Most river basins in India cannot cope with climate change: Study

Published on Dec 16, 2019 11:42 PM IST
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By, Mumbai

Only one out of five river basins in the country can withstand extreme weather events and eight out of 10 vegetation types (80%) including croplands are likely to be non-resilient under similar conditions, according to a new study by the Indian Institute of Technology – Indore (IIT-I). It suggests that this could pose threat to food and water security. The study was published in Scientific Reports, Nature publishing group on December 12.

The three-member team said identification of vulnerable river basins and vegetation types is important since India cannot have a uniform policy to tackle the impacts of extreme weather events.

The study, which for the first time has developed a risk-and-resilience map of Indian terrestrial ecosystems to dry conditions, has found that 20 out of 25 river basins, including Ganga, Narmada and Tapi, are non-resilient, and they will not recover under extreme climatic conditions. Additionally, 15 out of 25 river basins such as Godavari, Mahi and Krishna are prone to extreme deterioration with an impact of 50% of the area.What’s alarming is 61% (9,40,353sqkm) croplands displayed high risk, owing to lower soil moisture content due to rising temperatures during non-monsoon months, that lead to the evaporation of water or over-extraction of groundwater, both of which affect agricultural productivity, said researchers.

During the non-monsoon season, 86% of the ecologically rich evergreen forests were highly sensitive to extreme temperature changes with potential impact on existing plant and animal life. “It is important to understand whether or not our ecosystems, river basins, forests will be able to sustain these extreme climatic conditions and its fallout,” said Manish Kumar Goyal, lead investigator and associate professor, discipline of civil engineering, IIT-Indore.


    Snehal Fernandes is senior assistant editor at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. She writes on science and technology, environment, sustainable development, climate change, and nuclear energy. In 2012, she was awarded ‘The Press Club Award for Excellence in Journalism’ (Political category) for reports on Goa mining scam. Prior to HT, she wrote on education and transport at the Indian Express.

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