Separated geographically by hundreds of miles, the drylands of Kutch in Gujarat and the wetlands of Sundarbans are bound by similarities in the effect climate change has on the farmers and fishermen, research has found.
Being conducted by UK-based research body STEPS Centre, the study on climate-induced uncertainties takes the perception of people into account, which is often overlooked in scientific reports and policy dialogues.
"Our research shows that the vulnerabilities related to livelihood and work-related hazards are similar in nature in both Kutch and Sundarbans as a result of climatic shocks," University of Sussex's Lyla Mehta, the convener and the brain behind the project, said.
She said that the tale of a farmer or a fisherman, whether in Kutch or Sundarbans, is no different in nature, both affected by changing rainfall patterns and increase in incidences of storms and cyclones, although they are markedly contrasting ecologically.
Kutch, a dryland in western Gujarat, is known for scarcity and ecological uncertainty while Sundarbans in West Bengal is an archipelago of islands hit hard by an increase in floods, storms, salinity and erosion caused by rising sea-levels.
"There has always been good years and bad years for farmers and fishermen in both these places, but now climate change has added another layer of uncertainty, especially with the changing rainfall patterns and repeated climate shocks such as cyclones, floods and droughts," Barun Kanjilal said.
Kanjilal is leading a team from the Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) in Sundarbans while researchers from the Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology are studying how people are adapting themselves to the ever-changing climate in Kutch. According to the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, climate change is projected to cause an intensification of present climatic variability.
How these global changes will manifest themselves are, however, uncertain, with increasing uncertainty as one moves from global to local scales.
Mehta said that official perceptions of scarcity tend to be universalist and absolute, not taking into account uncertainty and local people's own knowledge systems and strategies.
The perception of experts is generally based on theoretical knowledge which may have very little to do with how everyday men and women understand, live and cope with uncertainty in their daily life. "This is the missing dimension we seek to highlight," said the researcher.
Their study will provide a comprehensive picture of climate discourses and how climate change is perceived and interpreted by a range of stakeholders.
They are also studying climatic aspects related to the urban cities of Delhi and Mumbai.