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Indo-Gangetic plains under severe climatic stress, food security at stake


Assessing the vulnerability of agriculture in 161 districts of IGP to climate change, the IARI, in its first such study, has found districts in southern Bihar and eastern UP to be most prone to the adversaries caused by climate change.

One of the most populous and productive agricultural ecosystems in the world, the IGP ranks among the world’s most densely populated areas and is home for nearly 1 billion population (about one-seventh of the world’s population). While wheat and rice are the principal crops of this intensely-farmed region, maize, sugarcane and cotton are also grown extensively in this fertile belt, comprising Punjab, Haryana, UP, Bihar and West Bengal.

Twenty-four out of thirty-seven districts in Bihar have been studied to be extremely vulnerable while 12 are found to be highly vulnerable to climate change-induced stress. Twelve out of 80 districts in UP have been found extremely vulnerable while 24 have been placed in the highly vulnerable class. Ten out of 18 districts in West Bengal have been found to be highly vulnerable while one has been studied to be extremely vulnerable.

Sheohar in Bihar is ranked first in the list of 161 vulnerable districts while Nawanshahr in Punjab is ranked the last. The districts of Punjab and Haryana are placed in the low vulnerability class on account of their higher adaptive capacity to recover from the climatic stresses.

The study based its findings upon – Exposure, Sensitivity and Adaptive Capacity. While the first was based on the patterns of exposure to occurrences of hazards such as droughts and floods and took into account the degree of climate stress at a particular location and the long term climatic changes or its variation, sensitivity measured the degree to which a system is modified or affected by internal and external disturbances. The adaptive capacity of an agricultural system was based on its capacity to recover from disaster and hazards, which in turn depends upon factors like literacy levels, access to information, farm area, farm value assets and the latest available technology.

HS Gupta, director – IARI, said: ‘The study calls for climate-resilient crops, conservation agriculture that can fix carbon and reduce greenhouse gases and better fertilizer management. The problem needs to be tackled immediately.’

Dr Vinay K. Sehgal, senior scientist, IARI, who was part of study, said, ‘Adequate financial and other resources are needed for adaptive capacity. The highly vulnerable regions require effective management of environmental resources, increased market participation, stimulus of agricultural intensification and diversification of livelihoods away from the risky agriculture and effective programmes of health, education and social welfare.’

‘The rural areas also need investment for infrastructure development, and the high exposure regions need more accurate early warning systems for extreme climatic events, appropriate relief programs and agricultural insurance,’ he said.
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