Kolkata,May 16 A group of college students and farmers formed by SwitchON Foundation have written to the West Bengal Chief Minister appealing the state government to acknowledge and act upon the erratic weather conditions in the State and speed up the solution to deal with climate change.

The letter brings to light how West Bengal has experienced the warmest February since 1877 this year thereby confirming the World Bank prediction that India could be one of the first places globally to have temperatures above 35°C. The State was under the impact of heatwaves for five consecutive days with temperatures reaching above 40℃, flooding during heavy downpours, and also severely affected by cyclones.

“Floods, droughts, heat waves, and cyclones are regular occurrences in the State. To add to the woe, groundwater depletion triggered by rising temperatures, has worsened the situation in West Bengal. Groundwater recharge is highly dependent on the monsoon. Climate change-induced erratic, concentrated precipitation does not allow for the infiltration of water necessary to restore groundwater resources,” the letter said.

In 2022, India saw extreme weather events on 314 days. The harsh weather events claimed 3,026 lives, affected 1.96 million hectares (ha) of crop area, 423,249 houses, and killed over 69,899 animals. According to the India Climate 2022 report by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), up to 2,227 people died in India due to extreme weather conditions, making it the fifth deadliest year in the country, the hottest year on record since 1901.

Vulnerable to cyclones

According to the West Bengal State Disaster Management Authority, 2022, apart from the impact on human life, the weather extremities also profoundly affect crop production both in terms of quantity and quality.

West Bengal is particularly vulnerable to cyclones. Reports suggest that several villages including Bankura and Purulia are facing severe water, energy, and food insecurities, triggering economic instabilities. 

The government should launch an awareness campaign to educate people besides providing cooling shelters and water stations in areas that are most affected by heat waves, especially in urban areas. It should install roadside water filters, hand pumps, tube wells, and prepare the state for rainwater harvesting. Further, there is a need to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy sources to mitigate the effects of climate change, the letter said. 

As a part of mitigation measures, there is a need to ensure stringent implementation of the existing laws and the National Clean Air Action Plan to help Kolkata escape the vicious circle of diseases burdened by air pollution. Using solar panels will strengthen efforts in the renewable energy transition and cut down on our excessive dependence on coal-powered electricity. Moreover, it will reduce mining-induced land degradation, it said.