Climate alert: 75 per cent of districts across India are home to over 638 million (63.8 crore) people. These areas have been categorized as extreme climate event hotspots.
India has been witnessing an unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic since March. Along with the Covid-19 pandemic, the year 2020 saw cyclone Amphan, cyclone Nisarga, and cyclone Nivar ravaged livelihoods and investments in several parts of India. Now a study conducted by Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) has revealed that 75 per cent of districts and home to over half of India’s population are extreme climate events’ hotspots.
The CEEW in its district-level profiling report includes events like cyclone, drought, flood, cyclone and drought, flood and cyclone, and flood and drought. Since 1970, the frequency of floods has increased by 8 times, and its associated events such as landslides, hailstorms, and cloudbursts by over 20 times. Since, 2010, the frequency of associated cyclonic events increased by 8 times. After 2005, the yearly average of drought-affected districts increased by 13 times. The pattern of extreme events has also changed drastically. In over 40 per cent of India’s districts, for instance, flood-prone areas are increasingly becoming drought-prone and vice versa. With the frequency of low probability but high impact tail-end risks clearly increasing the principal risk assessment should form the core of India’s climate resilience strategy, the CEEW stated. The CEEW is one of Asia’s top not-for-profit independent policy research institutions
Key findings of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water report
75 per cent of districts across India are home to over 638 million (63.8 crore) people. These areas have been categorized as extreme climate event hotspots.
With the frequency and intensity of climate catastrophes surging CEEW has recently undertaken a 50-year assessment of India’s extreme climate events. The report has disclosed that there were 250 extreme events between 1970 and 2005.
In the aftermath of 2005, India witnessed 310 extreme events and associated events. These events include slow onset events like heat waves and cold waves.
After 2005, around 55 or more districts witnessed extreme flood events year-on-year, impacting 97.51 million (9.75 crore) people per year.
In 2005, 140 floods hit 69 districts. This was the highest flood frequency. However, the number of affected districts increased to 151 in 2019.
Meanwhile, the frequency of associated flood events such as landslides, heavy rainfall, hailstorms, thunderstorms, and cloudbursts increased by over 20 times between 1970 and 2019.
For the last 15 years, 79 districts across India recorded extreme drought events year-on-year impacting 140.06 million (over 14 crore) people per year. During the same period, the annual average of drought-affected districts increased by 13 times, the CEEW report says.
After 2005, 24 districts across the were hit by extreme cyclone events yearly, exposing 42.50 million (4.25 crore) people to storm surges, intense cyclones, and associated events.
In the last 10 years, 258 districts were hit by Cyclones. According to CEEW, the cyclone hotspot districts are Puri, Chennai, Nellore, North 24 Parganas, Ganjam, Cuttack, East Godavari, and Srikakulam. All these are concentrated along the eastern coastline.
However, India can build a climate-resilient future. For that India needs to design a “Climate Risk Atlas” for localized mapping of critical vulnerabilities. The governments need to develop an Integrated Emergency Surveillance System to facilitate s systematic and sustained response to emergencies. The governments need to launch an Environment De-risking Mission to focus on risks posed by climate change, air pollution, chemicals, and antimicrobial resistance. India needs to build resilient physical and digital infrastructure and train relief personnel. Above all, citizen engagement and behavioral change will be key to strengthening our climate resilience.