Professor Anamika Barua from the department of humanities and social science at IIT-G, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, used ecological economics to study the socio-political factors governing the ‘Virtual Water Flow’, an emerging concept at the science-policy interface, with particular reference to India. “Virtual water flows assessment is aimed to induce sustainable use that can lead to water security,” explained Prof Barua.
The research team found that some VW flows between Indian states are unsustainable as water through agricultural products flows from highly water-scarce states in the North to other highly water-scarce states in the West and South. Such unsustainable flows are driven by a larger population and by arable land. In contrast, sustainable flows, from low to high water scarcity zones and states can help combat water scarcity. Their work showed that in states with chronic water scarcity, planning and implementation of sustainable agriculture are crucial for achieving water and food security.
“It is also found that the pressure on freshwater resources in water-parched states can be reduced by diversifying the production areas through the use of VW flows analysis to produce agro-climatically suitable food grains,” an IIT-G spokesperson said. The concept of VW was first conceived in the 1990s to understand how water-stressed countries could provide their people with essential items that are water-intensive products like food, clothing, and shelter, which can define its trade characteristics. To understand the issue better, an IIT-G spokesperson pointed towards a country with limited water resources that would rather import water-intensive cotton than use their precious water in cultivating it.
The study addresses this science-policy gap on water scarcity by first analysing the water flows hidden in agriculture products moving between the various states of India. This is then linked to the regional water scarcity situation and some existing elements of water policy to understand the gaps in knowledge and governance to mitigate water scarcity in the country.