India needs adequate climate change policies to face the environmental challenges ahead
Half of the country suffering from drought; ripe conditions for cholera and malaria; dramatic increase in rural unemployment; unknown effects on human body systems.
India is one of the most threatened and least prepared, when it comes the effects of climate change.
K. Shadananan Nair, senior scientist at India’s Nansen Environmental Research Centre, warns of severe and rapid effects of climate change facing India. He spoke at a Friday session on biodiversity at the Beyond Kyoto conference.
Water, water everywhere
The rapid and extensive effects of climate change are intensifying India’s risk of permanent land flooding.
Nair estimated 50 percent of the country is prone to drought within the next 50 years; rising water temperatures will enlarge the areas prone to cholera and malaria; a water crisis is predicted in north India’s Himalayan river area by 2050; rural unemployment will increase dramatically; physiological functioning (i.e. metabolic rate) will be compromised.
Already, islands in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest in India, are quite literally, off the map. Official reports affirm rising sea levels have already claimed at least four islands in the Sundarbans over the past 20 years. When Lohachara sank into the sea in 2006, some 6,000 families were displaced, not to mention precious plant and animal life.
Nair estimates that with 7,500 km of densely populated, low-lying coastlines in India, “a one-meter rise in sea
level would displace seven million people.”
The BBC reported that another 15 percent of livable areas in the Indian Sundarbans will have been lost by 2020 and displace 30,000 people, according to Professor Sugato Hazra, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Calcutta’s Jadavpur University.
Climate policy is crucial
Nair concluded that a “strong, impartial and non-vested political will” is essential for India
Nair highlighted several qualifications for India to develop a successful policy in climate change:
- Public awareness
- Proper training for professionals
- Combating conflict grounded in disagreements between social groups
- Increased awareness for farmers
- A network of institution specifically designed to address issues in climate change
- Redesigning urban infrastructure and urban life
- Financial backing
India ranks among the top of rapidly-developing countries, but it is barely making marks on preparedness for the effects of climate change.
India scored a 0.5 on a scale from 0 to 10 measuring preparation for expected climate effects such as severe water scarcity, flooding, drought, and mass migrations, according to Rajendra K. Pachauri , chairman of the IPCC.
By Anne Shifley