New priorities

By Archita Bhatta
Published: Tuesday 30 June 2009

Development takes a backseat as states combat extreme weather

spending on disaster management has exceeded spending on agriculture and rural development in some states. A World Bank report said extreme weather events like floods, cyclones and droughts forced Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh to spend more on relief and damages than on development schemes between 2002 and 2007.

Maharashtra spent Rs 17,549 crore on drought and flood damages, compared to Rs 15,275 crore on agriculture, rural development and flood control. For Orissa, the corresponding figures were Rs 6,677 crore and Rs 5,387 crore. Though estimates for Andhra Pradesh were not available, the report said because of droughts, health expenses went up 12 per cent, sale of land, cattle and jewellery rose by 12 per cent and migration increased by 17 per cent.

The future might be worse if steps are not taken to combat climate change.In Andhra Pradesh, temperature may rise 2.3-3.4C and rainfall 4-8 per cent by 2100 as per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates. This would result in 20 per cent loss in agriculture. In Orissa, rice yields are projected to decrease 5-12 per cent. In Maharashtra rainfall would rise 20-30 per cent, hitting sugarcane production.

The report suggested adaptation strategies like shift in crop varieties, weather-based crop insurance, alternative sources of income and improved disaster prediction mechanisms to deal with the situation. Relief from old debts will also help farmers cope with the situation, the report said. The Union environment ministry's additional secretary (climate change), J Mauskar said such adaptive activities would cost around 2.6 per cent of the gdp.

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