Third World Centre for Water Management

Communications

Water security, economic growth and sustainable development: linking society, economy and environment

Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada

THE GEOGRAPHER | April 4, 2016

Individually, each of the three topics of this paper – water security, economic growth and sustainable development – is a difficult, complex and challenging subject. Academics and policy-makers often differ with each other as to even the definitions of the three topics, let alone their ramifications. Accordingly, and not surprisingly, when these three interrelated topics are combined, their complexities, uncertainties and intricacies multiply by several orders of magnitude, and become further convoluted.

The fact is, in the real world, from a development-related policy perspective, they should be considered and analysed within a holistic and synergistic framework. The danger often is that when these three topics are considered independently, as they mostly are, policies in one area have direct and indirect impacts on the other two sectors. These unplanned and unexpected impacts are often negative. This mostly means that formulation and implementation of policies exclusively in any one of the three sectors are likely to have sub-optimal, or even net negative, impacts over the medium to long terms. Water security, economic growth and sustainable development are closely interrelated. One affects and, in turn, is affected by the others. So, over the long term, they have to be considered together.

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