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Effects of Global Warming on Indian Agriculture

written by: Chief Engineer Mohit Sanguri•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 5/6/2010

India is a country of numerous climatic zones and a number of different crops are grown using different farming methods. Indian agricultural crops are deeply affected by global warming and climate changes.....

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    Global Warming and India

    India is a large country with all types of climates and different kinds of soil requiring different types of farming. Most of the agricultural land in India is dependent on rainfall for irrigation. While some parts of the country are drought prone, the other parts are prone to flooding. For many years, parts of the country have been struggling against drought and at the same time, agricultural lands in other parts of the country are submerged due to floods. In such a country, the effects of global warming will be extreme. India has about 15 Argo-climatic zones with different types of farming methods and crops. As most of the population is dependent on agriculture and two-thirds of the country waits for the monsoon rains to aid in agriculture, any change in the frequency of the rains will affect these areas critically.

    Years of man’s greed have paid the price, for the environment is changing and tomorrow’s world may not be as we see it today. We will be gone, but our children will face the consequences. India, a developing nation, is ill equipped to deal with global warming effects such as drastic climate changes. The inertia in its government machinery will make it even more difficult to act on this issue. The signs are certain, as in the Himalayas, also known as the crown of India, the average temperatures are up by one degree Celsius and have lead to an increased melting of the glaciers. Most of the rivers feed off of the glaciers and the nation, in turn, is fed off of these rivers. What will happen to India when all the rivers are dry?

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    Signs of Global Warming and Climate Change

    The signs of global warming are everywhere and every summer appears to be hotter than the last. Wells are running dry and the ground water has depleted. In April, all of India experienced the temperatures that are usually common in May.

    In Uttarakhand and Himanchal Pradesh, the states famous for their apples, the production has fallen due to temperature rise and less rain and snow. The apple belt has shifted 30 kilometers northward to higher altitudes from 9000 feet to 12,000 feet above sea level.

    In high altitude areas like Laddakh, with less agricultural possibilities, now it is possible to grow a larger variety of vegetables due to the increase in temperature.

    Houses in the foothills of the Himalayas have begun to install ceiling fans for the first time, as the average temperatures have increased. The increase in temperature has brought with them mosquitoes and house flies, which were uncommon until now. Malaria, which is found to be rare at a height of 1500 meters above sea level, is now more common in towns like Nainital, which is 2000 meters above sea level.

    Farmers all over India are switching over to crops requiring less water as the rains have become irregular. In many places, the farmers are planting the upland rice varieties that do not require stagnant water like the coastal varieties.

    Grapes are requiring a larger amount of water for irrigation and growth; this again is attributed to the climate change.

    As the winter rains have shifted to April in Himanchal Pradesh, they wash away the pollens of the apple flowers, thus contributing to a lower yield of the crop.

    Wheat production in India is decreasing every year due to the change in climate and other global warming effects. According to IARI, every 1oC increase in temperature reduces wheat production by 4-5 million tons.

    In high altitude areas like Leh, the tropical vegetables like bitter gourd, pumpkin, tomato, watermelon, and capsicum could not be grown locally and had to be imported from lower altitude areas in the past. It is now common to see farmers from these areas growing the same vegetables for personal as well as commercial use.

    In fact, the seas and the fisheries also have been affected by global warming as the Sardines are shifting from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal, traditionally not their normal habitat.

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    Projected Effects of Climate Change in IndiaAs temperature is rising and the climate is changing, it is affecting the country both socially and commercially. The projected effects of the climate change in India in the coming years is concerning. The milk yield will fall by 1.5 million tons by 2020 and the crops will have a reduced yield of up to 40% by 2100.
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    Social Effects of Climate Change in India

    Global warming is affecting the livelihood of the people of the Himalayas, who for centuries were accustomed to farming in a particular way. As Himalayan farming is only dependent on the monsoon and the winter rains, this change has hit them hard. Now new crops and the methods to grow them have to be taught to the villagers and research based upon the local conditions and limitations must be done.

    As terraced farming has become more labor intensive and many times futile due to crop failures caused by global warming, many farmers are migrating to adjoining states and cities like New Delhi looking for employment.

    The crime rate has gone up and it is understandable, as loss of job opportunities have caused this.

    Vidharba region in the state of Maharashtra in news for the last few years because of the continuous suicides by farmers due to drought. As large areas are dependent of the rains for farming, the absent and irregular rains hit the farmers hard.

    As two-thirds of the population of India is dependent on monsoons for agriculture, the huge change in climate caused by global warming will affect them strongly.

    As the Himalayan glaciers are melting it will lead to a very thirsty India in the summer months. One research study has shown the Himalayas to be warming 5 to 6 times faster than the global average.

    An increase in temperatures coupled with the depletion of the ground water, will increase the diseases among the people. As wells run dry the people of India will have to share the water of the lakes and rivers with cattle, which can lead to disease.

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    Projected Effects of Global Warming on India

    The global warming effects on Indian agriculture, as projected, will be prominently on the following regions and the local population:

    • State of Rajasthan will come under drought and water scarcity will increase.
    • The Ganges will become dry as glaciers are melting and dams across the river have reduced the flow of water. It is a holy river for millions of Hindus, therefore, religious sentiments will be hurt.
    • Sea levels will increase and the Sunderbans in the Ganga valley delta will submerge.
    • Mumbai will suffer from salt water intrusion.
    • Apple crop yields will decrease further and the farmers will have to relocate to higher land resulting in further destruction of forests and higher animal encounters with humans. Already mountain leopards kill many villagers and small children along with domestic animals in the hills due to loss of forest coverage.
    • The pine forests will advance into the oak forests and destroy them. No other trees can grow underneath the pines, which would lead to a further loss of woods and fodder to the villagers.
    • Rice yields will fall in North West India.
    • Western India will suffer from a rise in sea level waters; the Runn of Kutch area will be affected.
    • In Kerala, the productivity of the forests will fall.
    • Productivity of most crops in India will fall from 10 to 40 % by 2100.
    • A one degree C increase in temperature will reduce the yield of soybeans, wheat, and ground nuts from 3 to 7%.
    • There will be an increase in the droughts and floods in the coming future.
    • An increase in the water temperature of the sea and inland waters will affect the fish harvest, migration, and breeding as fish are not as tolerant to climate change as plants.
    • Animals will be in distress due to the heat and their reproduction will be affected.
    • Milk yields will decrease by 1.5 million tons by 2020.
    • The climate change in India is causing the glaciers in the Himalayas to melt. Therefore, a rapid release of the melted water when combined with rainfall, will lead to flash floods and landslides. It would lead to the creation of unstable lakes which can cause loss of lives and property by breaching.

    These are the projected problems that India will suffer from in the future, and substantially, already has. In coastal Orissa, the sea has come inland 2.5 kilometers towards the Kanakpur and Satvaya region, causing about a 56% loss of its mangrove vegetation.

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    Conclusion

    These global warming effects and climate changes in India, will not be the same for all countries; some may suffer even more than others. The more developed countries, with the help of the technology and power, will not suffer as much as the poorer countries and their people. Millions already die of hunger in poor countries in Asia and Africa, so what will happen when the rains stop falling? We have already wasted a lot of valuable time just debating the issue and not taking any action; for if we do not act now it will be too late. What inheritance are we going to give to our next generation; our children? Is there going to be a lifetime of thirst and hunger?