CLIMATE CHANGE – THE CHALLENGES BEFORE INDIA
There is overwhelming evidence today that climate change is a reality, as its impacts are beginning to be felt across various regions and sectors. The implications of climate change will have a cascading effect around the globe and particularly in developing countries. India is highly vulnerable to climate change. The article presents an overview of the climate change scenario in Indian context.
India is highly vulnerable to climate change, not only because of high physical exposure but also because livelihoods and economic activities in the subcontinent are closely tied to the natural resource base. With its varied geographical and climate characteristics, India is also vulnerable to the occurrence and extreme events. Climate change could alter the distribution and quality of the country’s natural resources and adversely affect the livelihood of its people. With an economy closely tied to its natural resource base and climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water and forestry, the country faces many challenges because of the projected change in climate. This could undermine India’s efforts towards achieving its sustainable development objectives, which includes the poverty eradication programmes.
We need to not only understand the climate and its impacts on natural systems, but also to realize changing social vulnerability. For instance, climate change triggers altered rainfall and precipitation patterns. This affects hydrological systems and agricultural production and productivity, endangering livelihoods of communities that depend on it. It is estimated that India’s population will grow to 1.6 billion by 2050, putting enormous stresses on natural resources and impacting not only food security but also the availability of other resources like energy, water, urban infrastructure etc. In other words, the entire economy would be imperiled.
To combat climate change, India urgently needs to focus on several issues.
We need to adopt a multi pronged strategy to respond to the energy security problem, energy efficiency (demand side efficiency measures in industry, residential, and transport sectors as well as efficiency improvement in energy conversion technologies) and mainstreaming of renewable sources in to the country’s energy mix.
Promoting Renewable Energy Sources (Hydroelectricity, wind, solar, biomass and nuclear power):
While India may continue to remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels (in particular, coal), in the long run renewable energy can reduce India’s dependence on petroleum imports to a certain extent.
Development of efficient public transportation systems can reduce the dependence on personal vehicles, thus moderating the increase in emissions.
Conserving forests and increasing forest cover therefore contributes to mitigation. At the same time, forests help to prevent soil erosion and downstream flood.
In addition to water conservation and management, there is a need to revise current arrangements for provision of free or highly subsidized power to farmers as it encourages wasteful use of groundwater, thereby increasing the vulnerability in dry land areas.
The Govt. of India is implementing a range of policies aimed at mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), released by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on 30th June 2008, outlines a national strategy to adapt to climate change and enhance the ecological sustainability of India’s development. Its eight missions provide a framework for addressing climate change as a core development issue. They are: National Solar Mission, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Water Mission, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture and National Mission for Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change. These Missions address sustainable development and co-benefits to society at large, with a focus on adaptation and mitigation and promotes scientific research to address climate change.
India’s capacity to cope with (or adapt to) climate change is severely limited by the fact that it is a low income country, facing serious resource constraints. These deficiencies in adaptive capacity can be overcome only through rapid development. Without accelerated economic and social development future generations in India would remain extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, India should continue to contribute the global mitigation “win-win” measures.
Dr.Sanjay Tomar, The Chartered Accountant, Diamond Jubilee Special,( firstname.lastname@example.org).