The use of resources – food, water and energy, in the South Asia region is unsustainable, according to a study by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The study, which was presented yesterday at the regional expert consultation meeting, found that due to poor sectoral coordination and institutional fragmentation, long-term sustainability of resources such as food, water and energy security in the region is threatened, posing a challenge in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG) in the region.

South Asia is challenged with an increased demand of resources due to change in lifestyle and population growth. There is limited land for agriculture with six percent of the world’s land, and 25 percent of the population in the region. South Asia is also one of the world’s most water scarce regions, with less than five percent of the world’s annual renewable water resources. Around 63 percent of the population lack access to electricity.

Senior economist at ICIMOD, Golam Rasul said that the way the resources are used in the region is unsustainable and can lead to scarcity of the resources in future. He added that the current policies in the region provide subsidised resources such as energy, water and agricultural inputs. “The focus of policies are short-term and the impact on other sectors and long-term sustainability is ignored,” he said.

According to the study, the nexus approach can enhance understanding of the interconnectedness of the sectors and strengthen coordination among them. The food, energy and water nexus approach works to improving the cross-sectoral coordination by harmonising policies, aligning strategies and converging incentive structures of the cross-sectors. “If the region can make improvements in areas through a sustainable approach, then South Asia can increase its GDP drastically. That is why the nexus is very important for South Asia,” Golam Rasul said.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals identified 17 goals with 169 targets. Golam Rasul said, that to achieve these goals, policymakers need to work together to understand the linkages between the sectors.

Deputy Director of SAARC Energy Centre, Dr Shoiab Ahmad said, the SDG goals cannot be achieved unless programs and policies across sectors are integrated and synchronised.

“It requires a major shift in the decision-making process towards taking a holistic view and developing institutional mechanisms to coordinate the actions of diverse sectors,” Golam Rasul said.

Phurpa Lhamo