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Action to reduce climate change impacts in India

Jul 13, 2009

Climate Change Impacts in Drought-and Flood-Affected Areas, a new World Bank report offers a combination of measures aimed at tackling the problem of climate change in selected climate hotspots. The focus of the study is to develop a new integrated modelling approach to assess future climate risks in India.

Climate Change Impacts in Drought-and Flood-Affected Areas: Case Studies in India

Publisher: The World Bank, May 2009

The Report, Climate Change Impacts in Drought-and Flood-Affected Areas: Case Studies in India is the first of its kind in South Asia Region.

Climate variability and climate change are resulting in a more severe occurrence of extreme events, such as droughts, floods and cyclones, which affect the poor most, and jeopardise agricultural production and livelihoods of rural communities.

The impacts on countries like India are likely to be significant as about 20% of India’s GDP is attributable to the agriculture sector which employs 57% of the total workforce, the report says.

Recognising the significance of climate variability on growth and development, the Government of India has established a range of programmes, policies and institutions to moderate the impacts of climate-related risks.

These long-standing programmes have done much to unleash the development potential of agriculture and have helped build resilience to climate shocks.

The report makes a strong case for a shift in agricultural systems in order to overcome future climate change pressures.

For example, climate models predict that under the climate change scenario, sugarcane yields are expected to decline considerably (by nearly 30%) in Maharashtra, as a result of increased moisture stress caused by warmer climate in the future.

With an emerging gap between the languishing performance of agriculture and the accelerating growth of industry, the Government of India has assigned the highest priority to supporting development in the agriculture sector in the Eleventh Five Year Plan period (2007-2012), with targeted growth of 4%.

Reaching development targets will therefore require priority investments in building the climate resilience of vulnerable rural communities with a portfolio of adaptation options that can address climate risks.

The modelling framework used in this study is a complex but powerful tool that generates information on future climate scenarios and the likely impacts on agriculture.

Also amongst its several suggestions to better manage climate risks, the report has called for setting up a climate information management system to help integrate baseline information into policy, planning and investment decisions.

It advocates building climate risk assessment as a requirement for all long-lived infrastructure projects; explores new and innovative financial instruments to promote income diversification in rural areas; emphasises the need for aggressively pursuing water conservation and controlling groundwater demand at a larger geographical scale and suggests strengthened support for agricultural research and extension to promote sustainable modes of dry-land farming.

Fortunately India has considerable technical and scientific expertise to understand, analyse and act upon climate risks.

There is also a broad scientific consensus today that human induced climate change is taking place at a significant rate and poses a substantial threat to global development efforts. These risks could undermine gains in agriculture, health and infrastructure and impede India’s progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

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