"We need to accept now that climate change is something that is bound to happen.”
"Not just high temperatures but fluctuating temperatures. Not just drought but also floods."
Climate Change, essentially the domino effect of rapid industrialisation, is today a reality. It has already arrived in India A natural upshot of global warming, climate change has been visible in the marked shift in weather patterns in the past few years. Unpredictable monsoons, extreme climate conditions, increase in natural disasters, rise in sea levels and crop failures are some of the obvious impacts of climate change being felt here, besides emerging changes in glacier advances or retreats of the Himalayas.
One may recall the atypical case of Rajasthan, a historically drought-prone and arid State. If the floods of Barmer district in 2006 was a bolt from the blue, the situation in 2007 was worse when Rajasthan witnessed an unprecedented 2 month long flooding in five of its districts. Yet again, in August 2008, incessant rains led to the breach of the Jaswant Sagar Dam.
Contrarily, the North-Eastern States of Assam, whose lush green forests once owed allegiance to heavy downpour almost half the year, have been fraught with dry weather in various regions since 2004, while facing widespread flooding of Brahmaputra and intermittent flash flooding from breaching of embankments.
On the one hand the Himalayan river systems draining into the Ganga river basin are dying out, on the other hand glacier melting has resulted in recurrent flooding of Yamuna and Brahmaputra rivers. It is a disaster, waiting to happen, as the impact will be felt on human survival, agriculture, infrastructure, forest cover, hydel power and the general economy.
Then again, the village of Basahi village in Bihar has become a victim of climate change. Increased run-off from the mountain glaciers in Tibet and Nepal has meant consequent breach of the Budhigandhak river every year. Villagers think fixing the river embankment is the solution. Little do they know that the heavy floods are a visible sign of a climate flux. The monsoons they once welcomed is now viewed with trepidation, as it gets heavier and relentless every successive year.
In particular, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim are facing the heat of climate change the most. The effects of climate transmutation are more pronounced in these mountainous regions because of their fragile ecosystems. The melt-down of glaciers is already flooding river valleys. Flash floods are becoming the order of the day. Paradoxically, the prolonged drought conditions at other times of the year, are giving rise to a serious concern about water management, a hitherto unknown issue in this water-rich region. It is inevitable that such shifts in the environmental and geophysical attribute of this Himalayan region have a non-reversal impact on land-use patterns and crop production.
In such a situation, the continued construction of hydro-electric projects are worsening the imbalances that have already set in.
The livelihood of the people of India and the economy itself, largely depends upon the agriculture, forestry, wetlands and fisheries. The monsoon rains influence the land-usage, which is grossly dependant upon water-based eco-systems. Vagaries of rainfall patterns and changes in water cycle are also directly related to water borne diseases.
All of this indicates the immediate need to redress the problem of unpredictable rainfall and chalk up surrogate options to insure farmers against drought-like or flood conditions. Government needs to work closely with local movements and NGOs to seek possible solutions. While unpredicatability of rainfall needs to be linked to climate change in order to take suitable measures, appropriate water usage policies and regulations are increasingly required. The snail-paced 2 % growth in agricultural sector needs a fillip and impact of such disastrous floods and droughts lessened.
Water usage is extremely important in this traditionally agro-based economy. Otherwise very soon not only is India in danger of losing its capacity as one the highest wheat and rice providers, amongst others, but also pave the way for multinationals tol take over agricultural land from suicide-committing farmers, going the Mexico way !