The massive flooding in Chennai created ripples at the Paris climate talks where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had highlighted India’s vulnerability to extreme weather, though environment minister Prakash Javadekar said the record rainfall was not linked to climate change.
Harjeet Singh of Action Aid India used pictures of the inundation in southern cities to tell the world that India was among the nations most in danger because of climate change and such natural disasters should be covered under a new compensation mechanism being formalised at the conference.
Under Loss and Damage, developing countries would be able to seek financial assistance from the developed world for “measurable” losses by extreme weather events whose frequency has increased in countries like India, government weather data for the last 100 years show.
“Climate may not be directly responsible for the flooding in Chennai but it has definitely contributed,” Singh told Hindustan Times, reacting to Javadekar’s statement.
The environment minister, who will be back in Paris on Sunday for the ministerial talks, said in New Delhi that what has happened in Chennai over the last ten days is “absolutely” serious but it cannot be “directly attributed” to climate change.
“It is natural calamity but needs to be tackled effectively,” he said.
A few days ago, Laxman Singh Rathore, chief of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), had told HT the emerging weather patterns fit the larger picture of climate change predicted by Indian scientists as well as global reports with reference to an earlier phase of flooding in southern India.
He had, however, cautioned that individual events should not be directly linked to the broader issue of climate change without evidence. The inundation in southern India does not fall into the category of “individual events”.
Singh said the Chennai flood pictures showed India was not just the world’s third biggest carbon emitter but among the countries at highest risk due to climate change and the world needs to understand that.
His remarks came against the backdrop of India being considered unwilling to shun its coal-dependent economic growth without rich nations understanding the reality of India’s energy story.
“Coal is not our passion but compulsion,” Singh said.
At another event, experts from the World Health Organization identified India as among the countries most susceptible to climate change including its adverse health impacts.
“Disaster brings diseases and we are seeing an increase in its frequency in vulnerable countries across the world including India,” said a WHO representative who did not disclose his name.