Floods, droughts, heat waves sound the climate alarm

Deep down, I know that Kumirmari is shrinking in size, eroding part by part. I don’t know what will happen to the Sundarbans in the next 10 to 20 years,” says Soma Mondal, 30, a resident of the largest delta in the world.

While her relatives migrated to other parts of India, Soma, a married mother of three, remained in the Sundarbans. But things have changed rapidly for her over the past three decades, putting her home and her livelihood on the line.

Kumirmari is one of the last inhabited river islands bordering the forest islands of the Sundarbans. An embankment closes it off. At high tide, the island remains eight to 10 feet lower than the flowing river. The village is lower than the forest—visible as a thin line—separating the river and the sky.

This delta is a globally established climatic hotspot. The people who spoke DH say they have noticed visible changes in the regional weather and its effects on their living conditions. Seasonal changes no longer follow a fixed pattern. At high tide, more water flows into the rivers. During storms, which are now more frequent, if an embankment gives way to leave room for salt water, the affected field becomes unsuitable for agriculture for the following cycles.

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Subal Barman, a fisherman, also witnesses the silent changes triggered by global warming. “The varieties of fish have diminished. It is raining abruptly these days, unlike 30 years ago,” he said.

At the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, oceanographer Sugata Hazra spent years studying the delta. “Over the past two decades, we have observed that the rate of sea level rise is the highest in the Sundarbans. The region is experiencing sea level rise of more than 5mm per year, higher than the world average.More than 60% of the coasts of the Sundarbans recede and recede.

Nearly 1,700 km in Yadgir, Vishwashankar Shivaray, a farmer from the village of Yelheri has only one question for the past nine monsoons: to sow or not to sow. In six of the last nine years, he has suffered crop losses. Twice he lost crops due to Krishna River floods and four times due to severe drought.

“The heavy rains led to the loss of topsoil and in the remaining ‘normal rainfall year’ I could not get a good yield,” he said. Vishwashankar had to sell five of his 13 acres of land to repay loans he had taken out from banks and lenders.

“I’ve been fooled four times in the last seven years by pre-monsoon showers or the ‘male halu‘ (spoiler rains). Whenever I sowed green gram or groundnut relying on pre-monsoon showers in May, there was rainfall deficit during monsoon which completely damaged the crop,” a- he declared.

Some 250 km away, Abhaykumar Narayan, president of the Vijayapura Winegrowers Association, has another story to tell. April is a peak season for grape growers in Vijayapura, Bagalkot and Belagavi districts. Farmers start grafting and pruning vines.

Krishna Raj, a professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Change who has studied in depth the agriculture, economy and social aspects of North Karnataka, attributes the crop loss suffered by farmers to a combination of factors , including climate change and loss of forest cover.

It’s the same story playing out everywhere – from the northern Himalayan states to the southern plains; from the industrialized Maharashtra in the west to the forest-rich hills and valleys of the northeast. The signs of climate change are there for everyone to see.

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Himachal Pradesh in 2018 witnessed a major dengue fever outbreak, which scientists have described as a signature of climate change. Due to a change in temperature and rainfall, mosquitoes are now breeding in hilly states, spreading vector-borne diseases. Apple orchards increase as the snow line rises while the famous Assam tea loses its charm.

Climate change has hit Assam’s tea industry hard. A drought situation until mid-June in 2021 and excessive rains in May this year have affected the production and quality of Assam tea. “Tea needs proper sunshine, rain and humidity. But drastic changes in climate patterns over the years have become a concern. Production has decreased by 7% due to drought situations in 2021. This year it has been affected by excessive rainfall,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, advisor to the North East Tea Association.

“Our researchers need to develop climate-resistant tea clones, planting material or cultivation methods to cope with the impact of climate change,” Barkakoty told DH.

Last year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change flagged Code Red in its report concluding that the Earth could warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures over the next two decades, advancing the threat of such a dangerous tipping point in global warming.

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The IPCC report says the goal of limiting temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of 2100 could be exceeded between 2021 and 2040, even if countries meet their current climate reduction targets. emissions. The other Paris climate treaty target of limiting long-term temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius could also be exceeded between 2040 and 2060 in three of the five emission reduction pathways considered by the IPCC. , emphasizing the urgent need to undertake deep emission reductions.

People carry the weight

While global equities are mostly stuck on the trading tables, it’s people who suffer. In Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery Delta, the state’s rice bowl which contributes 35% of the paddy crop, off-season rainfall and an erratic monsoon have added to the woes of the farming community.

“Crops are sensitive to water. They just need the right amount of water. Less water and too much water are equally dangerous. While less water leads to crop wilting, more water than needed leads to flooding. This is exactly the problem farmers in the Delta face today,” said ‘Cauvery’ S Dhanapalan, General Secretary of the Cauvery Farmers Protection Association.

“We’re in a place where we get a month’s or a season’s rainfall in just 24 or 48 hours. This is the biggest problem of unseasonal rainfall and climate change. Where do we store water? We have no chance of conserving water as all storage facilities are full by then. If rainfall occurs with a hole, we can use it for irrigation as well as store it,” he said.

Climate change is a reality in Kashmir, heaven on earth, which also feels the heat. Electrical shops near Dal Lake or downtown Srinagar now keep large stocks of ceiling fans, which were in short supply until the early 1990s.

Kashmir, according to the National Climate Change Action Plan, has experienced a temperature increase of 1.45°C in the previous two decades. He predicted a further temperature rise of 2°C in the future. Kashmir’s temperature between 1879 and 1979 recorded an increase of only 0.7°C, but there are signs of rapid changes in recent years.

In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the valley received a lot of snowfall in winter but the temperature in Srinagar reached 14.2 degrees Celsius from an average of 6.9°C in January. “Climate change is as much a reality in Jammu and Kashmir as it is in other parts of the world. There are many signs, such as extreme snow intensity and distribution,” said Sonam Lotus, director of Meteorological Kashmir.

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Drought cycle

Over the past two decades, Maharashtra has experienced back-to-back droughts in Marathwada and Vidarbha region, while three cyclones hit Konkan in the past two years. Unseasonal rains, hailstorms and severe heat waves have swept across the landscape of central India.

“Of the 36 districts of Maharashtra, 11 have proven highly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Droughts and reduced water security account for 40% of the cultivated area in central Maharashtra. 14% of agricultural area in the state This means that three quarters of the cultivated areas of Maharashtra are highly to moderately vulnerable to the climate crisis,” said Chaitanya Adhav, a scientist at the Council’s National Dairy Research Institute. agricultural research Indian in Karnal.

Over the next five decades, annual average minimum temperatures are expected to increase significantly in 80% of Maharashtra’s districts.

“Studies have confirmed that warmer climatic conditions never favor agricultural productivity. Future temperature increase is very likely to reduce the productivity of traditional rain-fed crops (jowar, bajra, pulses) and irrigated cash crops (sugar cane, onion, maize),” said Rahul Todmal, Assistant Professor of Geography at Vidya Pratishthan ASC. College, Baramati, Pune “It is time to change agricultural practices to meet the challenge of food security.”