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Doomsday report

Mosquito bites may not remain only a seasonal menace, your daal-roti will be costlier, drinking water would be a luxury and you will have to live with unpredictable weather, reports Chetan Chauhan.
Hindustan Times | By Chetan Chauhan, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2008 12:52 AM IST

Mosquito bites may not remain only a seasonal menace, your daal-roti will be costlier, drinking water would be a luxury and you will have to live with unpredictable weather. These are some of the implications of the predictions made for India in the National Action Plan on Climate Change released by the government on Monday.

The plan, which says India spends 2.6 per cent of its GDP on adapting to the variables of climate change, projects temperatures to rise by 3 to 5 degree Celsius by the end of this century, with northern India getting warmer.

More rains in summer

Based on climate simulations by the Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology, Pune, the plan predicts that rains during summer will become more intense from 2040, increasing by 15 per cent by 2100. In the last two years, northern India has been wetter and more humid.

The monsoon rainfall in northern India and parts of southern India has increased by 10-12 per cent in the last 100 years, the action plan says. This year, according to the IITM, the monsoon rainfall has been much higher than normal in northern India.

Mosquitoes and malaria

The situation provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and malaria throughout the year. A 3.8 degree Celsius increase in the temperature and 7 per cent increase in relative humidity enable mosquitoes to remain active throughout the year, the plan says. “This is the reason for mosquitoes being active this summer. Hot and dry summers kill them but humidity helps them survive,” said a senior professor at the IITM.

Fall in food production

Variability in monsoons and seasonal rainfall could lead to 10 to 40 per cent falls in agricultural food production. An estimate of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute says for every degree’s rise in temperature, wheat production would fall by 4-5 million tonnes. The temperature rise, estimated to be up by 5 degrees, could have a major impact on India's wheat production of 78 million tones in 2008. Agricultural scientists, however, say that a major fall in production can be tackled by advising farmers to make adjustments - such as sowing the rabi crop early.

Melting glaciers

A warmer India would mean more water in the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra because of faster melting of the Himalayan glaciers. If the glaciers feeding these river melt by 2050, as predicted, northern India would head for major water crises. India may also have to cope with the threat of an increase in drought-prone areas and flood zones, with western India predicted to get warmer and the northern and southern parts expected to get more rains.

More floods, droughts

Already about 40 million hectares of land is flood prone, including river basins in the northern and north-eastern belts, affecting 30 million people every year.

Large areas in Rajasthan, Andhra, Gujarat and Maharashtra and smaller parts in Karnataka, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and West Bengal are frequently hit by droughts. "Such vulnerable regions may be particularly impacted by climate change," the report says.

The plan, which announces eight missions on different sectors, however, fails to provide policy direction on India's climate change mitigation programme.

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