Climate Change Vulnerabilities in the Himalayan Region

Climate Change Vulnerabilities in the Himalayan Region
Climate Change Vulnerabilities in the Himalayan Region

According to a study by Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme, of India’s 12 Himalayan states, Assam, Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir are the most vulnerable to climate change. High vulnerability leaves a region with low capacity to anticipate, resist, cope with or recover from the impact of a climate hazard.

In recent years climate change has been acknowledged as a growing challenge to humanity and sustainable development which directly and indirectly impacts several socio-economic sectors like agriculture, water and human health. The Himalayan region is likely to be affected much more than plain areas as it is more fragile and sensitive to global and local anthropogenic changes.

The looming threat to the Himalayas because of the Climate Change puts at risk the livelihoods of the communities dependent on the Himalayan region. The Government of India as a part of its comprehensive National Action Plan on Climate Change has a dedicated mission for the Himalayan region, namely the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE), being coordinated by the Department of Science & Technology. NMSHE will enable creating knowledge on impacts of climate change and adaptation measures by supporting sub-national actions for responding to climate change and strengthening multi-stakeholder platforms for science policy-practice connect.

The study reveals that the dominant drivers of vulnerability of different states are high sensitivity of agriculture sector in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland; lack of connectivity and access to information services and infrastructure in Mizoram, Jammu & Kashmir; high sensitivity of socio-economic indicators in Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal, and lack of forest-dependent livelihoods in states such as Assam, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

According to the October 2018 report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), The earth’s temperature is rising by 0.2 degree Celsius every decade. By 2030 and no later than mid-century, the warming will reach 1.5 degree Celsius when compared to pre-industrial age temperatures. This is likely to lead to a water, food and disease crisis that would affect livelihoods and lives, the report warns.

The Himalayas stretch for 2,500 km from west to east, spanning eight countries–Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Nearly 70% of the water in rivers such as the Indus and the Ganga comes from the melting of Himalayan glaciers in the summer. The rest is from the monsoon rains. It is this water that makes life and agriculture sustainable for 50 million people who live in the Indian Himalayan region. An estimated 1.5 billion people depend on the Himalayas for water, food and energy. Now, climate change is threatening their livelihoods, their ways of living, and their very survival.

There have been visible repercussions of the damage in recent years. A 2013 study in Himachal Pradesh found that most apple farmers reported a decline in production and delayed harvest, blaming reduced snowfall. Nearly 80% of the farmers living at an altitude of 8,000 feet reported a noticeable decrease in snowfall and nearly 90% of those living at altitudes of 9,800 feet and higher said the same.

According to the October 2018 IPCC report, those who are involved in agriculture are at a disproportionately higher risk of facing the adverse consequences of global warming. The report warns that this will mean that a large number of people in Asia and Africa could slide into poverty. The warring that the report issues is sure to raise many eyebrows but what we do need to understand is the fact that we have damaged mother nature beyond limits. Our refusal to take immediate correctional steps and our sustained negligence will surely amplify our problems.  It is high time we stopped and contemplated our interaction with the environment.

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