Cyclones, dengue, all due to global warming: report
A first-ever comprehensive scientific study on the impact of climate change on India, supported by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), predicts changes in rainfall patterns in western and central India. These changed rainfall patterns will have a bearing on water systems and agriculture.
The report ‘Climate Change and India: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation’, which was released on November 11, warns that as these changes would have a bearing on gross domestic output, the country’s planners would have to adopt a more climate-friendly development process.
The report makes several predictions on climate, rainfall, environment and health.
The districts of Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara in Orissa, Nellore and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and Junagadh and Porbandar in Gujarat will witness severe storms caused by global climatic changes.
“The Himalayan river systems draining into the Ganga basin are gradually dying out,” says the report. Decreasing water in these rivers, which include the Ghagra, Sarda and Yamuna, even as they become choked with sediments deposited from their tributaries, will reach alarming proportions within the next half-century or so, it notes. Himalayan glaciers like the Gangotri and Chhota Shigri, a major source of fresh water, are also shrinking rapidly.
With decreased rainfall in western India, water levels in the Sabarmati river which flows through north Gujarat, and the Luni which flows through Rajasthan, will drop, the report warns.
On the health front too, the report attributes the recent upsurge in dengue cases in urban areas of Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra, partly to an inefficient public health administration and partly because mosquitoes hold sway in conditions of increased temperature and humidity.
Climate changes will also affect agriculture, resulting in losses of farm revenue ranging between 9-25%. A two-degree-centigrade rise in temperature, and a seven per cent increase in rainfall, could adversely affect agriculture in the coastal regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Small losses are also indicated for the major foodgrain-producing regions of Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka.
India’s rich biodiversity in its forests, grasslands, mangroves and coral reefs are at severe risk from climate changes, the report warns. Coral reefs along the Indian coast, and a major attraction in the Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands, will bleach due to the temperature rise, while an increase in sea levels will submerge mangroves and increase the salinity of wetlands along India’s east coast.
Energy, a precious resource, will be further stressed by increased temperatures that will push the demand for space-cooling on the one hand; heightened demands for groundwater will increase water-pumping, on the other.
India’s dream of putting in place state-of-the-art infrastructure will also have to factor in vulnerability to cyclones, heavy rains and landslides, even as standing infrastructure will incur greater costs for retrofitting and upkeep.
The report calls for all this information to be factored into the country’s development planning. Areas that are more vulnerable to malaria, for instance, would need the focused attention of health workers.