According to a study presented by a team of Indian scientists at the COP 24 climate conference being held in Katowice, Poland, Assam and Mizoram are the most vulnerable to climate change among the Himalayan states.
The team took into account 12 western and eastern Himalayan states on various parameters crucial for adaptation to climate change such as irrigated area, per capita income (for 2014-15), area under crop insurance, forest cover and the extent of slopes.
It may be noted that the data for these parameters has been taken from government records such as the census and annual reports.
The team, which comprises of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc, Bengaluru), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, and IIT , Guwahati, found that Assam and Mizoram ranked highest on the vulnerability index, while Uttarakhand and Sikkim were the lowest relative to other hill states assessed.
Assam has higher vulnerability because it has one of the lowest areas under irrigation and lowest forest area per 1,000 rural households among the 12 states. Besides, it has lowest per capita income, lowest area under crop insurance and relatively low participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme, which provides 100 days of employment (unskilled public work) to at least one adult member of every poor rural household.
Mizoram is also highly vulnerable because of the same issues but also because at least 30% of the geographical area is under slope. Jammu and Kashmir has the third highest vulnerability ranking, mainly because it has no area under crop insurance, least road density, low percentage of area under horticulture crops, low livestock to human ratio and low percentage of women in the overall workforce, among other factors.
“Vulnerability to climate change is not about how much high temperature or high rainfall a region is going to experience. It is about the economic, social and environmental resources you have access to. So it will include money, infrastructure and many other factors. For example if there is frequent crop damage, a community would have to depend on the forests nearby which is an environmental resource. Developed countries for example can do it because they have resources. I believe this is a very important study for India which is struggling with climate impacts,” said Sanjay Vashist, director, Climate Action Network South Asia, a coalition of civil society organisations working to limit human-induced climate change.
Sikkim has the lowest vulnerability because it has the highest per capita income among the states assessed, lowest area under open forests but good coverage of dense forests, large area under orchards and a low population density.
NH Ravindranath, professor, Centre for Sustainable Technologies at IISc, made a presentation on these findings at Katowice on Tuesday. The Indian team said this vulnerability ranking will help in prioritising investment in mechanisms to adapt to climate change-in prioritising districts, blocks, communities, forest types and cropping systems and others.
“The vulnerability ranking will help the government rank most vulnerable states and districts within a state and undertake adaptation on priority. Indian Institute of Science developed the guidelines along with IIT Gauwhati,” said NH Rabindranath who presented the report in Katowice. A report on the index was released by union environment minister, Harsh Vardhan.