The authors of the study have recommended a climate risk index to be developed for all states based on hazards and vulnerability of states. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
The authors of the study have recommended a climate risk index to be developed for all states based on hazards and vulnerability of states. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

East India extremely vulnerable to climate change: Analysis

Approximately 90% districts in Assam, 80% in Bihar, and 60% in Jharkhand fall in the category of 153 most vulnerable districts, the report said.
By Jayashree Nandi
PUBLISHED ON APR 18, 2021 11:33 AM IST

Eight eastern states of Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal are most vulnerable to climate change and should be prioritised for funding and efforts to capacitate them against the associated risks, a report released by some of India’s top institutes has assessed.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and Indian Institute of Technology at Mandi and Guwahati, funded by the department of science and technology have together done the assessment by defining vulnerabilities of states and districts using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

The AR5 defines the risk of climate change as the interaction of three factors, namely, hazard, exposure and vulnerability, where vulnerability is defined as the predisposition 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,” NH Ravindranath, retired professor, Indian Institute of Science and co-researcher of the assessment said, explaining the rationale for prioritising these states for adaptation fund and also international aid.

Sensitivity determines the impact of a climate hazard. The effect may be direct, such as a change in the crop yield due to a change in the mean, range, or variability of temperature; or it could be indirect—damage due to an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding owing to sea-level rise, as per the report.

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 landholdings, women’s participation in the workforce; yield variability of food grains; the area under rainfed agriculture, forest area per 1000 rural population; area covered under crop insurance; density of healthcare 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 them vulnerable.

“Approximately 90% districts in Assam, 80% in Bihar, and 60% in Jharkhand fall in the category of 153 most vulnerable districts, exhibiting a high level of concentration of vulnerable districts,” says the assessment released on Saturday. According to the study, the least vulnerable states were Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland, Goa and Maharashtra.

The authors clarify that the vulnerability indicators are relative and the assessment does not imply that 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, the most vulnerable state as per the assessment, high proportion of BPL population, prevalence of rainfed agriculture, and high incidence of vector-borne diseases are the major drivers of vulnerability.

A relatively higher rate of implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), high road density and extensive railway network, a greater number of health care workers per 1000 population, and a low prevalence of vector-borne diseases were among the indicators found common 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.

“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. Council on Energy, Environment and Water (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 said responding to the DST report.

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) that 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 rainfalls will likely increase by about 5%,” said lead author Anja Katzenberger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in a statement.

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