Conflict over Water Allocation Hinders Sustainable Development in Inner Mongolia's Drylands

  • ZHU Jiapei, YANG Yaqian
  • Published: 2023-04-03
  • 2487

Researchers from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) and Beijing Forestry University have uncovered the mechanism of water stress on sustainable development in the drylands of Inner Mongolia.

For the first time, by integrating sustainable development goals (SDGs) progress evenness and exploring the potential uneven development in drylands, the researchers highlighted a conflict in water allocation over the achievement of different SDGs that accounts for the existing uneven progress across the SDGs and impedes drylands' achievement of SDGs under climate change. 

The study was published in Journal of Cleaner Production. 

Drylands cover approximately 41% of the world's land area and support more than one-third of the world's population. Limited by water resources and recurrent droughts, dryland environments are highly vulnerable to climate change and human activities. However, the challenges and limiting factors to achieving the SDGs in drylands remain unclear. 

In this study, the researchers found that while Inner Mongolia has experienced rapid progress towards its SDGs, disregarding the evenness of SDGs progress overestimates the current situation and ignores regional disparities. The uneven progress among the goals studied hindered the holistic achievement of the SDGs.  

In addition, conflict over water allocation leads to trade-offs among SDGs, impeding sustainable development in drylands. SDGs related to economic growth are significantly positively correlated with industrial water consumption, whereas the SDGs related to essential human needs and environmental conservation are positively correlated with ecological water consumption. 

These results highlight that water resource management in drylands should not be restricted to single-oriented measures, but should aim to reduce the trade-offs among the SDGs on water resources. A single unified framework integrating industrial upgrading, regional planning, and management policies through regional collaboration is urgently required to relieve water stress, thus promoting sustainable development in drylands. 

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Strategic Priority Research Program of CAS, the International Partnership Program of CAS, and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation. 

Spatial pattern of sustainable development in Inner Mongolia in 2018. (Image by UCAS)

Cluster analysis between the water indicators and SDGs in Inner Mongolia. (Image by UCAS) 





YANG Yaqian

University of Chinese Academy of Science



Author: ZHU Jiapei, YANG Yaqian

Provided by Sino-Danish College, UCAS

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Editor: GAO Yuan