NEW DELHI: All the 12 Himalayan states in India are extremely vulnerable to global warming with Assam, Mizoram and Jammu & Kashmir topping the list, says a first-of-its-kind report prepared by the Department of Science and Technology.
Titled ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region Using a Common Framework’, the report submitted by IIT Mandi and IIT Guwahati in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science Bangalore presents a chilling vulnerability map and assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region.
The study is based on four broad indicators-- the economic and sociological status of the people and their health, possible impact on agriculture production, forest-dependent livelihoods and access to information services and infrastructure – in each state.
States having low per capita income, low area under irrigation and low area under forests per 1,000 households and high area under open forests received a high vulnerability score. For example, Assam has the least area under irrigation, least forest area available per 1,000 rural households and the second lowest per capita income among the other IHR states, and thus scores the highest vulnerability score.
Based on this assessment, the vulnerability index was found to be the highest for Assam (0.72) and Mizoram (0.71), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.62), Manipur (0.59), Meghalaya and West Bengal (both 0.58), Nagaland (0.57), Himachal Pradesh and Tripura (0.51 both), Arunachal Pradesh (0.47) and Uttarakhand (0.45). Sikkim is the least vulnerable state with the index being 0.42.
The report is expected to help researchers and policymakers identify the scale of vulnerability, and assist in designing adaptation interventions specific to each state/region. “It is important to note, however, that vulnerability was based on comparative assessment, which means that this assessment does not portray Sikkim, Uttarakhand or Arunachal Pradesh as having a low vulnerability in an absolute (real) sense,” said the report.
The Himalayan ecosystem is vital to India’s ecological security as it plays a critical role by providing forest cover; feeding perennial rivers that provide drinking water, irrigation and hydropower and; conserving biodiversity and providing a rich base for high-value agriculture, apart from spectacular landscapes for tourism.
“Himalayan communities have a large dependency on climate-sensitive sectors such as rain-fed agriculture and have a fragile mountain ecosystem. The communities have limited livelihood options and experience higher marginalization because physical infrastructure (road and transport, markets, power supply and communication) is limited and there is a high dependence on natural resources. Under changing and variable climate, such constraints are likely to add to the vulnerability of Himalayan communities,” the report warned.
“The Himalayas are the largest and tallest mountain range in the world, bordering 8 countries and covering an area of about 43 lakh sq km. Nearly 1.5 billion people depend on Himalaya for Water, Food and Energy. The Himalayan ecosystem is considered as extremely fragile and diverse but vital for India,” said Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan in a preface to the report.
In response to the serious threats posed by climate change to the development process and the limitations that Indian Himalayan Region is facing, the Centre has a mission for the Himalayan region — the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.