Impact of climate change is upon us

Has Karnataka any plans to ensure livelihood security to its burgeoning masses? A look by M.A. Siraj

April 29, 2016 03:23 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:01 pm IST

The Paris Climate-Change Agreement signed in New York on April 22 by 177 countries has set the ball rolling to bring down the emission of Green Houses Gases (GHG) to check global warming. Has Karnataka any plans in this regard?

The impact of climate change is already upon us. The intensity of the changes that are in the offing were never felt more severely before this summer. The State now needs to move from mere risk analysis of climate-related threats to preventive action. Climate change has repercussions for the people’s livelihood as it would result in degradation of resources and cause disasters. Some indications are already evident. Between 2006 and 2011, 4.2 million hectares of crop was damaged and lives lost in various natural calamities in the State (remember the floods in Kalaburagi in 2012). Foodgrain production also declined by eight per cent to 12.5 million tonnes during the same period.

Met data for the last 100 years shows that Karnataka has grown warmer by 0.4 degress Celsius during the period. Average rainfall has also decreased by 10 per cent. Impact in the northern districts of the State has been more severe, warming has been 0.6% on an average. South interior Karnataka falls under those areas that have the probability of drought visiting them once in every four years. But Karnataka also has the dubious distinction of having the second largest share of arid land after Rajasthan, something belied by a look at cities like Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Mysuru sheathed in greenery.

Why cities decay?

Increasing aridity and smaller size of farms lead to livelihood insecurity and force people to migrate for employment towards cities. Due to lack of skills they join the unorganised sector, subsist on meagre incomes, and live in slums which in turn contribute to unwieldy sprawl of towns and cities. This influx into cities from arid areas is capable of souring the dreams of smart cities or sustainable cities. As of now, 30 villagers are moving into cities every minute in India.

The Paris Agreement calls for keeping the rise in average temperature well below 2 degress Celsius. Given Karnataka’s fast paced urbanisation — currently 37 per cent of the population lives in towns and cities — the State needs to concentrate on energy, transport, infrastructure sectors, initiate steps to conserve water and forest resources from both degradation and depletion and manage solid waste and go for wastewater treatment.

Threat to Western Ghats

The Western Ghats, one among the 18 mega biodiversity hotspots of the world, occupy 23 per cent of Karnataka’s geographical area. But we need to be reminded that these are the densest populated sections of the Ghats what with one square kilometre area harbouring 600 people. Most of Karnataka’s rives rise from the Western Ghats, fill up reservoirs for generating power and supply of water around the year and also irrigate the State. These are spread over 160,000 sq. km. a reduction from 500,000 sq. km in 1,840. Its core green zone has shrunk to only 3,000 sq. km., an area a little less than four Bengalurus put together. Eleven per cent of the State’s geographical area is under moderately dense forest cover. The State has considerable hydropower resources, but global warming would affect it adversely, unless steps are initiated to reverse ecological degradation on a war footing.

Pollutants and emissions

A major task awaits the State in dealing with solid waste and wastewater which threaten the environment in a major way. By 2030, Bengaluru itself will require 72 hectares of land for landfills.

Two other major sources of polluting emissions are motorised vehicles and use of biomass for stoves. Many households do not have LPG connections and have to depend upon firewood, coal, kerosene oil or cowdung cakes. Bengaluru itself has 58 lakh vehicles, 40 per cent of the State’s vehicles. The State has 100 billion passenger-km demand annually. Half of it is met by buses and 30 per cent by two-wheelers.

Growth projections prepared by Global Green Growth Institute and CSTEP and released in December 2014, indicate that Karnataka has followed a trajectory of sustained industrial growth which needs to be made sustainable. Energy demand by 2030 is likely to touch 29 Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (Mtoe) against the present 9 Mtoe. The State’s population will be rising to 72 million and mobility demand will go up fourfold. Similar will be growth in demand for power and the installed capacity will need to be increased from 12GW to 40GW.

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