Durham University

Durham University has conducted important research in the fields of India's ground water systems and agritechnology, amongst others. These projects work towards supporting India achieving SDGs including SDG6 - Clean water, SDG2 - Zero Hunger, and SDG12 - Responsible Consumption and Production.


Rice is the staple food source for the majority of the world’s poor. Flooding is a significant threat to rice production in the developing world. It is estimated that rice paddy loss to flooding amounts to millions of tonnes of rice lost per year in India alone.

Large parts of the Indian subcontinent were affected by devastating typhoons and floods in the last ten years, which cost the rice industry millions of dollars. Small-scale producers depend on rice for their livelihoods and such losses impact on national food security while ramping up costs of rice imports. Improved flooding-tolerant rice varieties will boost yield and income.

A project between the UK (Durham University) and India has made groundbreaking discoveries on the key genetic determinant of submergence tolerance in rice. The current project will bring together a new group of scientists from the Durham University and India to exploit this knowledge to pave the way to developing rice varieties with increased tolerance to prolonged flooding resulting in higher yields.

The Durham led UKRI project entitled “Mitigating flood risks to rice production in the Indian subcontinent” aims to uncover the molecular mechanisms governing flooding tolerance beyond this genetic determinant. Therefore enable the development of new crop varieties that generically stabilise yields in response to flooding and enhance food security in developing world agriculture. This interdisciplinary project will also aim to understand the social, cultural, and political barriers to take up of new flood-tolerant rice varieties that are not traditionally cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, including Sri Lanka. This is a 3-year project which started in 2019 and aims to bring together UK rice scientists with those from India to deliver new strategies for boosting crop productivity under environmental stress.

Due to climate change extreme weather conditions are more prevalent with higher frequency of prolonged flooding periods particularly in the Indian subcontinent. There is an urgent need to devise new strategies to protect rice production in these areas. The project will directly address this need. Currently only rice varieties that carry the SUB1A gene show increased flooding tolerance however the SUB1A protein is less effective in prolonged flooding due to its instability.

Development of stress adapted high yielding flood resistant rice varieties not only enhances food security and boosts the local economy but also reduces government spend on importing rice, directly contributing to poverty alleviation. Expanding rice production into areas prone to prolonged floods will provide additional sources of work and income to the rural poor.

For more information, visit: https://www.dur.ac.uk/dccit/

Ground water systems in Western Indian

Founded in 1928, the Department of Geography at Durham University is one of the leading centres of geographical research and education in the world. Its work in Western India on Structure and Dynamics of Groundwater systems produced greater understanding in the western Indo-Gangetic plains aquifer systems and led to impact a broad range of water resources stakeholders in India and the UK.

Rapid groundwater depletion from the Northwestern Indian aquifer system in the western Indo-Gangetic basin has raised serious concerns over the sustainability of groundwater and the livelihoods that depend on it. Sustainable management of this aquifer system requires that we understand the sources and rates of groundwater recharge. This led to research on the structure and dynamics of groundwater systems in Northwestern India conducted by Prof. Alex Densmore from the Department of Geography at Durham University and co-led by Prof. Rajiv Sinha at IIT Kanpur. The research was carried out as part of the NERC/Ministry of Earth Sciences Changing Water Cycle – South Asia Program. Other partners included Delhi University, NIH Roorkee, NGRI, and Imperial College London. This project was funded by the Changing Water Cycle grant by NERC, Indian Ministry of Earth Science (2012-2016) and Newton fund (2015-2016). The project provided research example on an integrated aquifer impact study based on sound geological knowledge, isotope-based reconstruction of groundwater dynamics and numerical-modelling assessments of aquifer distribution and hydrological evolution.

This study led to identifying and understanding the geology and geometry of the aquifer systems in north-western India. The study made possible to collect all existing data into one repository. The hotspots identified in Punjab and Haryana were introduced into the final report sent to the Government and taken as action points by the Central Water Commission. The research has formed the basis for wider engagement and projects with institutions that are responsible for groundwater assessment and management in north-western India, notably the Central Groundwater Board, and led to a workshop with potential beneficiaries in 2016, in Delhi. The study was also extrapolated to regions that had slightly different rock morphology like Bundelkhad in Uttar Pradesh.


These projects therefore contribute to:

SDG - Agenda 2030: The Most Important Issues

SDG1 – No Poverty

SDG2 – Zero Hunger

SDG3 – Good Health and Well-being

SDG6 – Clean Water

SDG8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG12 – Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG13 – Climate Action

SDG15 – Life on Land

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