PhD Fellows

Bhuwan Thapa, PhD Candidate, School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA

Thapa’s research focuses on the resilience of irrigated agriculture, especially farmer-managed irrigation systems, against changing climate in the Gandaki River Basin in Nepal. He will evaluate the biophysical and social vulnerabilities affecting the farmers and assess the effectiveness of their responses and adaptation interventions against multiple objectives like their ability to strengthen system resilience, address livelihood and environmental securities, and achieve gender equity. The study field tests many important adaptation concepts like ecological and social thresholds, institutional adaptive capacity, and turning and tipping points.

These empirical evidences will expand the knowledge base of climate adaptation literature and provide useful information to adaptation practitioners and policymakers.

Prior to joining the PhD programme, he was a water resources management consultant working on Bagmati River Basin planning and management programmes for Japan Water Agency and Danish Hydraulic Institute. He has worked for institutions like the World Wildlife Fund (Nepal), WaterAid (Nepal), the Center for Clean Air Policy (USA) and A4 Scientific (USA) in areas such as water and sanitation, decentralised wastewater systems, instrumental pollutant analysis, climate change and modelling, community forestry, and environmental impact assessment. He holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Divya Sharma, PhD Candidate, Department of Natural Resources, TERI University, New Delhi, India

Sharma’s research focuses on interactions between the biophysical and socioeconomic drivers that lead to vulnerability to climate change in the Upper Ganga Basin in the state of Uttarkhand, India. Her study will attempt to unravel the governance and institutional mesh to try and understand social networks and decision-making processes in order to facilitate adaptation interventions for the well-being of the mountain community in terms of sustainable livelihoods, gender equity, and resilience. Prior to joining the HI-AWARE PhD programme, she was a graduate exchange student at German-Indian Sustainability and Climate Change Dialogue, Environmental Policy Research Centre (FFU) at Freie Universität Berlin.

As a research intern at TERI-SRC, Bangalore, she developed an Agricultural Resilience Index with a systems perspective. Before that, she used to work as an engineering analyst at Infosys Technologies Ltd.

 

Sudeshna Maya Sen, PhD Candidate, Department of Natural Resources, TERI University, New Delhi, India

Sen’s research will focus on HI-AWARE’s Research Component 3, which entails monitoring and assessing climate change adaptation practices in the Upper Ganga and Teesta basins in India as well as understanding their essential characteristics. She will rank and evaluate the success of adaptation options based on a set of criteria and also seek to understand the determinants that explain variations in their outcomes. She will also identify the major bridges and barriers to adaptation responses. She holds a Masters in Climate Science and Policy (2011-2013) from TERI University.

As a summer intern with TERI-IHC, she helped assess the vulnerability of coastal tourism destinations in West Bengal to climate change. Her research interests are climate change vulnerability and adaptation assessment, traditional knowledge systems, and climate and environment-induced migration.

Qurat Ul Ain Ahmad, PhD Student, Water Resources, Free University Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Ahmad’s research will focus on developing a better understanding of drivers that will affect future water availability (spatially and temporally) as well as their consequences on crop production under uncertain climate change and increased population. The study also envisages the impacts of climate extremes (heat waves, wet/dry conditions etc.) on crop yields and quality, including identifying adaptation options for implementation at a basin scale to adapt to exacerbated water situations. She will apply a basin scale Hydrology–Agriculture model under the framework of the Dynamical Global Vegetation Model (DGVM) considering the share of water from all possible sources (e.g. shallow/deep groundwater, water from reservoirs, snow/glacier melt water, etc.) with improved irrigation efficiencies to produce sufficient crop yield to feed an increasing population demand under unavoidable climatic and other non-climatic circumstances.

Previously, Ahmad was associated with the Water Resources and Glaciology Division of Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), Climate Change Division, Government of Pakistan, where she studied the impacts of climate change on Pakistan’s fresh water resources in order to develop adequate adaptation measures to manage water resources efficiently. She holds a Masters in Applied Physics from the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore, Pakistan.

 

Hassnain Shah, PhD Candidate, Water Resource Management Group, Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research (WIMEK), Wageningen University (WU), Netherlands

Shah will focus his research on the ‘Economics of Critical Moments–Adaptations in Agriculture in the Himalaya Mountains and Floodplains”. The study intends to analyse crop-specific critical moments (CM) and time-specific climate hazards that pose vulnerabilities at different stages of a given crop cycle and affect farmers’ livelihood.

Developing evidence of CM from literature and field studies from three agro-ecologies across the Indus Basin in Pakistan through:

  • estimations of their impacts on livelihoods,
  • assessment of farmers’ adaptation choices within the context of their adaptive capacity, and
  • measurements of their impacts under different climate scenarios, is expected to support efforts in climate-resilient farming.

The research on CMs will be the entry point for the appraisal and classification of adaptation options and for the pathways and the inclusion of stakeholders’ adaptive capacities. Estimates of losses due to CMs and their thresholds will be further explored through crop-simulation modelling to predict potential vulnerabilities under different scenarios for the prioritisation of adaptation measures. Proposed activities of the studies are designed to integrate top-down and bottom-up climate research by incorporating information on field-level vulnerabilities in scenario simulations. The study is targeted at improving resilience at the production level.

After completing his MSc (Hons) in Agricultural Economics from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Shah started his research career in 1999 as a Research Associate at the same university, followed by a short assignment at International Water Management Institute, Lahore, as a Research Assistant in a project on conjunctive water management.

Sumit Vij, PhD Researcher, Public Administration and Policy Group, Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Center, the Netherlands

Vij’s research will focus on the governance of adaptation. The impetus will be on understanding how adaptation is conceptualised as a political process. His research will explore the influence of power on approaches to policymaking for adaptation at the national and district levels in three South Asian countries—India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Further, it will identify the different approaches and the underlying administrative traditions that have shaped the governance of adaptation in each region or country. The research will then move on to identifying the positive (productive force) and negative applications of power, such as ‘power in action’. This should help with the understanding of the political processes involved in framing adaptation policies and strategies, thus directly contributing to the project.

It will also generate knowledge on how a given actor/agency/structure uses ‘power over’ to overpower decisions and also to limit the boundaries of a given decision.

Vij holds double Master’s degrees: one in Sustainable Development Practices from TERI University and another in Development Management from Tata-Dhan Academy. Before starting his PhD, he worked with SaciWATERs on projects focused on peri-urban water governance and climate change in south Asia. He has worked as a consultant on the Living with Climate Change project (SSHRC) with partners in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Canada. He gained experience in project design and coordination while working on the ‘National Dairy Plan’ at the National Dairy Development Board, Ministry of Agriculture, India.