Representational: Another international study has flagged India’s vulnerability to climate change this week. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Representational: Another international study has flagged India’s vulnerability to climate change this week. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

8 states most prone to climate crisis: Study

Vulnerable states are Assam, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh.
By Jayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 20, 2021 06:43 AM IST

Eight states in the eastern parts of India are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and should be prioritised for interventions, a new assessment has found. The states are Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

The assessment by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Technology at Mandi and Guwahati, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, has used the intergovernmental panel on climate change’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) to define vulnerability and make state and district-wise assessments.

The AR5 defines the risk of climate change as the interaction of “hazard”, “exposure” and “vulnerability”, where vulnerability is conceptualised as the “propensity or predisposition of the system to be adversely affected”.

“Vulnerability is basically a function of sensitivity and adaptive capacity. All states in India are vulnerable to climate change as per our assessment. But these eastern and central states are more vulnerable because of their poverty levels; lack of irrigation; low forest cover in some cases; low adaptive capacity of the health sector among other drivers. This assessment can basically guide which states should be prioritised for use of adaptation fund. It should also guide aid agencies and international financial institutions like the World Bank and others on where money is needed the most,” said NH Ravindranath, retired professor, Indian Institute of Science, and a co-researcher of the assessment.

Sensitivity determines the first-order impact of a climate hazard. The effect may be direct (for instance, change in crop yield in response to a change in the mean, range, or variability of temperature) or indirect (such as damages caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to sea-level rise), the report says. Some key indicators were selected for the assessment through discussions with state governments and scientists. These include: Percentage of population living below the poverty line; income share from natural resources; the proportion of marginal and small land holdings, women’s participation in the workforce; yield variability of food grains; the area under rainfed agriculture, forest area per 1,000 rural population; area covered under crop insurance; density of health care workers and others. Weights were assigned to each of these indicators to calculate a score and all states were found to cross the threshold making all of them vulnerable.

“Approximately 90% districts in Assam, 80% in Bihar, and 60% in Jharkhand fall in Quartile I (i.e, in the category of 153 most vulnerable districts) exhibiting a high level of concentration of vulnerable districts,” the assessment states, adding that the least vulnerable states as per the assessment released on Saturday are Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland, Goa and Maharashtra.

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The authors clarify that vulnerability indicators are relative measures and that it does not imply that, say, Maharashtra is not vulnerable in an absolute sense. “It should also be noted that this vulnerability ranking is based on a set of indicators that were used in this assessment with a specific objective. These indicators predominantly focused on socio-economic drivers as well as those related to primary sector-based livelihood along with some biophysical and institutional factors,” the report said.

For Jharkhand which is the most vulnerable state according to the assessment, a high proportion of BPL (below poverty line) population, prevalence of rainfed agriculture, and high incidence of vector-borne diseases are the major drivers of vulnerability.

A relatively high rate of implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, a high road density and extensive railway network, a greater number of health care workers per 1,000 population, and a low prevalence of vector-borne diseases were among indicators found in less vulnerable states. The authors have recommended a climate risk index to be developed for all states based on hazards and vulnerability of states.

Another international study has flagged India’s vulnerability to climate change this week. Monsoon rainfall in India is likely to become stronger and more erratic according to an analysis by a team of German researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany (LMU) which compared more than 30 climate models. The study published in the Journal of Earth System Dynamics predicts more extremely wet years in the future with grave consequences for India’s economy, food systems and agriculture.

“We have found robust evidence for an exponential dependence: For every degree Celsius of warming, monsoon rainfall will likely increase by about 5%,” said lead author Anja Katzenberger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in a statement.

“The study reiterates the need for the 2020s to become a decade of climate action and building climate resilience. As a next step, it is also important to highlight the complexity and non-linearity of climate risks across Indian states. The focus needs to be on climate-proofing of geographies, economies and infrastructure at the state and district level. A CEEW analysis has already found that more than 75% of Indian districts are vulnerable to extreme climate events. Identification of risks at a granular level via building a climate risk atlas would be crucial,” said Abinash Mohanty, programme lead, CEEW.

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