Post Date
Mar 7 2021

Playing Co-op To Enable Sustainability in the Indus Basin

For millennia, civilizations have found refuge around its meandering banks and in its wide basin and have sustained agriculture through its vitalizing deposits of silt and sand. Its waters have largely encouraged segregated nomadic groups to live together as a community, but the sands of time have pushed communities out and apart, creating borders and boundaries, which has not only left the Indus basin at the mercy of myopic policies but also mismanaged resource utilization, intense cultivation making the whole basin highly water stressed and lacking energy security.

Now, a team of researchers including Dr. Abubakr Muhammad from the Center for Water Informatics and Technology (WIT), SBASSE, has revealed in a paper published in ‘Nature Sustainability’, that cooperation across the borders is needed as a potential route to make sustainable development in the Indus basin possible. Using NEST, an integrated model for water-energy-land-climate systems, an analysis was done that revealed cooperation between Indus basin countries can reduce investment from US$10 billion per annum to US$2 billion per annum by the year 2050, a whopping 80% reduction in investment!

The study compared 3 models i.e., business-as-usual (BAU), sustainable development goals without transboundary cooperation (SDG) and SDG-coop, where transboundary cooperation is implemented. If no action were taken, the team discovered overexploitation of water resources in the Punjab (both Indian and Pakistani) and Sindh regions can reach a staggering 250% of the current situation, where these regions are already facing water scarcity. The team suggests optimal crop shift and increased irrigation efficiency for reduction in irrigation surface, and the shift of electrical generation from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The study hopes that Pakistan will be able to save US$5 billion per annum, if timely implementation on their model is exercised.

This study was published in Nature Sustainability and can be accessed here:

Vinca, A., Parkinson, S., Riahi, K. et al. Transboundary cooperation a potential route to sustainable development in the Indus basin. Nat Sustain (2020).


The model code updated to scenarios described in this study is available here:

A video outlining the study can be accessed here: