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6. A way forward.

1. India has achieved impressive economic growth in the past decade but its farm sector has languished, with stagnating yields, low productivity, and pockets of poverty and indebtedness. Aware of the growing disparity between agrarian and industrial India, the government has assigned the highest priority to revitalize the farm sector to its fullest potential in the Eleventh Five Year Plan period (2007-2012). Targeted growth of 4% per year in the agricultural sector is deemed necessary to achieve the aims of poverty reduction, inclusiveness, and increased income opportunities, with a special focus on rain-fed areas. But this is a challenging task and is made more so by the impacts and consequences of ongoing and future climate variability and change.

2. There is a litany of factors that account for agriculture's slow growth. These include fragmented landholdings, prevalence of subsistence and marginal farming, inadequate levels of technology, poor market access, and a shrinking natural resource base, endangering agricultural productivity and farm livelihoods across India. Added to this, projections indicate that climate variability and change will be characterized by more frequent and severe droughts and floods, posing significant economic, environmental, and social risks. Since 60% of India's workforce depends on agriculture and natural resources for livelihood, employment, and income, they are highly vulnerable to future climate risks and have limited adaptive capacity to effectively deal with the increasing unpredictability of climate change.

3. Delivering on the promise of faster and more inclusive growth will therefore require investment strategies that more effectively capture the potential effects of future climate trends and are accompanied by a portfolio of adaptation options that can diminish the associated risks. Living up to this commitment will require proactive and integrated tools, and interventions and policy measures, that are specifically targeted and tailored to the high-risk and vulnerable areas. Improvements in institutional capacities must also be met at an equal pace to facilitate adaptation.

4. This report suggests that adaptation to climate variability and change can be tackled through a comprehensive climate risk management approach, starting with the most severe vulnerabilities arising in regions that are subjected to frequent, intense and damaging climate events. Using this approach, the report makes a strong case for moving towards integrated risk management solutions for enhancing the resilience and adaptive capabilities of rural residents in selected areas of semiarid India. The report emphasizes that there is no single adaptation solution. Effective and sustainable adaptation to climate variability and change requires a combination of measures that must be implemented at multiple levels (national, regional, local, and community).

5. The study findings and recommendations coupled with a rigorous review of the literature and consultations with government officials and NGOs suggest four interrelated strategies that would help lower the exposure to climate risks and build adaptive resilience:

* Strengthening climate information systems and mechanisms and related management tools to match current and future needs;

* Fostering climate-resilient reforms in agriculture and water resource management;

* Supporting the management of climate risks with economic mechanisms and instruments;

* Improving institutional capacities and linkages among sectoral programs.

6.1 Strengthening Climate Information Systems and Mechanisms

6. The study has shown that climate change projections are characterized by a high degree of spatial variability in rainfall and temperature trends, which translates into spatial heterogeneity in drought and flood incidence. Generating high-resolution climate information is an important first step to factor climate risk into development decisions in the states. This can be done with more localized meteorological data and climate models, which can help to better identify areas at risk.

7. In dealing with floods, there is an overwhelming case for strengthening the current flood forecasting system to guide investments in high-value flood protection assets and to support more effective development and targeting of nonstructural approaches. The effectiveness of such a system can be strengthened by combining data collection, telemetry, flood forecasting, and flood warning elements into an integrated flood management and information system for the basin. Developing more robust flood inundation maps for planning and use by local authorities is another important priority that would facilitate risk assessment in zoning and planning decisions.

8. However, climate and meteorological data processing is complex and lies at the frontiers of climate change research. The capacity to generate climate information rests with research centers, while the need and demand for such information and products lies with local communities in risky areas. This argues in favor of a climate information system at the national or state level to disseminate information for planning and management to end users, such as irrigation or farm sector managers. This is also recognized in the Planning Commission's working documents for the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

6.2 Fostering Climate-Resilient Reforms in Agriculture and Water Resource Management

9. There is a strong case for more aggressively pursuing water conservation across drought-prone states. The projections indicate that even when farmers have largely adapted to arid cropping patterns, increased demand and consequent water stress could severely jeopardize livelihoods and render agriculture less viable in these regions. Reliance on supply-side approaches does little to curb the escalating and unsustainable demand for groundwater. Greater attention must therefore be given to hybrid approaches that emphasize the efficiency of groundwater use and increase the effectiveness of watershed activities to conserve soil moisture and harvest rainwater. Such adaptive measures are not a substitute for much needed economic incentives to enhance the productivity of water and water policy reform aimed at, the control of groundwater demand at the wider geographical scale necessary for effective management. However, they provide interim and feasible measures for reducing vulnerabilities.

10. The study makes a strong case for a shift in agriculture systems in order to overcome future climate change pressures. It recognizes that there are many needs and opportunities related to farming systems. The use of interim smart subsidies may help shift incentives and cropping patterns to modes that are better suited to state-level agroclimatic conditions. Additional measures, including strengthened support for agricultural research and extension and opportunities for reduction in costs of production, are essential to promote more sustainable modes of dryland farming, for example, water-efficient processes for paddy cultivation, promotion of millets, oilseeds, and pulses and use of low-external inputs in agriculture.

11. There are other ways in which rain-fed farming systems can be made more sustainable in semiarid areas. It is not within the scope of this report to examine these in detail, but some innovative methods include non-pesticide management, intensification of biomass used by small ruminants, water-saving composting methods, seed production, livelihood opportunities associated with agro-forestry and livestock-based production systems, and pooling of farm bore wells, packaged with appropriate incentives.

12. In the case of floods, solutions in the water sector would involve a combination of infrastructure and nonstructural approaches such as flood plain zoning, institutional and community coordination, and drainage planning measures. This is not to diminish the importance of structural measures, but as indicated earlier, flood forecasting systems can guide such investments to maintain long-term performance and efficacy.

6.3 Economic Mechanisms and Instruments to Promote Income Diversification

13. This study has emphasized the need for innovative and cost-effective ways of reaching poorer farmers to help reduce their risk exposure. Indebtedness has been identified as one of the major impediments to occupational mobility. Debt instruments offer the potential to protect many vulnerable sections of society and overcome the limitations of crop insurance schemes. The study has also suggested caution in the design of insurance schemes arising from the potential mismatch between payouts and actual losses. Coupling debt relief with new business start-up capital provides a way of encouraging income diversification by lowering risks and transaction costs. These initiatives could be channeled through public and private microfinance institutions.

6.4 Improving Institutional Capacities and Program Linkages

14. Several government programs provide a rich and varied platform upon which to build comprehensive adaptation strategies. But the programs are largely uncoordinated and operate in isolation. Integration is needed to harmonize the essential ingredients of drought adaptation by building upon and facilitating synergy with ongoing programs, for example those run by the state departments of water conservation, rural development, agriculture, and water resources.

15. Apex bodies, such as the National Rainfed Area Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority, could play a strong role in coordination, planning, and identifying gaps and synergies in programs. The panchayati raj institutions and community-based organizations have an important role to play in harnessing opportunities and building appropriate capacities for employment security and asset building, while ensuring the effective use of such assets in reducing the adverse impacts of droughts and floods.

16. Numerous opportunities exist to build climate resilience within current programs. For example, states could build in an adaptation/climate change dimension into the district agricultural plans (53) which would go a long way in mainstreaming the climate risk management agenda as well as in enabling conditions for translating the recommendations of the report into actions on the ground. Furthermore, there is scope to introduce innovative activities for rain-fed farming systems in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. States could also integrate improved agricultural technology into watershed development programs. A number of state and centrally sponsored schemes being implemented under different guidelines and by different agencies can be brought under a common framework with the dual purpose of strengthening development outcomes and building climate resilience.

17. As regards floods, the institutional set-up for relief operations is comprehensive and operational. But adaptation to floods requires greater integration across different sectors, including water resources and irrigation, housing and land development, and forestry and agriculture. Since adaptation is a new and emerging concept, there is a role for creating state-level climate risk management committees as a first step in facilitating synergy and planning for adaptation activities.

6.5 Future Work

18. In conclusion, there is a clear recognition of the need for, and commitment to, moving forward with a development strategy that can take into account future climate risks, as indicated by the many central and state programs that include climate risk components, and the emerging policies embodied in the Eleventh Five Year Plan of the Government of India. This study has developed, through analysis and consultation, a series of adaptation options (with associated time frames) that support the development priorities to build a more climate-resilient and sustainable India. These are summarized in table 6.1.

19. Strategic actions including barrier removal activities are required by the Government of India to implement the recommendations of this report. These would include greater investments in climate forecasting and dissemination activities; economic incentives to promote income diversification in the form of both insurance and credit services in order to give farmers incentives to shift to long-term viable non-farm activities and price stabilization interventions by the government for rain-fed and drought-resistant crop varieties, and finally market-based and demand-driven mechanisms to help farmers with assured sales of their crops and livestock.

20. Climate change will have wider impacts that go beyond the flood- and drought-affected areas that are the focus of this report. Most notably future work is needed in areas of high development significance. First, glacial melt remains the most dramatic risk that could threaten the water supplies, food production and life-sustaining ecosystems upon which millions in the Indo-Gangetic plains depend. There is an urgent need to assess the magnitude of these risks, the economic implications and identify cost-effective adaptation responses. Independent of this, changing rainfall and temperatures will affect the productivity of major food supplies in the rice and grain production regions of India suggesting the need to investigate the impacts on food security goals, livelihoods and agricultural growth targets. Similarly, the threats from sea level rise on coastal communities and cities is another important issue that warrants greater investigations. Finally, though seldom recognized, the interplay between climate risks and agricultural trade needs to be explored in greater detail. Distortions from the protectionist policies in developed countries are likely to increase climate risks in developing countries. These are important issues that need to be addressed in future work.
Table 6.1 Summary Recommendations for Adaptation (54)

Strengthening publicly accessible climate information
systems/mechanisms and related management tools to match needs

* Establish a climate information management system at central
level for developing climate diagnostic and risk assessment tools
with feedback mechanisms to end users. This would include: enhanced
data collection systems at the local level, systems for
hydrogeological data collection and information for groundwater
management, and systems for improved detection and forecasting of
floods.

* Build climate risk assessment as a requirement for all relevant
high value and long-lived infrastructure projects.

Supporting the management of climate risks through economic
mechanisms and instruments that promote efficiency

* Explore new innovative financial instruments to promote income
diversification, such as

** debt relief instruments coupled with credit for job
diversification

** debt relief coupled with insurance for new business risks

** community-based risk financing schemes

* Introduce interim smart farm subsidies to encourage switch to
more suitable and climate resilient cropping practices

Fostering climate-resilient reforms in agriculture and water
resource management

* Promote agricultural research and extension services towards
systems and cultivars better suited to local climate and its
variability

* Implement demand-side approaches for management of groundwater
resources at watershed and aquifer levels in drought-prone areas

* Promote basin-level irrigation systems in drought- and
flood-prone areas designed to take into account climate risks

Improving institutional capacities and linkages among sectoral
programs

* Establish capacities and strengthen role of a central bodies such
as the National Rainfed Authority and National Disaster Management
Authority in order to strengthen coordination and operational
linkages between departments at all levels of government. This
could include establishing convergence committees for management of
drought and flood in the states.

* Integrate measures targeted towards management of future climate
risks in the planning process in district agriculture plans (55)
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Title Annotation:Climate Change Impacts in Drought and Flood Affected Areas: Case Studies in India
Publication:Climate Change Impacts In Drought and Flood Affected Areas: Case Studies In India
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:2284
Previous Article:5. Climate variability and change: a case study in flood-prone Orissa.
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