Millions of farmers don’t have safeguards against climate change impact

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 27, 2015 10:32 IST
A farmer works in his field in Noida. (Burhaan Kinu /HT Photo)

The impact of climate change on India’s agriculture is more evident than ever before, but millions of small and marginal farmers do not have adequate safeguards, said a study released on Friday.

The country’s farm sector is considered highly vulnerable to shifts in weather patterns as half of the cropland is dependent on rainfall, drawing around 60% of the farmers to the core of the climate-proofing debate.

Climate change increases frequency of extreme weather events, a fact apparent in rainfall data of the past 100 years. Government statistics show such events have increased in recent years, causing massive damage to crops.

The report, “Lived Anomaly”, by the Delhi-based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said the area affected by freak weather events in 2015 jumped to 18.33 million hectares from 0.35 million hectares in 2013, resulting in crop loss worth Rs 20,453 crore. The findings come three days ahead of a climate conference in Paris where 196 countries will decide a new pact providing a mechanism to tackle global warming between 2020 and 2030.

The report underscores the inability of the Indian system to cope with climate change weather events on farmland and points out that compensation is given for a maximum of two hectares of land, is less than 50% of the actual damage on that plot and comes several months after the actual loss.

“The quantum of compensation decided is most of the times a political decision rather than a scientific one,” the study says, adding that the loss is measured by local revenue officers on the basis of oral evidence and often without visiting all the affected areas.

The study comes on the heels of unseasonable rains and hailstorms destroying crops in parts of northern, eastern and central India this year.

Crop insurance, touted as a solution to provide respite to farmers hit by weather anomalies, is almost a non-starter. The CSE said just 20% of farmers are covered under the Centre’s crop insurance schemes that basically provide a safety net for farm loan dues in case of crop damage.

Climate change implications for Indian agriculture

*Kharif crops to be hit more by rainfall variability, rabi crops by dropping temperatures

*Wheat faces damage in rabi due to terminal heat stress

*Negative impact on rice, wheat and horticulture

*Neutral or positive impact on some crops like soybean, groundnut, potato in few parts

*Milk yield in livestock to be hit by heat waves

*Significant negative impact on commercial poultry due to heat stress

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