Research Highlight

Routes to alleviate water stress in the Indus Basin

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.186 Published online 16 December 2020

A modelling study shows that the countries in the Indus river basin in South Asia could lower their costs for development by cooperating on water resources, electricity and food production1. This could help reduce soil pollution and water stress in the basin.

Such cooperation would enable access to sanitation for millions of people by 2050, increasing availability of water that could be reused for domestic purposes, a team of researchers has found.

Such cooperative strategies would yield economic gains for the countries in the basin, the researchers say. 

Scientists, including a researcher from the TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi, India, devised a set of sustainability development goals for the water-stressed basin. They developed the goals by using the Nexus Solution Tool (NEST), which integrates multi-scale energy–water–land resource optimisation with distributed hydrological modeling.

Parts of the basin will overexploit renewable water sources by up to 250 per cent by 2050. Improvements in irrigation efficiency with subsidies towards drip, sprinkler and smart-monitoring technologies could reduce water losses related to unproductive evaporation, the researchers say.

They also say that crop relocation and cross-border food trade within India, Pakistan and Afghanistan could maximize yields, thus reducing water consumption. Expanding piped water distribution and increasing wastewater recycling might help avert water scarcity. A shift from fossil fuel-based electricity generation to renewable sources such as solar energy could deal with an energy crisis, they report.

Cooperation, the researchers estimate, would help reduce development costs by 13 per cent, with economic gains for all.






1. Vinca, A. et al. Transboundary cooperation a potential route to sustainable development in the Indus basin. Nat. Sustain. (2020) Doi: 10.1038/s41893-020-00654-7