Climate Change

Climate vulnerability maps developed for Himalayan states

Vulnerability to climate change varies from state to state and district to district, it also depends on various socio-economic factors

By Dinesh C Sharma
Published: Thursday 14 March 2019
Representative Photo: Getty Images

Receding apple lines, changing cropping patterns, more disasters like landslides and floods, drying springs in hills, spread of vector-borne diseases etc — are being felt all over the Himalayan region, which is one of the most sensitive climate zones globally.

However, the vulnerability to climate change varies from state to state and even district to district within a state. It also depends on various socio-economic factors. 

Taking this into account, Indian scientists have developed a common framework for assessment of climate change vulnerability in all the states in the Himalayan region — Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and hilly districts of West Bengal.

They have developed an index based on socio-economic factors, demographic and health status, sensitivity of agricultural production, forest-dependent livelihoods and access to information, services and infrastructure.

The assessment, formally launched today, shows that the vulnerability index is the highest for Assam (0.72) and Mizoram (0.71), followed by Jammu & Kashmir (0.62), Manipur (0.59), Meghalaya and West Bengal (both 0.58), Nagaland (0.57), Himachal Pradesh and Tripura (0.51 both), Arunachal Pradesh (0.47) and Uttarakhand (0.45).

Sikkim is the least vulnerable state with the index being 0.42. Districts within a state face different degrees of vulnerability based on difference in geographic, climatic, socio-economic and demographic conditions.

“All these states are vulnerable to climate risks and the fact that vulnerability is a relative measure implies that this assessment does not portray Sikkim, Uttarakhand or Arunachal Pradesh as having a low vulnerability in an absolute sense. These states are least vulnerable relative to the other states, but also have several inherent drivers of vulnerability that need to be addressed,” said Anamika Barua (IIT Guwahati), one of the principal scientists involved in the study.

Assam is highly vulnerable to climate change because of factors like low per capita income, deforestation, large number of marginal farmers, least area under irrigation, lack of alternative sources of income and high rates of poverty.

“All of these make people vulnerable to climate change as they have less capacity to adapt,” explained Dr Barua while speaking to India Science Wire.

Secretary at the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Professor Ashutosh Sharma said “climate adaptation is a collaborative effort between appropriate use of technology, vision that produces policies, change at ground level and engagement of local communities. These vulnerability maps will play a crucial role in this effort.”

“The vulnerability assessments will be useful for officials, decision makers, funding agencies and experts to have a common understanding on vulnerability and enable them to plan for adaptation,” said Akhiklesh Gupta, head of the climate change programme in DST.  

Professor NH Ravindranath from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said, “The framework can be applied to states in the rest of the country as well, with suitable modifications.”

“Various research projects undertaken by IIT Mandi address vulnerability, hazard and extreme events in the Himalayan region,” said Professor Timothy A Gonsalves, director, IIT Mandi.

The assessment has been done jointly by experts from Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) at Guwahati and Mandi, in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with support from the Department of Science and Technology  and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) which is implementing the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Program (IHCAP).

A new data portal was also launched on the occasion. (India Science Wire)

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