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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Reviewing the impacts of achieving the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) on the water-energy-land nexus in the Lower Danube Basin

As nations accelerate development towards the 2030 Agenda, natural resources such as water, energy, and land become increasingly scarce. Competition between different sectors over mutual natural resources necessitates sustainable resource management in the SDG implementation process. Romania is an example of a country that is facing rising tension between achieving the SDGs and exploiting the limited natural resources in the Lower Danube Basin. Integrating the Water-Energy-Land (WEL) nexus perspectives with the SDGs has shown promise in accelerating implementation while reducing impacts on resources. However, the coherent integration of these concepts to support national-level decision-making remains a challenge. This study proposes a sustainable development strategy for the Romanian section of the Lower Danube Basin (LDB), employing an integrated framework that emphasises systems thinking and resource nexus concepts.

This study uses an analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to prioritise the five SDGs related to resources essential for sustainable development, namely SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). The prioritisation method considers SDG urgency, interlinkages, and resource requirements to maximise synergies and minimise trade-offs between the SDGs and WEL resources. The study analyses the direct and systemic impacts of achieving Romania’s 2030 targets using quantitative and causal loop analysis, respectively.

The findings suggest that Romania should prioritise SDG 7 with a focus on enhancing energy access and promoting renewable energy production. Achieving Romania’s 2030 capacity targets for hydropower, wind, and solar generation was estimated to require 1.93% of Romania’s total land. Meanwhile, water requirements were found to be negligible in terms of Romania’s current public water supply and water abstraction figures. However, achieving SDG7 may have significant externalities, such as the degradation of freshwater sources and ecosystems, raised water levels, and degraded soil conditions. Furthermore, the synergistic relationship between energy and agricultural sectors may threaten land security through the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ reinforcing system. Therefore, this study recommends codevelopments to alter system behaviour, such as decoupling the energy and agricultural sectors, improving information flows, and a paradigm shift to focus on well-being to reduce the trade-offs of achieving SDG 7 in Romania.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.