The year 2020 will be remembered for the grave challenges it posed to the humanity and the developmental landscape owing to Covid-19. Many of us perceive this pandemic as unexpected and outside our conscious radar, but it is quite certain to expect when nature’s own balance repeatedly gets disrupted. Be it flash floods, harsh drought and severe heat/cold wave, their severity is directly or indirectly linked to ubiquitous harm to the Mother Nature. More so, the recent 2021 massive flood and destruction caused either by glacial burst or avalanche in Uttarakhand, to an extent, points to prolonged climate change effects that cannot be overlooked.
In this milieu, it was less possible for us to precisely predict any natural calamity or human-induced disaster, and thus forming silvery uncertainty over action plans to mitigate in near and short term. On a broader outlook, a viable tool to retain hard-earned prosperity and developmental gains is by building resilience and adaptive capacity across diverse spectrum.
Responses to risk
India’s regional heterogeneity and dependence on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries makes it more susceptible to climatic risks. The Climate Risk Index (2020) tagged India as the fifth-most vulnerable country in the world. The recent Ministry of Earth Sciences report showed that India’s average temperature had risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius from 1901-2018, and warns increased incidence of tropical cyclones, heat waves, floods and droughts in the country. Estimates also suggest that there have been more than 5 million internal displacements in 2019 owning to weather-related disasters.
The Economic Survey 2020-21 clearly states that adaptation efforts must be intensified and investment must be geared towards building resilience. Also, at the recent virtual Climate Ambition Summit, global leaders encouraged to accelerate adaptation and resilience by allocating as much as 50% of resources from the pool of climate finance support. India has long raised adaptation need at climate change negotiations. Currently, at the national level, NAPCC and SAPCCs, National Adaptation Fund and ratification of the Paris Agreement were all focused actions to operationalise and implement adaptation projects. However, inadequate financial resources, institutional coordination and climate knowledge deficits—as highlighted by several studies and deliberated on various platforms—continue to beset the progress to build resilience and risk reduction. As India prepares itself for the NDC targets, decision-making both at the Centre and states must be conscious of adaptation planning and finance across climate-sensitive sectors to protect lives and livelihoods of millions.
For a country with sizable socioeconomic problems, it is quintessential to strategise well to combat climate vulnerability and associated risks.
The first priority must be to build resilience, which is inextricably linked to the developmental progress and creates a fertile ground for learning, adaptations and transformations. Its success lies in ramping up adaptation actions and reducing regional imbalances by providing impetus to technological innovations and upgrade, livelihood diversification, human development, social protection systems and resilient infrastructure.
Second, the creation of strong and reliable data platforms and information services system (hydro-met, agro-met advisory and emergency management systems) to adequately manage the risk. It is highly desirable if village-level agro-met units are established to work both as advisory, promoting adaptation and instil resilience-building activity at the local level. This would entail a new dawn in fostering in-depth vulnerability, risk and resilience assessments to better leverage robust climate modelling and predictive assessment besides suitable S&T innovations.
Third, it is necessary to upscale community-driven, bottom-up approaches for effective micro-and-macro level convergence, real-time monitoring and barriers redressal, and ensuing evidence-based responses. Mainstreaming climate change adaptation efforts into policy design, operations, developmental plans and budgetary allocation would build large-scale resilience starting from unit level (villages).
Fourth, the elusive nature of climate change effects requires alignment, prioritisation and convergence of actions across governance, sectoral agencies, departments and ministries. This helps gauge potential impacts and collate action plans to bring synergistic outcome rather than a scattered output that hinders scaling up.
Fifth, taking climate resilience to cultural platform is imminent in bringing people and prosperity on the same page. While most South Asian nations have less marked difference in cultures, their efforts through formal organisations (SAARC, BIMSTEC and ASEAN) must take concrete actions on climate-related security risks.
Sixth, climate policy and governance must encourage non-state actors and other organisations, prioritising traditional practices, increasing climate consciousness, thus creating adaptive pathway. Rich cultural practices, knowledge, ethos and values should be part of policies such as NAPCC missions, National Disaster Management Plan and others. ICAR’s NICRA has tailored and amalgamated such practices in enhancing resilience of Indian agriculture to climate change through its strategic research and technology demonstration across various agro-eco regions.
Over the last several years it has been held that climatic risks cannot be eliminated completely and hence creating adequate capacity to their management is imperative for any country. Most efforts are being made towards mitigation activities and emissions reduction; however, a substantial boost is crucial to upscale adaptation. Thus, the beginning of this decade must start by embracing climate adaptation and resilience-building that would work as a common thread to balance the climate change. Nonetheless, achieving a state of ‘coherence’, characterised by reduced stress and increased resilience, is the key to better tomorrow.
Singh is a former PI of NICRA project at ICAR-NIAP and currently member (Official), CACP, Delhi; Anand is with ICAR-NIAP, Delhi, and Ranjith is with ICAR-IARI, Delhi. Views are personal