Climate change can hit India hard, says World Bank study

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Onno Ruhl, Country-Director-India, The World Bank
Onno Ruhl, Country-Director-India, The World Bank

South Asia, with India right in the centre, as well as South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are likely to face the worst heat from climate change, a study released by the World Bank predicts.

Indians may very well have to get used to extreme summers, increased drought as well as increased flooding as precipitation patterns change dramatically.

The World Bank study, ‘Turn Down the Heat: Climate extremes, regional impacts and the case for resilience’, says that shifting rainfall patterns in India would leave some areas under water, while others, deprived of adequate rain, would suffer severe water crisis, which could impact irrigation, power generation and even drinking water availability in some cases.

Since almost 60 per cent of India’s crop area is rain-fed, change in precipitation would impact food production.

The study predicts by 2050s, a temperature increase of 2-2.5 degree Celsius is likely (compared to pre-industrialisation), which would reduce water availability for food production and 63 million people in India may not be able to meet their daily calorific requirement.

This makes a compelling case for re-looking policies to ensure sustainable development as the economic implications of the scenario drawn by the study can be critical.

Onno Ruhl, Country Director (India), World Bank, emphasised that Governments across the world, including India, tend to look at short-term gains in favour of long-term benefits while making policy decisions.

“For India the key is to grow in a way that can be sustained,” he said.

The report predicts that destructive natural disasters, such as floods, the kind seen in Uttarakhand recently, droughts, cyclones and others, could increasingly become frequent occurrences.

In a grim finding, the report suggests that sea levels may rise by 50 cm as early as 2050 and by 100 cm by 2100. This could result is several heavily populated portions of land going under water.

Two metros, Kolkata and Mumbai, are likely to be hit by extreme floods, more intense cyclones and rising sea levels.

(This article was published on June 19, 2013)
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