CHENNAI: Nearly eight years after the Union government asked the States to prepare their own climate change action plans, the Tamil Nadu government is in the last stages of finalising its draft that will have short-term and long-term deliverable targets.
Despite being one of the most progressive and industralised states, Tamil Nadu is facing a climate change crisis with the problems of coastal erosion, depleting water resources, severe weather events and rising temperatures manifesting more recently.
In the past, two similar draft action plans on climate change were prepared, one in 2014 and 2019. However, these never saw the light of the day either due to lack of clarity on goals set or because these were unrealistic.
Environment secretary Supriya Sahu told The New Indian Express the action plan that is being envisaged will be practical, taking all the stakeholders into confidence. "We are conducting wide consultations and shortly be holding brainstorming sessions with district collectors, who will have an important role to play. Within a month's time, we will finalise our final draft and place it before the State-level Steering Committee headed by the Chief Secretary before sending it to the Union environment ministry."
Chief Minister MK Stalin has made this a priority area allocating Rs 500 crore in the budget towards the Climate Change Mission. This part, a multi-stakeholder green fund, will be created with contributions from all line departments. "Climate change adaptation and mitigation can't be carried out by one department. Everyone has to chip-in. For instance, a portion of the budget allocated to the transport department can be used for green initiatives. The power sector can include more renewables into the electricity mix. We are listing out things that can be quickly done, besides long-term vision," Supriya Sahu said.
As per the 2019 draft action plan on climate change, the State government planned to carry out 199 projects in seven key sectors by the year 2030. The proposed budget for executing this plan was a whopping Rs 3.24 lakh crore. The nine-chapter voluminous document was prepared in sync with India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, which was submitted in 2015 under the Paris Agreement.
The seven prioritised sectors highlighted in the draft action plan are sustainable agriculture; water resources; forest and biodiversity; coastal area management, strategic knowledge for climate change; enhanced energy efficiency and solar mission; and sustainable habitat.
Sources told The New Indian Express that the new action plan will also focus on these sectors. On funds' mobilisation, officials said several dead funds lying unutilised for years are being identified. "For example, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is sitting on huge cash reserves."
The biggest worry, however, is water resources which the new draft plan seeks to address. Tamil Nadu constitutes 4 per cent of India's land area and is inhabited by 6 per cent of India's population, but has only 2.5 percent of India's water resources. The per capita availability of water resources is just 900 cubic meters compared to the national average of 2,200 cubic meters.
"The projected demand of water in 2050 has increased to 57,725 MCM and the supply-demand gap stands at 24.05 per cent. In order to meet this demand, augmentation of existing water resources will be needed," said a senior official from the Water Resources Department.