Climate change threatening cultivation in one-fifth of all districts in India

Climate change threatening cultivation in one-fifth of all districts in India

Courtesy : Nationalist Bureau27/11/2018 12:53

The latest research, cited by the ICAR study, shows the impact of climate change will be increasingly felt, as demonstrated by extreme weather events.

Cultivation of crops and even livestock in more than one-fifth of the total districts in India are susceptible to the impact of climate change, an annual review by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has revealed.

The effects of climate change on the country’s agriculture, which employs half the population and accounts for 17% of India’s economic output, are as real as it gets.

Apple belts in Himachal Pradesh have been moving to higher altitudes for want of sufficient cold weather, while according to the Ludhiana-based Borlaug Institute crop-damaging spring hailstorms in central India and a sudden temperature spike in Punjab in 2010 cut wheat yields by 26% that year.

The ICAR has identified that of the 28 million hectares under wheat cultivation, about 9 million hectares are categorised as being prone to sudden heat stress.

The study, cited by the ICAR, shows that the impact of climate change in forms of extreme weather and manifest itself in economic, political, even social consequences will be increasingly felt.

In Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district, rice-growing Maltos tribespeople are fending off new pests, attributed to changing temperature and rainfall patterns, revealed a 2016 study by Hoinu Kipgen Lamtinhoi, who conducted the research for the Fellowship of India Commission on Relief.

The state’s Action Plan for Climate Change, too, flags these changes, said Lamtinhoi.

These changes are capable of stoking social conflicts.

Lamtinhoi’s research shows that crop-shrivelling pests have led Maltos to move into areas dominated by Santhal tribes downhill, leading to clashes.

“These are the evidence of changing of weather patterns in India,” said Pramod Aggarwal, one of India’s top climate scientists and a former national professor at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).

Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh chaired a meeting on November 1 to review preparedness against extreme weather events. Although there are several ongoing mitigation programmes, including the flagship National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture, these are scattered.

At the meeting, he proposed setting up “Integrated Climate Resilient Agriculture Programme”.

“A lot of people debate climate change. Even if we don’t use these two words, there is sufficient evidence on the impact of changes in rainfall and temperature in India,” Aggarwal said.

He said proven adaptation technologies are now available, but what is needed is political will. He was the coordinating lead author for the chapter on food in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In each of the 151 districts vulnerable to effects of climate change, one representative village is now being chosen where “location-specific technologies” will be deployed.

The technologies for demonstration have been selected based on the nature of vulnerability faced by the district and its main farming system.

The ICAR’s climate review offers many granular findings. It states that mustard farmers in Gujarat’s Anand district should now be advised to shrink their sowing window to October 10-20 from October-November to avoid attacks by aphids, whose frequency has increased.

The review blames changes in weather patterns for the attacks, including wind speeds of more than 2 km per hour and mean temperature of 19 to 25.5 degrees Celsius.

It also states that in 10 mango-growing locations of India, “incidence of fruit flies may increase due to the projected increase in temperatures in future climate change periods”.

The National Economic Survey, 2018, analysed weather patterns over the past six decades, and found a long-term trend of “rising temperatures” and “declining average precipitation”.

Using data sets created by the University of Delaware and India Meteorological Department, the review projected that climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes in India in the range of 15-18% on average and up to 20-25% in unirrigated areas. About 54% of India’s sown area has no access to irrigation.

The survey called for “drastically extending irrigation” and replacing “untargeted subsidies in power and fertilizer” with cash transfers. 


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