The Indus River Basin is the epitome of a complex system in which simple, linear causality may not be a useful way for decision makers trying and determine what to do and how to invest in managing the system into the future. This biophysical system has, integral to it, social, economic and political systems in which elements of climate, population growth and movement, and political uncertainty make decisions hard to get right.
Like other systems, it is constantly changing and endlessly complex, representing a great deal of interconnectivity. This poses questions about stability, sustainability, and hard choices and trade-offs that need to be made, not least in terms of the social and economic cost-benefit of huge rice production and export.
So how do we go about planning in a system that is in such constant flux?
Coping with system complexity in the Indus is the overarching theme of the third Indus Basin Knowledge Forum (IBKF) being co-hosted this week by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the World Bank. Titled Managing Systems Under Stress: Science for Solutions in the Indus Basin, the Forum brings together researchers and other knowledge producers to interface with knowledge users like policy makers to work together to develop future direction for the basin while improving the science-decision-making relationship.