India will join the league of Europe and the United States by setting up a chain of observatories, across the Himalayas, deserts and islands, to monitor the impact of climate change.
While making this announcement in Paris, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said the facilities will help India understand the actual impact of climate change on a long-term basis among its diverse flora and fauna and different bio-zones.
The government has picked six zones prone to climate change – the western Himalayas, eastern Himalayas, north-western arid zone, central Indian forests, Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu and Kashmir and Sunderbans – to set up the observatories with a network of scientists drawn from different institutes.
“We have ten coastal states, ten Himalayan states, ten forest-dominant states, 1,300 islands,” the minister said. “This new initiative which is science-based is very important.”
India is home to about seven percent of the world’s bio-diversity, a large part of which is yet undiscovered, and faces the risk of losing it because of increasing human population. Another 400 million people are likely to be added to the country’s 1.21-billion population in the next two decades.
A government report said the observatories will conduct research on a wide-range of issues such as the impact of climate change on bird populations, freshwater lakes in the Himalayan region, movement of animals and marine ecology.
“The research would help us understand the impact of climate change better,” said environment secretary Ashok Lavasa.
The observatories are critical considering that a third of India’s natural vegetation could change in character by the end of the century and several vector-borne pathogens such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya may find conditions favourable through the year in many regions, says the study.
As of now, there are a few of observatories – one in the Western Ghats and another in Goa -- to understand the impact of climate change in the long run and prepare adequate adaptation plans.
The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, runs the facility in the Western Ghats and the National Institute of Oceanography has another for the western coastal region in Goa.
The report says India has been identified as particularly vulnerable to climate change because of a large portion of population living close to risk areas and lack of information based on which mitigation and adaptation measures can be implemented.
India does not have micro-level climate impact mapping like the United States and Europe. The initiative could help plot a climate map that could be useful in managing the crisis whenever it hits.