Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Climate change: A challenge for India

India is a developing country with a population of more than 1.2 billion which is growing at rate of approximately 2.4% per annum. Nearly 69% of total population is rural and nearly 60% of total population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. More than 60% of the total agriculture is rain dependent and monsoons are responsible for most of the rains in India. India has Himalayan Mountains, deserts and arid areas, flood prone regions and a long coastline of more than 5500 km. Thus the country has to address various climate issues in different zones.
With an economy that is growing at 6-8% and increase urbanization, the demand for electricity is going to increase many folds. Presently 59% of total electricity is produced by burning coal. Burning of coal is largest contributor for carbon dioxide emissions in the country. Hydel power just account for 17% of total electricity generation. Any shortfall in the power supply is met by diesel generator sets which further add to carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation is second largest source of green house gases (GHG) emission. With increased urbanization, transportation is going to pose a major challenge. It is estimated that by year 2020, transportation will be responsible for 1450-1620 million tonnes of  carbondioxide equivalent emissions. Burning of biomass, agricultural waste, tilling of land, methane emissions from livestock are the other major sources of GHG emission in the country.
These emissions have resulted in shift in observed climate pattern. Climate has been warming and there is decline in monsoon rainfalls. Frequency of heavy rainfall events have increased and these are often followed by long dry spells resulting into water stress. All this has led to over exploitation of ground water further aggravating the situation. Agricultural productivity has been affected due to increased surface temperature and water stress. Wheat production has taken a major hit. Productivity of rice and horticulture produce has also been hit due to change in climate. The zone of temperate horticulture has also shifted to higher altitudes. In 1987 and 2002-03, droughts affected almost half of the country resulting into huge fall in crop production. This has led to decrease in food security and increase in food inflation which is leading to increased malnutrition cases. Forest cover, which is an important source for carbon sequestering, is decreasing. According to India state of forest report 2011, 21.05% of total land is under forest and we have lost 367 square kilometers of forest in last two years. On the other hand warming has been causing retreating of glaciers. Coastal flooding in cities like Mumbai has also become a regular phenomenon. Rapid and unplanned urbanization has further increased the risk of sea water intrusion. It seems as if we are sitting on a bomb.
Government of India has realized the importance of assessing and addressing climate change. Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) comprising of more than 120 research institutions was set up in 2010 to carry out scientific studies. States have prepared state action plans for climate change. Policies have been frames to make India a low carbon economy. National Action Plan on Climate change has been created which includes 8 sub-missions which are as follows:
1.      National Solar Mission
2.      National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency
3.      National Mission on sustainable Habitat
4.      National Water Mission
5.      National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem
6.      National Mission for Green India
7.      National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture
8.      National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

India has also created a clean technology fund that is being used to bringing cleaner low carbon technologies and reducing carbon emissions. More and more investment is being done in urban areas for improving transportation facilities. Metro and bus rapid transport corridors are few of the measures that may be seen on the ground. Emission standards for motor vehicles have been introduced. More and more standards for controlling industrial wastes have been introduced. In case of Agriculture, more and more stress is being laid on diversification and introduction of climate resistant crops. Indo-swizz collaboration on biotechnology is one such platform which is working on introduction of climate resistant technologies in the agricultural field. Solar power is being promoted by giving subsidies on solar products. Standards for electrical efficiency have been introduced. Most of these developments have been quite new and their impacts will be realized after a considerable time only.
Government is doing whatever it can do to address this problem. There is greater need to educate masses about this threat and seek their contribution for adaptation as well as mitigation measures. As is clear from discussion that production of electricity from coal is biggest contributor to carbon emissions in India, so saving electricity and using it efficiently may result in lower emission. Small steps like switch off light when it is not required may result in bigger impact at national level. People should invest in energy efficient appliances. Using public transport rather than private vehicle will also help in lowering emissions besides saving foreign exchange on oil imports. Smaller distance should be covered by bicycles or by walking. Planting of trees, judicial use of paper and water and rain water harvesting can have significant positive impact on our climate.
Let us inculcate these habits in our day to day life so that we could promise a better future for younger generation.


  1. The World Bank, 2012, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 degree C warmer world must be avoided  
  2. Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). 2011, CLEAN TECHNOLOGY FUND INVESTMENT PLAN FOR INDIA
  3. Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). 2010, INDIA: TAKING ON CLIMATE CHANGE
  4. Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF). 2009, Climate Change and India: Towards Preparation of a Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment

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