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Climate change will leave 5mn Indian children malnourished

india Updated: Dec 12, 2009 01:07 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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Rise in food prices by over 1.5 times owing to climate change will leave five million Indian children malnourished by 2020, says a study by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a conglomeration of agri-research bodies.

“Climate change will give India an additional five million malnourished children under the age of five,” said Gerald Nelson, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, a global food policy research body.

This will lead to an increase in calorie deficiency by 20 per cent per capita, checkmating India’s bid to eradicate
malnutrition by 2050.

Close to 46 per cent of India’s children under five years of age are malnourished. The figure has gone down by just one per cent in the last decade.

The problem is more acute in the rich agriculture belts of Gangetic plains in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, which, the report says, would be among the worst hit by climate change.

Agreeing with most findings of the report, Planning Commission member in-charge of agriculture Abhijit Sen said the country needs a policy for adaptation in the agriculture sector.

In the absence of such a policy, the country’s food security will be at risk, Sen said.

“Prices of food are rising and if climate change accelerates the pace of the price-increase, each of our poverty alleviation programmes would be hit.”

Establishing a link between a drop in agriculture production by 10-40 per cent to increase in food prices and rising malnutrition, Nelson, quoting the report, said that close to 20 per cent of the additional malnourished children in the world would be in India.

The fall in agriculture production will also lead to a fall of 20 per cent per capita calorie availability in South Asia. At present, the per capita calorie availability is 2,424, the second lowest after Sub-Saharan Africa. It would fall to 2,226 in next 10-12 years because of climate change, Nelson said.

India’s calorie intake is about 30 per cent less than that of the average of developed countries and 10 per cent of the developing nations.

Still, India will be relatively better off than Sub-Saharan Africa, the worst hit owing to climate change.