Link between food, water and energy securities

In spite of the technological advances made in past few decades, a substantial part of the global population still faces food, water and energy shortages, with the aim of achieving security in all three areas far from being realized. However, to look at the three – food, water and energy securities – as separate issues will be a misstep in realizing the dream of achieving security in all three sectors. There are several evidences to show that there exist linkages between food, water and energy securities and that governments world over should take into account this linkages while framing policies.

Water security is defined as access to safe drinking water and sanitation; food security is defined as availability and access to  sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet the dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life; and energy security is defined as access to clean, reliable and affordable energy services for cooking and heating, lighting, communications and productive uses.

The link between food, water and energy securities can be explained through various examples. Water is required in extraction, mining, and refining processes for mineral fuels like coal; as also for producing hydroelectricity. Besides, it is also required for hydraulic fracturing in extracting new sources of energy like shale gas and shale oil as well as for growing feedstock for biofuels. Conversely, energy is required in extracting groundwater, treating and transporting drinking water. It is also used for desalination of sea water. So, shortage in either water or energy can lead to non realization of security in the other sector. Agriculture – on which food security is dependent – consumes the maximum amount of global freshwater today. Food production is also dependent on diesel pump sets which are used to extract groundwater for irrigation, and on mechanized equipments such as tractors, threshers, harvesters, etc. Further in the supply chain, transport of food to markets is also dependent on motorized vehicles which consume diesel or petrol. In fact, one of the major causes of food inflation is increase in global oil prices. Thus, it can be seen that a shortage in any one of the three resources –food, energy or water – will affect the supply of other two as well. Thus, a nexus approach – an approach which integrates management and governance across the sectors is required to achieve security on all three fronts.

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