Cyclones and threat to delta population
India and Bangladesh are increasingly facing the wrath of nature with more frequent occurrences of cyclonic storms and coastal floods.
One can especially recall Sidr (2007), Nargis (2008), Aila (2009), Phailin (2013) and the recent Roanu (2016), hitting the deltas of Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra and Irrawaddy, affecting millions of people in the eastern Bay of Bengal.
During each of these events, there has been a huge loss of lives, livestock, and household assets giving rise to long-term after-effects such as debt burden, forced migration, and human trafficking.
Added to this long list of misery is the salinisation of agricultural fields, making them unsuitable for growing crops.
Are mitigation and adaptation measures adequate?
Project reports and action plans focusing on the need to combat the effects of climate change through the process of mitigation and adaptation are pouring in.
In India, a National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC, 2008 and 2014) with 12 mission mode action can be viewed followed by the impressive State Level Action Plan for every state.
But during every disaster, the panic button is pressed. The Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the National Disaster Management Authority failed to prevent loss of life in Andhra Pradesh during cyclone Roanu and many more such incidents had occurred in the past after 2005.
In Bangladesh, the number of deaths touched 24 during Roanu. Loss of human lives has now become a number game in the media.
In reality, the message of action has not been able to translate into real action. Policy makers and implementing agencies speak in different languages and so does the finance ministry which holds the purse strings.
How many states have come up with an annual progress report on the State Action Plan on Climate Change?
Any critical search will yield only one such report from Odisha on the progress of implementation of the Odisha Climate Change (2010), reporting on the progress made till 2015.
Also, there is no separate reporting system from the NAPCC authority and the Government of India on the progress except for the part included in the annual report of the Ministry of Environment.
The Centre seems to be focusing more on long-term benefits that will be derived from adopting mitigation measures like an extensive plan for renewable energy and promoting energy efficiency than addressing the immediate need of putting equal importance on measures targeted for implementing adaptation programmes.
It will be interesting to find out what exactly are the barriers to the implementation of the adaptation programme of which at least five dedicated missions have been announced at the national level.
India has set up a National Adaptation Fund, but the Budget allocated seems to be too little. Meanwhile, the coastal population, especially in the most vulnerable delta regions, continues to face uncertainty with every warning of cyclone and storm surge during the coming monsoon.
People in Sundarbans most susceptible to climate change
The phenomenon of “climate change” has undoubtedly become one of the major concerns for the global community in the 21st century.
Scientific evidence has proved beyond doubt the role of human beings in triggering unprecedented changes in the environment, beginning post-Industrial Revolution in the west.
While the prolonged debate on the climate crisis and how to combat it with mitigation and adaptation measures continue, so does the ever-increasing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), especially carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Countries with a long history of colonial exploitation in the southern part of the world point out to the historical emitters from the north, who, they feel, should bear the cost of remedial action.
People around the world are facing the fury of nature in the form of heat waves, cyclones and storm surges, floods, mountain deluge and drought. The worst-affected and most vulnerable people are those living in the deltas.
India and Bangladesh share the largest deltas in the World—the Ganga, Meghna, and Brahmaputra (GMB) Delta. Millions of people in the Indian part of the Sundarbans (now also called Bengal Delta or in short IBD) and the Bangladesh Sundarbans Delta have been experiencing storm surges and cyclones over the past seven years.
DOWN TO EARTH
(The author is founder-director of the Centre for Environment & Development, Kolkata. Views expressed are strictly personal.)