Gloomy forecast for poor

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Nov 27, 2007 23:23 IST

India’s poor would be among the world’s 40 million poor people to be adversely hit if the 10-year window for initiating major programmes on climate change mitigation and adaptation are missed, a United Nations report on fighting climate change has said.

Released simultaneously in India and Brazil on Tuesday, the UNDP report, Fighting Climate Change : Human Solidarity in Divided World, says the impact of climate change on the poor is “significantly underestimated”.

“The world is drifting towards a tipping point that could lock the poorest countries in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats and loss of livelihood,” said Maxine Olson, UNDP’s resident representative in India.

In India, the report says, changing rainfall patterns may result in a drop in agricultural productivity, directly affecting 60 per cent of the population.

People living in the Gangetic plains have been cited as the most vulnerable to climate change with a fall in water availability, resulting in an adverse impact on agriculture. In 2007 alone, 17 million people had borne the brunt of floods.

The continued retreat of Himalayan glaciers could increase water scarcity, affecting 500 million people in South Asia. Bangladesh has witnessed the worst floods in the last 100 years this year, the report says, predicting a higher frequency of such floods in India and Bangladesh.

The report says India’s carbon emissions have increased by 97 per cent since 1990, one of the highest rates in the world. Still, India’s per capita emission is one-tenth of the US and less than half China’s average.

It adds that 50 per cent of India’s population does not have access to electricity. Areas with power connectivity have unreliable supplies, with the all-India average of power shortage being 12 per cent. To sustain economic growth of 8-9 per cent till 2030, India will have to increase its energy generation by five times, leading to carbon emissions of more than 200 per cent.

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi asking how many planets would be required if India was to follow Britian’s model of industrialisation has been used to demonstrate that only clean technologies can lead to sustainable growth in the future. Quoting a Planning Commission study, the report says India can produce the same amount of power without one-third of the fuel if the efficiency of power plants is improved.

Calling for quick adaptation and mitigation measures on eve of Bali conference in December, the report has urged the global leaders to create a Climate Change Mitigation Facility to finance incremental low-carbon energy investment in developing countries.


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