Is India being affected by Global Warming?

Posted on June 22, 2010 in Environment

Divya Gupta:

Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes all seem like miniature disasters compared to the catastrophe that has been subtly created by human beings, thanks to the greenhouse effect. It is none other than global climate, which like the tortoise has won in its endeavor to destroy the future of the earth. It is a global phenomena which occurs due to the increase in the concentration of the green house gases (like methane, carbon dioxide etc) in the atmosphere which results in rise of the mean temperature of the earth. It has been certified by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1991, 1992) that atmospheric temperatures have risen from the past. The concern arises from the fact that it is our everyday activities like driving a car, using an AC, power plants and an enormous range of activities which is leading to a potpourri of effects on the earth.

The developed nations are the biggest contributors to this devastation. Despite the fact that the per capita emissions of green house effect contributors in India are amongst the lowest in the world, India is at potential danger when it comes to global warming. India has a vast coastal line and the rising sea levels caused by global warming will cause an ecological disaster. This is according to a 1989 United Nations Environment Programme study.

“In India, the signs already back up a forecast that as the mercury rises the Indian subcontinent, home to one-sixth of humanity; will be one of the worst-affected regions.”

In the face of this, many parts of the country have already been affected. The areas which are most prone and affected are:

1. Rising temperatures fuelled by greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture have already shrunk glaciers on the mountains of the great Himalayas. Receding glaciers are affecting the levels of water in rivers. Recent reports have also brought out that the Ganga is drying up because the Gangotri glacier, its main source, is receding at the rate of 10 to 30 meters a year. While the Ganga is drying up, there are signs now of rising water levels in the Bhakra Nangal Dam reservoir. The melting of glaciers in the Upper Himalayas has been cited as a major contributor to this.

2. Thanks to the melting Himalayan glaciers, rising sea levels have submerged two islands in the Sunderbans, where tigers roam through mangrove forests in the Ganges River delta, and a dozen more islands are under threat, scientists say. The annual number of cyclones has fallen, but they are more intense now due to global warming and this means more coastal flooding, erosion and more saline water moving in on the islands and also in Bangladesh. Temperatures have risen by almost one centigrade. It has a cascading effect on the crops and monsoons as well.

3. Goa’s existence from the map would be wiped off if the current trend of sea-level rise continues., A scientific study has revealed that around 4.3 per cent of  Goa’s 105 kilometer coastline has already been affected by a one meter rise in sea level, which continues. The study also says that 7.3 per cent of Goa’s coastal population is affected by beach erosion which is also very high compared to other States,
“By 2050 and 2080 if the sea level would rise by 38 and 59 meters respectively, then Goa would lose maximum percentage of its land and its population,” an article in the book on ‘Global Warming and Climatic Change’ by Dr Desh Bandhu has claimed.

4. God’s own country, Kerala, and its neighboring Lakshadweep Islands have also become the victims of global warming and climate change. More worrying is the drastic three degree rise in temperatures in the fragile and eco-sensitive Lakshadweep Islands. Coral reefs, the most diverse marine habitat that support half-a-million species, may start losing dominance from Indian seas starting 2030 following increase in sea temperature, says a new study.

These and many more such areas like most coastal regions including mega cities like Mumbai are extremely vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Measures including afforestation, use of CNG, reduction of carbon foot print etc are being taken to curb this cataclysm.

We did not create this problem, but we contributed to it along with everyone else. Now we have to figure out how to solve it or live with it. It’s our world and our turn.