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Climate change is here, heat’s on

The worst fears of India being hit by the effects of climate change have been confirmed by 14 sets of research studies released here on Wednesday.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2009 23:50 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The worst fears of India being hit by the effects of climate change have been confirmed by 14 sets of research studies released here on Wednesday.

Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh, while releasing the studies, said food production — now 230 million tonne — might fall 20-40 per cent by the end of this century.

Besides, the severity of storms will increase, glacier melting will be faster and flash monsoon rains will become a routine affair.

Agriculture research body, Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR), found that a temperature increase of one degree Celsius would mean 3 to 7 per cent fall in wheat, soybean, mustard, groundnut and potato crops.

“The loss will be much higher, if the temperature rise is more than one degree,” said P.K. Aggarwal, who heads the environmental sciences division of ICAR.

Aggarwal asked the government to start teaching farmers how to adapt to the changing climate as soon as possible by switching to crop varieties that could withstand heat.

He said, “A crop variety takes 10 to 20 years to develop. We need to act now.”

Ramesh said the government formed a national network of 127 educational institutions to conduct research on climate changes and to provide solutions to farmers. “We are already late. It is now time to act,” he said.

A study forecast that wheat production would fall from 75 million tonne in 2000 to 72 million tonne in 2020 and further to 54 million tonne by 2080. But if the new crop varieties are used, the production figure may increase to 76 million tonne by 2020.

Data on the Himachal Pradesh apple crop showed that production per tree had fallen from 7 tonne in 1980 to about 2 tonne in 2001 due to warmer winters.

Also, rising temperature led to a fall in the quality of Basmati rice.

But climate change could improve the chickpea, maize, sorghum and millet crops in the West Coast and the potato and mustard crops in northwest India due to reduced frost damage.