Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another year ahead to combat climate change and desertification

Since 1995 UN General Assembly (under resolution no A/RES/49/1995), every year 17th June has been celebrated as the World day to combat drought and desertification for promoting public awareness related to international cooperation to combat the effect of drought and desertification under the umbrella of UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification). Likewise, this year also UN as a part of their international campaign to tackle global environmental deterioration particularly degradation of dry-lands is celebrating International day to Combat Desertification with the theme “Conserving land and water = Securing our common future”.

It is important to note that 44% of all cultivated system worldwide is located within dry-land. Desertification makes 12 million hectares of land useless for cultivation every year, whereas half of the people who are below poverty line live in dry-lands. Drought and desertification is directly linked with soil productivity and it induces the vulnerability towards pests and diseases. As a result of climate change, agriculture in the dry land is being seriously threatened by raising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns or the increase of drought. Desertification, land degradation and drought threaten this human security by depriving people of their means of life – by taking away food, access to water, the means for economic activities, and even their homes. This has also impact on the migration and movements of people from one place to other in search of these resources. When secure water and food supplies cannot be guaranteed, people frequently migrate to areas where they believe they can find them. The most recent estimates put the number of the environmentally displaced from anywhere between 17 and 24 million people around the world. It is projected that for the period leading up to the year 2050 there will be 200 million environmentally induced migrants (International Organization for Migration, Geneva). Agriculture and food security are the major concern as decrease in agricultural productivity with shrinking of land availability is the biggest challenge to feed increase population of India. The phenomenon of climate change is affecting the agricultural production and available land for cultivation in a serious manner in India. About 28 % of the country’s total cultivable land is drought prone and about 68 million hector land is undergoing and affected by desertification, which could be a serious blow on agricultural productivity and food security.

The north eastern India is known for the forest and other natural resources along with the water resources. But of late, most of the part of this region is facing the problem of water scarcity and water pollution in some part of the region is perceived as an important problem beside biodiversity loss, jhum, deforestation and urbanization. Many urban localities in the area are constantly facing the problem of water scarcity since last couple of years. City like Imphal is severely facing the problem since last two months. The intensity is such that Imphal has witnessed almost 75 % decrease rainfall in the first quarter of this year as compared to that of 2007-08 as per the record of state meteorological department. During September 2007 to March 2008 rainfall in the city was about 527 mm and within a year the rainfall decreases to three fold resulting only 206 mm in this season. Even during a study while I am comparing the rainfall and meteorological data of Tawang and Bomdila we came up with a linear decrease in rainfall over last 15 years. This two examples along with many other are the replica of phase of future water scarcity and depict the coming days water scenario in the region.

Much of the land surface is degrading or at the risk of degradation due to decline of forest covers. Forest plays an important role in preventing and controlling land degradation and desertification and also for sound economic development while conserving the global environment. The process of deforestation and desertification are intractably linked, whereby land cover changes in terms of forest or other land use and unsustainable use of land resources over a period of time lead to degradation of land and simultaneously desertification. Water harvesting and conservation should be a national priority and it should be used judiciously. Plants in forest areas are the natural carbon sinks. Proper step for massive aforestation and conservation of the remaining forest lands will help in regeneration of the degraded forests and slow down the process of desertification. In this context, stress should be given to conserve and protect forest land, natural water bodies including lakes, rivers and streams where the youth of the region can play a vital role in this context. Lastly, there is another year ahead to combat the ill-effect of climate change and desertification for better ecosystem services and sustainable development.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My article published in the Arunachal Times

A thought on the World Environment day

Kripaljyoti Mazumdar

Like the other this year also we are celebrating World Environment day, with the theme ‘Your planet needs you- Unite to combat Climate change’ urging the human being to unite against the effect of climate change. While since its inception during the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 (by resolution 2994 (XXVII) of December 15, 1972, in the General Assembly of UN)to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, each year it is being celebrated across the world, with a host country each year. This year’s host is Mexico city, Mexico which reflects the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets. This endeavor of World Environmental day promotes environmental issues to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development as well as upholds an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues and advocates partnership that will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

It has been seen that since last three years the main concern of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) was on the Global warming and the affect of climate change, which reflects in each year’s theme. While exactly two decades earlier in 1989 when the UNEP first put its Environmental day theme on Global Warming, the impact of the global warming perhaps not been seen or felt at such intensive level as at the moments and the scientific trends that are available now.

Temperature increase is widespread over the globe, with higher than average trends in many of the world’s highlands. On average the global temperature rose by 0.74°C over the last hundred years (1906-2005), with more than half of this rise, 0.44°C, in the last 25 years. Eleven of the twelve years between 1995 and 2006 rank among the twelve warmest years since 1850 when records of global surface temperature began, this trend certainly alarm us about the trend of global warming and must concern all of us.

This global trend of climate change certainly depicts a picture of global raise of sea level or the low laying areas. But, the Climate change has become a major issue in the Himalayan region too. Temperatures increase as per prediction, all aspects of human and natural life will be affected.

The mountain regions are particularly vulnerable, both because warming trends are higher and because the impacts are magnified by the extreme changes in altitude over small distances. Life in the entire Himalayan region also relies strongly on the monsoon systems, and these may be altered by climate change. Locally, people’s ability to adapt will be challenged; further away, changes in the Himalayas could affect the life and livelihoods of the 1.3 billion people living in the river basins downstream.

Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has developed one of the most comprehensive climate change projection studies in the region, which suggest that there will be a decrease in monsoon precipitation of up to 20% by the end of the century in most parts of south-eastern Afghanistan, the southern and eastern Tibetan Plateau and the central Himalayan range. Changes in the monsoon regime might lead to an overall increase in precipitation in some areas, and a decrease in others. There are also likely to be more flash floods resulting from increased numbers and magnitude of extreme precipitation events, and there may be greater direct runoff and less delayed runoff as less precipitation falls as snow.

All areas of South Asia are projected to warm by at least 1°C by the end of the century; in the Punjab area, a large part of Afghanistan, Badakshan, the western Nepal Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh, and the northern Tibetan Plateau, warming could be as high as 3.5-4°C. The rate of warming is likely to increase with increasing altitude, at least in Nepal, Bhutan and Eastern Himalaya.

The effect of climate change which worries environmentalists of this part of eastern Himalaya is about the effect of climate change on ecosystem services as Climate change is going to affecting forest type and area, primary productivity, species populations and migration, the occurrence of pests and disease, and forest regeneration. The increase in greenhouse gases is also affecting species composition and changing the ecosystem structure, which in turn affects ecosystem function. The interaction between elevated CO2 and climate change plays an important role in the overall response of net primary productivity. Climate change will have a profound effect on the future distribution, productivity, and ecological health of forests. There could be a significant reduction in alpine and cryospheric ecosystems and their services. A major expansion of the tropical zones would cover most of the middle mountains and inner valleys of the region, whereby the quality and quantity of ecosystem services are likely to change dramatically for the worse.

Climate change is also going to affect the human health and the people’s well being as it will affect in the form of Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever which are likely to move to higher altitudes. Water-borne diseases are also likely to increase with the increasing water stress accompanied by the lack of safe drinking water and basic sanitation in the region. Deaths and morbidity associated with extreme and erratic weather are also likely to increase. Climate change will have differentiated impacts which could be more severe for women, and poor and marginalized groups.

These data and facts are most alarming towards the extent of global warming and the climate change that we are facing, and the phenomenon is now regarded as the greatest threat facing the world. There are many disputes related to the reduction of CO2 by among many countries, but we need to understand that Climate change is a global problem that needs addressing now for the sake of future generations. The science is well established and the dangers clear. It needs the consolidate effort of all section of people and specially the youths. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon in his message on the eve of World Environmental day encouraged all people to take concrete steps toward making the planet greener and cleaner and urge about needs of a “Green New Deal” focused on investing in renewable sources of energy, eco-friendly infrastructure and energy efficiency.

Year Wise Theme and List of Host Countries of World Environmental Day since last two decades



Host Country


Your Planet Needs you- unite to combat climate change



CO2, Kick the Habitat! Towards a low Carbon Economy

Wellington, New Zealand


Melting Ice- a hot topic

Tromso, Norway


Desert and desertification-don’t desert Drylands!

Algiers, Algeria


Green cities- plan for the planet

San Francisco, USA


Seas and Oceans- dead or alive

Barcelona, Spain


Water- two billion people are dieing for it.

Beirut, Lebanon


Give earth a chance

Shenzhen, China


Connect with World wide web of life

Jointly by Italy and Cuba


The Environment Millennium – Time to Act

Adelaide, Australia


Our Earth - Our Future - Just Save It!

Tokyo, Japan


For Life on Earth - Save Our Seas

Moscow, Russian Federation


For Life on Earth

Seoul, Republic of Korea


Our Earth, Our Habitat, Our Home

Istanbul, Turkey


We the Peoples: United for the Global Environment

Pretoria, South Africa


One Earth One Family

London, United Kingdom


Poverty and the Environment - Breaking the Vicious Circle

Beijing, China


Only One Earth, Care and Share

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Climate Change. Need for Global Partnership

Stockholm, Sweden


Children and the Environment

Mexico City, Mexico


Global Warming; Global Warning

Brussels, Belgium

(Published in Arunachal Times, 5th June 2009).