According to a study done by the Tamil Nadu State Land Use Research Board, 144 sq km of land with almost ten lakh lives in Chennai would be in danger if the sea level rises by a metre by 2050; this pegs the loss due to such a development at 7,01,790 crore.
As reported by The New Indian Express, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) that lies largely on the bedrock under the sea shows signs of decreasing mass. The Totten Glacier, East Antarctica, which is melting rapidly, possesses enough water to raise sea levels by 3.4 m. Glaciologists believe that it holds enough water to raise sea levels by 4.8 m.
The study is a part of the Tamil Nadu State Action Plan on Climate change, which takes into account greenhouse emissions and global warming. It stresses that coastal cities in the state, like Chennai, should be prepared for a one-metre rise in sea level by 2050.
The idea of environmental conservation was built into India’s traditional culture. With scientific progress and technological development, humans began utilising resources at a much higher scale. Climate change is one of the most complex problems facing mankind today. This is evident from the rise the global average air, ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and the rising global average sea level. It is projected to have significant impacts on conditions affecting agriculture, including temperature, precipitation and glacial run-off.
Global warming has resulted in a decline in mountain glaciers and snow cover in both hemispheres, and this is projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century. Increasing flood poses challenges to society, physical infrastructure and water quality. Rising temperatures will further affect the physical, chemical and biological properties of fresh water lakes and rivers, with mainly adverse impacts on marine life forms. The growing demand of water in agriculture, domestic and industrial sectors has brought problems of overexploitation of the groundwater resource to the fore.
The reason India is so vulnerable to climate change is that it is a large country with many living in poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of government planning to deal with complex weather systems.
India is subjected to irregular monsoons, flooding, rising sea levels, and higher temperatures.
Being close to the equator, the sub-continent would see much a higher rise in sea level than in higher latitudes. Sea-level rise and storm surges would lead to saltwater intrusion in the coastal areas, impacting agriculture, and degrading groundwater quality etc.,
Rising sea levels in India
As reported by The Times of India, according to the UN environment report, about 40 million people in India will get affected by rising sea levels, including people in Mumbai and Kolkata having maximum exposure to coastal flooding in future due to rapid urbanisation and economic growth.
The report said that the changes in settlement patterns, urbanisation and socio-economic status in Asia had impacted discerned trends in vulnerability and exposure to climate extremes. Livelihoods can be influenced negatively by natural disasters, economic crises and climatic change. Evidence suggests that climate change, variability and sea-level rise will aggravate multidimensional poverty in most developing countries.
By 2050, areas of storm surge zones are expected for Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with a combined total of over 58 million people at risk.
What steps have been taken by the Indian government?
India had adopted the National Environment Policy 2006 which provides for several measures and policy strategies to create awareness about climate change and help capacity building for taking adaptation measures. On 30 June 2008, India unveiled its National Action Plan on Climate Change to lay down the priorities and future actions of the government for addressing climate change and updating India’s national programme relevant to addressing climate change. Eight national missions (solar mission, energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, water, Himalayan eco-system, Green India, eco-green agriculture and knowledge) have been specifically outlined to simultaneously advance India’s development and climate change related objectives of adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation.
India is committed to a path of sustainable development. It has taken several steps in the implementation of Clean Development Mechanism projects. The idea of “national water grid” was scientifically studied by the Central Water Commission through the National Water Development Agency, an autonomous body under the Water Resources Ministry. The feasibility of using electricity and battery-operated vehicles is also being explored. Now, Efforts are also being made to remove energy from urban and industrial waste.
The study of State Action Plan on Climate Change takes into account storm surges, tides and higher mean sea levels, and predicts that future storm surges, that are likely to be more frequent and more intense due to climate change, would reach between 4.35 m and 6.85 m and also the rise in sea level would result in 50-55% loss of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), while taking into account the GSDP for Tamil Nadu in 2016.