespread in India leading to excess extraction of groundwater as well as inefficient use of energy.

The next two themes related to electricity water nexus and bioenergy-climate -water nexus are themes that haven't been explored and research in India is in very initial stages on these issues. Dr. Chaturvedi highlighted that the technologies that the Indian government is pursuing, mainly nuclear and solar, are associated with much larger withdrawal of water compared to conventional thermal technologies. The carbon capture technology, which might play an important role in the long run future under a climate constrained world, consumes double the water compared to a non-CCS thermal power plant. Power production will keep on demanding more and more water for cooling and other needs in the future. Also, the understanding of irrigation implications of next generation biofuels is very limited not just in India but the rest of the world. Though India is not expected to be a big bioenergy producer in the future, the marginal impact bioenergy can potentially have in terms of water demands as well as on land use dynamics for food crop production is not going to be insignificant.

Dr. Chaturvedi concluded the presentation by mentioning that the food-water-energy nexus will be further complicated due to climate change impacts on hydropower production, thermal power plant efficiency, impact on food productivity, and impact of extreme events on energy infrastructure.

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