Although South Asian countries have potential to generate energy and water available for food production, climate change remains a challenge.

At the SAARC regional consultation meeting on water, energy and food nexus in Thimphu on July 4, the director of climate change center with the university of agriculture in Pakistan, Prof Muhammad Zulfiqar (PhD) said, food and water are essential for existence whereas, energy is the key to human development.  “Access to these resources and their sustainable management are the basis for sustainable development.”

Bhutan, he said, has the potential to generate 30,000 megawatt of electricity with 72 percent of the country’s population already having access to electricity. Bhutan also has the potential to generate an average of four kWh/m2/day of solar energy.

Director of department of agriculture, Kinlay Tshering in an earlier presentation said Bhutan has plenty of water but lacks in technology and skill to tap it for agriculture.

Muhammad Zulfiqar (PhD) said that most of the South Asian countries depend on single source for more than 50 percent of their energy production. “It is unsustainable and needs diversification,” he said. “Apart from increasing population and declining agricultural land, climate change is an emerging key challenge for food, water, and energy nexus in South Asia.”

He said the global increase in temperature causes shift in snow and rainfall period, such as from December and January to February, March or April. The latter months he said have low retention power and the high intensity rainfall fuels floods and glacial lake outburst flood. “With the increase in temperature, a decrease in precipitation is observed for all SAARC member countries except for Pakistan,” he said.

Less production of food and energy due to declining water supplies in the long run, high temperature causing increase in crop water requirements, energy scarcity, refugees of drought, desertification and high intensity floods, are other affects of climate change, Prof Muhammad Zulfiqar said.

To address the issue he recommended countries to promote energy efficient technologies and local adoption of complementary policies and investment in water, energy and food sectors.

“If timely efforts are not made to address climate change, poverty position may further aggravate in South Asia and the countries will not be in a position to make progress on Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

The region accounts for 59 percent of the planet’s water consumption and 51 percent of the population is food and energy deficient. South Asia is home to 1.6 billion people or about one-fourth of the world’s population but constitutes only three percent of the global land.

“South Asian countries face a common challenge of how to produce more food with limited land, less water, and increased energy demand,” he said.

Karma Cheki