Shuchi Vora, Freshwater and Climate Adaptation Professional
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
'You don't have a replacement for water. Although we claim it's renewable, it's not renewable. It's essentially reusable...You have the same amount of water circulating as when Earth first came into existence.'
An audio version of this interview is available here: https://soundcloud.com/oxfordclimatealumni/alumni-feature-shuchi-vora-freshwater-professional
Shuchi Vora (’18) is passionate about water. She is a freshwater scientist with The Nature Conservancy in India, but more broadly, she views herself as an ‘engineer, social scientist, and conservationist working on the science-policy practice interface of water and climate change’.
In 2018, Vora earned her MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management from the University of Oxford's School for Geography and the Environment. While there, she researched the effectiveness of water allocation policy decisions in Kenya's Mara river basin. Since then, she has returned to her native India to work with small organisations addressing rainfall and drought issues.
Her interest in water is multi-fold. Growing up in India, her awareness and concern for how resources are managed in a water-stressed country was sparked from a young age. As a practitioner, she's worked in beverage supply chains and urban water infrastructure. In all these experiences, it was clear that water management was the linking strand.
‘The question of how do we manage a resource that is so critical but at the same time is not renewable -- is a finite resource -- is something that I was completely enjoying'. With a background is in chemical engineering and social sciences, her professional interests in water eventually led her to Oxford's Water Science, Policy and Management course.
As part of her studies, she did research in the UK, Spain and Kenya to understand water policy issues in different countries. Her fieldwork allowed her to recognise that water issues around the world often have different contexts but similar root causes. This experience of linking practice and research has been valuable in giving evidence-backed arguments to her work today. The other most valuable part of her Oxford experience?
‘Oxford gave me access to international networks, which is important when you work on something like water.' Her cohort consisted of 27 students from 19 different countries, allowing her to broaden her horizons and to note commonalities in global issues.
Working with a wide variety of academics and practitioners has also allowed her to recognise the importance of bringing together different stakeholders to the table. Community building has been a critical aspect of working through challenges in her career journey. She recounts how, in one of her work projects, ‘The biggest challenge was to get a collective vision from so many different groups. But being able to successfully do that -- to show that it's not a problem of rainfall but how we use water and how we manage our demand -- has been the most exciting part of that journey.’ What's next for Vora?
‘I have been embracing the uncertainty. The only thing certain is the fact that everything is uncertain. I've been working towards a personal and professional culmination of how I think and how I approach my life.’
Looking ahead, she wants to continue facilitating conversations among businesses, governments and communities on effective water use in light of global challenges such as climate change. 'There are so many unknowns and uncertainties that you have to figure out where you can make impacts within your control.’ A fitting reminder that in these COVID-19 times, it's important to go with the flow.
Vora is currently associated with the Water Science Policy Blog as a Regional Ambassador. She is also open to requests for facilitating workshops on systems thinking and design thinking for climate action. She can be contacted at email@example.com.