Climate Change

Feb 2019 Hailstorm, Snowfall Affects Life in Northwest India

Since the beginning of 2019, there have been couple of incidents of hailstorm in Haryana and Punjab. The region has also seen good rainfall in January. The hilly states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand have been repeatedly facing heavy snowfall events gripping the large parts of North India in cold waves.

The initial rains and snowfall were seen usual events and considered as beneficial for rabi crops and water demands. However the unusual hailstorm accompanied by heavy rainfall In January 2019 and again on Feb 7-8, 2019 have caused significant damage to standing crops in large part of Haryana, Punjab and Western parts of Uttar Pradesh.

Continue reading “Feb 2019 Hailstorm, Snowfall Affects Life in Northwest India”

Climate Change · Maharashtra

Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate change: Farmers Suffer, State and consultant TERI unaffected

Even as rural areas in otherwise-drought hit Maharashtra (as also in neighbouring areas of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) are trying to cope with the immense damages due to untimely rain and hailstorms in Feb-March 2014, the IPCC Assessment Report 5 by Working Group II warns that extreme weather events may increase in their frequency. This was also supported by the IPCC Special Report on Extreme Events in 2012.

Sr No Event Date
1 NAPCC made public June 30, 2008
2 Mah state council on CC formed by a GR Sept 2008
3 Work awarded to TERI “to assess Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Strategies for Maharashtra State and to prepare a Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for the State” at the cost of Rs 98 lakhs; to include six case studies Aug 20, 2009
4 Maharashtra govt order regarding TERI (6 members in addition to Dr Pachauri and Dr Leeana Srivastava as advisors) given above task, along with Met office, Hadley Centre, UK (2 members) and formation of state coordination committee for this under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Nov 26, 2009
5 Dept of Environment conducted decision makers workshop CC adaptation and mitigation Feb 24-25, 2011
6 State advisory committee on CC created with chief minister as chair July 8, 2011
7 First meeting of State advisory committee on CC Feb 2013
8 Meeting (latest) held on draft climate change action plan with Chief Secy in chair Oct 7, 2013
9 Mah Env department gives RTI response to SANDRP: “The final action plan on climate change is not yet submitted by TERI to Govt of Maharashtra” Apr 2, 2014

Back to back in two years, Maharashtra faced a drought (in 2012-13), touted to be worst in past 40 years, to a hail and rain event which broke records of past hundred years (and perhaps even more) several times over. Studies are pointing out that the coastal region and the traditionally drought-affected part of Marathwada and Vidarbha is specifically vulnerable to climate change.

Drought 2013. Photo: Mint
Drought 2013. Photo: Mint

It is also highlighted by the IPCC reports, experienced painfully by Maharashtra that: “Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”

So how prepared is Maharashtra to face, adapt to and mitigate the challenges put forth?

Information obtained by SANDRP under RTI underlines the fact that respective governments have given no priority, time or importance to consider climate change or its impacts on societies and ecosystems.

The Maharashtra State Council on Climate change was formed in Sept 2008 by a GR, its Chairperson was the then Chief Minister and included ministers from Agriculture, Water resources, Industries, etc. This Council awarded work related to State Action Plan on Climate Change to TERI on 20th Aug 2009 and TERI was supposed to complete this Study in two years,  that is by Aug 2011.

More than four and a half years latter, TERI has still not completed the report on State Action Plan on Climate change and Government of Maharashtra does not seem too bothered by it.

The process by which TERI was given the task of doing the SAPCC also seems inappropriate. The process is described in Maharashtra government order of Nov 16, 2009, where there is no mention of any competitive bidding. The order says that Dr RK Pachauri of TERI was  asked to make a presentation on climate change in Maharashtra, based on which it was decided to give the task of preparing the SAPCC to TERI and Met Office, UK at the cost of Rs 98 lakhs. This is clearly inappropriate process.

It’s been 5 years since the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was made public in June 2008. NAPCC itself was formulated in non-transparent, non-participatory way by Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change.  Several States have submitted and are working towards their Action Plans.

In Feb 2011, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced Advisory committee on Climate change similar to PM’s council on CC. However, the Government Resolution for the State Council on CC came only on 8th July 2011. Some its  current 19  members include Chief Minister (chair), Deputy Chief Minister,  Ministers of Environment, Agriculture, Water resources, Rural Development, Chief Secretary, Secy-Environment, etc. Some Expert members include Sunita Narain, Jamshed Godrej, Anu Agha, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Dr. Anil Kakodkar and Ajay Mathur from Bureau of Energy Efficiency.

The Terms of Reference of the Committee indicate the following duties:

(a) To evaluate the study being done by TERI in the State and recommend strategies. (Emphasis added)

(b) Provide an oversight to the State Government in the drafting an action plan to combat climate change;

(c) To ensure a co-ordinated response to all issues relating to climate change.

This council was to meet “at least twice a year to review situation on CC and adaptation strategy” as per the GR. It has met just once in last 33 months.

After giving contract to TERI in 2009, announcing State Council on CC in 2011, the first and only meeting of the State Council on Climate Change happened only in Feb 2013! Minutes of the meeting claim that final report from TERI is expected in March 2013. However, there was no discussion on this important report or even a discussion to hasten the formulation and implementation of this report. Strangely, TERI and MET Office UK had already published a note on the Action Plan in 2012[1] itself, when the State Action Plan is still not final even today!

There is also issue of conflict of interest here: when TERI is given the task of preparing Maharashtra SAPCC, how can Dr. Pachauri, who heads TERI be on the State Council to oversee the preparation of SAPCC? Secondly, Dr. Pachauri is a member of PM’s Council on Climate Change, which recommends state action plans and then his own organisation, TERI is awarded the work to prepare the action plan for Maharashtra. Is not there a conflict of interest here?

Moreover, Sunita Narain and Dr. Pachauri are also members of PM’s Council on Climate Change and having seen the performance of PMCCC in bringing out business as usual NAPCC in non-transparent, non-participatory way. The state government should have appointed independent members who have knowledge of the state.

The minutes of the first meeting of the state council seem to suggest that the meeting had rather unfocused discussions. The meeting had interesting conclusion: “All the members Council were of the opinion that the implementation of the existing schemes/ plans need to be focused on climate change adaptation strategies and did not encourage going in for further studies.” In spite of such a clear conclusion, we see neither the state action plan in place, nor adaptation of the existing schemes/ plans with the climate change implications in Maharashtra. In fact, Sunita Narian was also member of the Kasturirangan committee on Western Ghats, but we see no effective reflection of climate change concerns in the conclusions of the Kasturirangan committee.

The Chief Minister said in conclusion, “Providing income support to farmers was of utmost importance to the Government. A special “Climate Change Cell” would be established in the state to focus on climate change issues”. There is no evidence of functioning of any such cell, more than a year after that meeting.

There have been some meetings of High Powered Committee on climate changed, headed by Chief Secretary, the latest meeting happed on Oct 7, 2013.

The minutes of the Oct 2013 meeting notes, “The officers of the disaster management department were attending the meeting for the first time, which according to the Chief Secretary was not very useful given that they do not have any background in the subject area as well as the previous discussions.” Considering how important is the role of disaster management in climate change context, this callousness of disaster management department seems disturbing. The minutes also noted the need for additional Rs 40 lakhs to get run off (hydrology) data.

The minutes of the meeting ends with this conclusion: “Chief Secretary instructed TERI, to finish the consultations with respective departments for validations of data and finalise the recommendations within a month time, post which the presentation could be made before the cabinet.” However, that was in Oct 2013, but even in April 2014, there is no sign of the State Action Plan on Climate Change, an exercise that has dragged on for over 4 and half years now.

While all this has been going on without any conclusion, action plan or implementation of any necessary actions, the millions of the vulnerable people of the state are suffering and more than 20 farmers have committed suicide in the face of inconsolable loss.

The State Action Plan on Climate change is not a magic wand that will cure all ills. It is, however, one of the indicators of the seriousness and intent of our administration in tackling the real and grave challenges. Right now, there seems to be no seriousness and no intent.

 -Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar

parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com, ht.sandrp@gmail.com

 

END NOTES:

 

[1] http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/c/a/GOM_brochure_for_web.pdf

2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/maharashtra-farmers-face-impacts-of-hailstorms-and-states-inaction-plan-on-climate-change/

3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/dams-are-not-climate-friendly-readings-from-ipcc-wg-ii-report/

4. VERY TRAGIC story of how hailstorms have hit poor farmers in Marathawada in Maharashtra: http://www.livemint.com/Specials/jkcra6zQqMShlFJjzmvXeN/Death-and-despair-in-hailstormhit-Marathwada.html

Climate Change · Maharashtra

Maharashtra farmers face impacts of hailstorms and State’s “Inaction” Plan on Climate Change

Marathwada, Vidarbha, Northern Maharashtra and parts of Western Maharashtra are reeling under unprecedented hail storms and unseasonal rainfall. Hailstorms in end of February 2014, initially thought of as a one-off phenomenon, continue to batter places like Solapur for nearly two weeks now, absolutely destroying the farmer. Rabi crops like Wheat, Harbhara, Cotton, Jowar, summer onion are lost, horticultural crops like Papaya, sweet lime, grapes are battered and orchards which took years to grow are ridden to the ground. For many farmers the tragedy is unbearable as majority of crops were about to be harvested. Turmeric was drying in the sun, grapes were waiting to be graded, wheat was harvested and lying in the fields.

Hail in drought-prone Baramati. Photo from : eSakal
Hail in drought-prone Baramati. Photo from : eSakal

According to a preliminary estimate and news reports, crops over 12 lakh hectares have been severely affected, thousands of livestock, animals and birds have succumbed to injuries and diseases, which threaten to spread. Around 21 people have lost their lives to the disaster.[1]

Grapes destroyed. Photo from : Loksatta
Grapes destroyed. Photo from : Loksatta
Destruction in Latur Photo from: Dainik Ekmat
Destruction in Latur Photo from: Dainik Ekmat
Hailstorms Photo from : eSakal
Hailstorms Photo from : eSakal

The hailstorms developed as a response to hot, damp air from Bay of Bengal as well as Arabian Sea, rising and meeting the cold air coming south from the Himalayas, which led to formation of huge hail. This, though, is a very preliminary understanding of the phenomenon and hopefully, a clearer picture will arise in some time.

According to news reports, Madha Taluka in Solapur alone received 208 mm rainfall, Kurduwadi received 154.1 mm rainfall and Pandharpur received 63.95 mm rainfall in a single day[2].

SANDRP compared this rainfall with the 1901-2002 district wise rainfall dataset of IMD available at India Water Portal. 208 mm rainfall in Madha in March 2014 is 771.79% higher than the highest recorded monthly district rainfall for Solapur District for the entire month of March in the 100 years between 1901-2002! The highest total recorded rainfall of March for the district was 26.95 mm in 1915 [3]. Similarly, 65 mm rainfall received by Ausa Taluka in Latur[4] is 146 % higher than the highest 100 year recorded March rainfall of the district in 1944. Similar is the case with Parbhani, Akola, Wardha, etc.

While district rainfall masks extreme spikes due to averaging and also due to the distribution and location of rain gauges, this is truly unprecedented.

But is it also truly unexpected?

Is Climate Change an unknown phenomenon to us? IPCC[5] has predicted that in peninsular India, rainfall patterns will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events. What we are witnessing is certainly an extreme weather event.

That climate change is happening and that the reasons are anthropological is beyond debate[6]. Unfortunately, Climate change, its scientific status, its impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the changing climate do not enter discussions in functioning of Maharashtra government with any seriousness. Being a fuzzy, global phenomenon, linking climate change to singular events is difficult, though climate scientists are unanimous that there is footprint of climate change in each such extreme weather event.

The complexity of this issue does not allow us to brush the issue under the carpet. In the recent floods of United Kingdom, the issue of climate change was debated and led to serious discussions between researchers, climate scientists, politicians and policymakers and it seems that it will lead to an action plan.[7],[8]

Significantly, there are studies that claim that Marathwada and other regions of Maharashtra are vulnerable to Climate Change. In a 2012 paper by ICRISAT “Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience” (2009-2012) by Naveen Singh et al, which was highlighted in the latest edition of Adhunik Kisan, a Marathi magazine on agriculture, the authors have warned that Semi-Arid Tropics (SAT) in Maharashtra (as also the country) are specifically vulnerable to Climate Change. Their analysis of Maharashtra has shown that Marathwada and parts of Vidarbha are particularly vulnerable to climate change challenges, which include increase in the incidence of extreme weather events. Vulnerability index depends not only on the changing climate, but also on the vulnerability of the communities in the region: Despite hundreds of dams, agriculture in Marathwada region is mostly rain-fed, miniscule area which is irrigated appropriates all the water and grows sugarcane: a crop fundamentally unsuitable for a drought prone region, making the lesser endowed communities more and more vulnerable to challenges posed by climate changes or even small natural oscillations in the weather. This was seen very starkly in 2012-13 drought, when the region had highest area under sugarcane in Maharashtra, but several villages did not have water for drinking and dams became pawns at the hands of politicians-cum-sugar kings of the region.[9]

The ICRISAT Paper says, “In the SAT region, [10]Rainfall variability over the years is the major cause of yield uncertainty and makes rain-fed agriculture one of the risky enterprises in SAT India.

In SAT region of Maharashtra, long-term climatic analysis undertaken by ICRISAT shows “an average rise of 0.02°C per year in annual temperature in the last 40 years. In addition, the mean surface air temperature is projected to rise by 1.7-2.0°C by 2030 and 3.4-4.5°C by 2080 from the 1960-1990 . According to simulation studies, there can be productivity losses from 5% to 18% from 2030 to 2080 if no effective mitigation measures are undertaken. Differential degree of drought together with unpredictable rainfall variability has become common. This situation makes it difficult for the farmer to take pre-emptive decisions, resulting in crop and economic loss. Everyone is affected by this sudden change in weather. However, the extent of damage caused will be dependent upon each one’s ability to cope with the deleterious effects. The evidence, although incomplete, is indicative of major changes in the climatic conditions at macro levels. However, this masks the situation and variance at the local level. Greater vulnerability at the local levels implies greater pressure at the state and national level governance systems to respond to prevent the spillover effects such as urban migration, socio-political instability and conflicts, national poverty indicators, increased demands on disaster response systems, depletion of food and fodder production, etc.” However, there is no mention of increasing coping capacity of the vulnerable and compensating those who lose and demanding that those who are responsible (High consumption sections of the world and India) pay for these impacts in this long list.

According to an undated report ‘Climate change in Maharashtra’[11] brought out by Met Office (Hadley Centre, UK), TERI and Government of Maharashtra:

  • “Increased temperatures and altered seasonal precipitation        patterns (both in amount and timing) could affect the hydrological systems and agricultural productivity.
  • Increased risk of severe weather events may have a      devastating impact on agriculture, water resources, forestry and the well-being of the population.
  • TERI states that due to changing climate, Sugarcane yield in Maharashtra could go down by 30%

 When all this is known, what is Maharashtra’s response to these predictions and the looming challenge of Climate change?

 The National Action Plan on Climate Change was made public in June 2008 amidst huge fan fare by PM Manmohan Singh.[12] It was mandated that states will come up with State Action Plans for Climate Change by 31st March 2011. These State Action Plans would outline the vulnerability of the state as whole as well as specific regions and specific communities in the state to Climate change and recommend a strong adaptation and mitigation plan for overcoming these challenges. Till date (11th March 2014), SAPCCs of 12 states have been submitted to the MoEF. [13]

Maharashtra Cabinet had reportedly approved a State Action Plan for Climate change prepared by its environment department on Aug 20, 2009[14], however, the Maharashtra’s Action Plan is not finalized till date. When enquired about the status of this plan, the Director in Environment Department, Government of Maharashtra told SANDRP that they had contracted the plan to TERI and TERI has not completed the task till date.

Given the gravity of the issue, the State Action Plan for Climate Change is supposed to be overseen by a High Powered Committee, whose Chairperson is the Chief Minister, with participation from ministers of Urban Development, Public Works, Transport, Agriculture, Water resource, Revenue & Forest, Energy, industry, Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Protection Department and Education Department.[15] The agenda and minutes of meetings of this High Powered Group should have been in public domain, but none are.

A formal contract was signed between Government of Maharashtra and TERI in March 2010 and TERI was supposed to submit a complete report in two years, i.e., by March 2011. However, Maharashtra still does not have a state action plan, indicating its lack of seriousness about Climate Change and vulnerable communities.[16]

As Maharashtra continues to be battered by hailstorms, rainfall and winds, it is not useful to get into discussions of whether this is due to climate change or not. The challenges right now is to devise strategy that will help the most vulnerable sections of Maharashtra: its farmers, more than 85% of whom practice rain fed agriculture. It is time not only to seriously revamp the nearly non-existent disaster management systems, but also the weather prediction and crop insurance systems. To build resilience of farming communities, reliance cannot be put on monoculture like sugarcane which does not allow even protective irrigation to a large proportion of farmers outside the sugarcane belt.

After closely spaced events like Mumbai floods in July 2005, Phyan cyclone in 2009, 2012-13 drought, erratic monsoon rainfall and current hailstorms, Maharashtra cannot afford to drag its feet on addressing climate change challenges, organizations like WOTR are specifically working on strengthening capacities of local communities to adapt to challenges thrown by Climate change[17]. Let us hope that at least State Action Plan on Climate change is finalized, not only by the experts from far away, but with full participation of the people of Maharashtra. Similar rain induced damages are also being witnessed in the North India and scientists fear that the coming monsoon may suffer due to El Nino effect. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Fears-of-El-Nino-on-rise-may-spell-woes-for-the-economy/articleshow/31824485.cms)

In the meantime, the least that the government of Maharashtra and also the Union Government can do is to compensate the affected farmers irrespective of red tapes and Codes of conduct.

High-end consumers and polluters of India and abroad contribute to climate change, which ironically hits the poorest sections  of the society harder. This gives an added urgency to address these linked issues.

–          Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com


[1] Sakal (Marathi) Newspaper, 11 March 2014

[10] The semi-arid tropics (SAT) region is characterized by highly variable, low-to-medium rainfall and poor soils, further characterized by lack of irrigation. In general, the historical average annual rainfall in the SAT is below 700 mm. In agricultural policy terms, this region is considered to be a less favored area (LFA) (ICRISAT)

[17] http://www.wotr.org/climate-change-adaptation

http://www.wotr.org/audio_visuals_english/does-it-ever-rain-time

[18] VERY TRAGIC story of how hailstorms have hit poor farmers in Marathawada in Maharashtra: http://www.livemint.com/Specials/jkcra6zQqMShlFJjzmvXeN/Death-and-despair-in-hailstormhit-Marathwada.html

[19] Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate change: Farmers Suffer, State and consultant TERI unaffected https://sandrp.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2529&action=edit