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Food-Water-Energy Challenges in Rapidly Urbanizing Regions – a Focus on Rural-Urban Interlinkages

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Raphael Karutz, Yuanzao Zhu, Christian Klassert, Anjuli Jain Figueroa; Ines Omann, Mikhail Smilovic, Heinrich Zozmann, Annegret Kindler, Sigrun Kabisch, Bernd Klauer

Sustainable & Resilient Urban-Rural Partnerships – URP2020", Leipzig, 25–27 Nov. 2020

The food-water-energy (FWE) nexus is receiving increasing attention in academia and politics. Especially urban-rural systems of the Global South face complex bundles of multiple nexus challenges that cannot be solved in isolation but require a clear understanding of the systems’ functionality as a whole.
In a collaborative process with local stakeholders and decision-makers, as well as an in-depth study of the literature body, 18 major FWE nexus challenges have been identified for the case region of Pune, India. Among others, these encompass increasing regional water scarcity in rural areas and at the same time flood damage in the city, dysfunctional water and energy distribution between and within rural and urban areas, and the loss of agricultural land due to urban sprawl.
Our analysis shows that, like in many other rapidly urbanizing regions of the Global South, Pune’s food-water-energy nexus is under pressure. Challenges are exacerbated by environmental (e.g. climate change, resource depletion), demographic (population growth, urbanization), economic (growing economy, increasing inequality) and socio-cultural (changes in lifestyles and cultural norms) Driving Forces.

We translated both FWE challenges and their driving forces into components of a coupled human-geophysical simulation model. These components are (1) exogenous (e.g. climate change) and (2) endogenous (e.g. policy interventions) model inputs, (3) model mechanics (e.g. feedbacks between modules) and (4) output metrics. This process allows us to run scenario-based simulations of long-term future development trajectories tailored to the specific context and to the requirements of the local stakeholders and decision-makers. The results from these simulations will enable them to anticipate potential impacts of changing conditions and different interventions on the entire nexus system in both urban and rural areas, thus fostering the integrated perspective required for tackling future challenges.