New World Bank report calls for action to reduce climate change impacts in India's drought-and flood-affected areas
NEW DELHI, May 25, 2009 - A new World Bank report says India can further its climate resilience through a combination of measures and right incentives aimed at multiple levels of government - local, state, and national.
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. The Report looks at options to tackle the problem of adaptation to climate change in selected climate hotspots. The regional focus is on two drought-prone regions of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and a flood prone region in Orissa. The study has been innovative in developing a new integrated modeling approach to assessing future climate risks. It addresses both current climate vulnerabilities, identifies effective coping strategies and investigates future climate impacts and adaptive responses.
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 jeopardize agricultural production and livelihoods of rural communities. The impacts on countries like India are likely to be significant as about 20 percent of India's GDP is attributable to the agriculture sector which employs 57 percent of the total workforce, the report says.
"Although climate change impacts may take decades to manifest, there is a need for action now to avoid higher future costs and missed opportunities associated with a development path that compromises on climate risk management," said Richard Damania, Lead Environmental Economist of the World Bank and Task Leader of the Study. "For example, the Report says incomes on the small rain-fed farms in Andhra Pradesh could decline by 5 percent under modest climate change and by over 20 percent under harsher conditions, bringing farmers closer to, and in many cases, under the poverty line. Many of the actions and policies that would build future climate resilience produce development benefits here and now. Focusing on these measures would thus yield a double dividend for development and climate sustainability" he added.
Acknowledging the need for action Mr. J Mauskar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests said: "This Report represents an excellent, timely and balanced analytical study by the World Bank that will help to strengthen the Government of India's thinking as it moves forward to implement the concerned missions of the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The report endorses our approach and shows the way forward in addressing future problems."
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 percent) in Maharashtra, as a result of increased moisture stress caused by warmer climate in the future, it states. "While much is already occurring across the country and there is research in dryland farming for rice, horticulture, and numerous other crops, small and medium farmers in dryland areas will need greater support with knowledge and policy assistance to make this transition work on a large scale," said Priti Kumar, Senior Environmental Specialist, World Bank and co-task team leader of the Study.
Water management also remains a formidable challenge. The climate change projections indicate that even when farmers have largely adapted to arid cropping patterns, increased demand and consequent water stress could severely jeopardize livelihoods and diminish agricultural productivity.
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; emphasizes 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 dryland farming.
Fortunately India has considerable technical and scientific expertise to understand, analyze and act upon climate risks. There are many encouraging initiatives and policy reforms that are moving in the right direction. These provide an ideal foundation for developing a comprehensive strategy for promoting adaptation to climate change.
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.
The Report also warns of high risks associated with complacency. Projections in the Report suggest considerable and mounting human toll from climate change and highlights the need for mitigating avoidable costs, particularly among the vulnerable sections of society.
i. A climate information management system;
ii. Build climate risk assessment for long-lived infrastructure projects;
iii. Explore new and innovative financial instruments to promote income diversification in rural areas;
iv. Greater support for agricultural research and extension to promote sustainable modes of dryland farming
Some of the highlights of the report are as follows:
- In the arid study regions of Andhra Pradesh, climate projections indicate substantially higher temperatures (2.3 degree Celsius - 3.4 degree Celsius, on average) and a modest increase but more erratic rainfall (of about 4 percent to 8 percent at the basin level). With high prevailing baseline temperatures, these changes will generate deteriorating agro-climatic conditions, with declining yields for all the major crops (rice, groundnut and jowar). Farm incomes could substantially decline by over 20 percent.
- In the drought prone belt of Maharashtra, climate projections suggest a significant though more variable increase in rainfall (approximately 20 percent to 30 percent at the basin level) accompanied by higher temperatures of about 2.4 degree Celsius - 3.8 degree Celsius, on average. As a result of the heat stress caused by a warmer climate, sugarcane yields are expected to decline considerably (by nearly 30 percent), even though there may be small improvements in the yields of several dryland crops.
- In Orissa, climate projections suggest a substantial shift in the patterns of rainfall towards the flood-prone coastal regions with a dramatic increase in the incidence of flooding. In some districts rice yields will come down by as much as 12 percent.
- For drought-prone areas, the report recommends the need for a diverse portfolio of cost-effective ways of reaching the poorer farmers to help reduce their risk exposure.
* Reforms in dryland farming which includes effective water management strategies;
* Opportunities for farm services with low costs of production and intensive agro-forestry and livestock based production systems;
* Instruments that tackle the problem of indebtedness and provides incentives for job mobility; and
* Provision of local public goods - notably infrastructure and education that provide opportunities for income diversification. The report suggests that much of the above can be achieved through sectoral programs and innovative institutional reforms to strengthen the resilience of communities and eco-systems against climate-related risks.
- For floods, the report suggests strengthened systems for detection and forecasting floods as well as structural and nonstructural measures for resilience building for reducing the adverse effects of climate change.
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