Pakistan facing severe Climate Changes
The fact that India faces multiple environmental crises was highlighted by the government’s report on the impact of global warming across the country. The report, soon to be submitted to the UN, predicts as much as a 4 degree rise in maximum temperatures in some parts of Kutch and Rajasthan by the next decade. A clear need therefore exists to seriously consider effective mitigation measures for the anticipated effects of climate change as India will be severely impacted by it. Several sections of the Indian populace will not be able to buffer themselves from the disastrous effects of global warming. With close economic ties to natural resources and climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water and forestry, India is slated to face a major threat. The economic, social and ecological price of the climate change will be massive. It is in the backdrop of this looming threat that the country needs to look at out of box solutions to combat the menace.
With changes in key climate variable like temperature, precipitation and humidity, crucial sectors like agriculture and rural development are likely to be affected in a major way. The possible consequences of global warming are already being felt with the observation of extreme temperature events like heat waves and cold snaps that have increased both in intensity and duration. We are now experiencing weird weather phenomenon with natural calamities and extreme weather events like droughts, floods and cyclones occurring more frequently. India, with 1/6th of the world’s population can no longer afford to maintain its present laidback attitude. With the government report highlighting climate change threat that will lead to floods or water scarcity, there is no time to lose. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns are going to impact agriculture, forestry, wild life and human health in a big way. With the onset of climatic fluctuations it could disrupt our monsoon cycles, throwing agriculture completely out of gear, leading to wide spread drought and hunger. This could be especially disastrous for a country where 50% of the agriculture sector still depends on the monsoon.
The rise in temperature will alter local environment in important ways. This will bring great hardship to people across the country by its catastrophe consequences on water resources, power and biodiversity. Higher temperatures would also mean that Himalayan glaciers and snow packs which are the lifeline for a large number of people would get depleted at a faster rate. Experts estimate that the gangotri glacier in Himalayas is retreating at a speed of about 30 meters a year. If warming continues, there will be risk of devastating floods every year in some parts of the country whereas other parts may reel under severe drought.
More than anything, what we need to consider is that in our greed for higher GDP growth, we are overexploiting our natural resources. Obviously, consequences of climate change are yet to sink in at the grassroots level. The fact that we may have to live with water scarcity is not yet fully understood. Traditional water resources are drying up while river waters have been polluted. One of the major issues is the imbalance in irrigation patterns and techniques as a result of populist subsidies. Farmers are pumping out groundwater excessively thus further lowering the water table, which is already at an alarming level. According to a study based on NASA satellite images, Punjab Haryana and Rajasthan have lost about 109 cubic kilometers of groundwater between 2002 and 2008 despite normal rainfall. At the same time, irrigation infrastructure is inadequate. This directly impacts the agriculture sector which is already plagued by low yields and poor storage facilities.
With the world running out of fresh water, water is turning out to be next oil yet; little is done to conserve water. Water storage facilities are woefully inadequate. Rainwater harvesting and other water management practices are hardly popular. All this despite that fact that 70% of the population still depends on the agriculture sector for its livelihood. The need of the hour is to build better irrigation infrastructure, set up more water treatment plants, replenish groundwater resources and levy taxes to save water and discourage its wastage.
To bridge the vast gap between knowledge and action, we first need to recognize that climate change impacts as an immediate concern and not just a future one. It may take place gradually over a period of time with the impacts building on slowly. But this does not mean that we should wait and see.