CHENNAI: Never in the past were issues related to climate change and its impact on Tamil Nadu talked about as exhaustively as it was done in the past one year.
Wasting no time after assuming office, the DMK government announced a slew of pathbreaking climate missions to mitigate the impending crisis. How these missions translate into workable action plans and get implemented in the next few years will decide the future of the State.
Among states, Tamil Nadu remains one of the worst affected by climate change. The first-of-its-kind Climate Change and The Vulnerable Indian Coast report prepared by Chennai-based National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management says the cumulative shoreline changes along the coast of India indicates 42 per cent erosion (high/medium/low erosion).
Among the coastal states/Union Territories, West Bengal on the east coast experiences severe erosion (79.6 per cent) followed by Pondicherry (74 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (43 per cent), potentially displacing thousands of coastal communities. And Chennai is among India's most 'climate' vulnerable districts.
The recent report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also red flagged how coastal States like Tamil Nadu are going to endure sea-level rise, reduced labour capacity, drop in crop production and severe economic damage due to global warming.
Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Department, told The New Indian Express: "There is no doubt Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai and other coastal districts, are prone to extreme weather events. We are in the process of finalising the Tamil Nadu State Action Plan on Climate Change 2.0."
"The draft document emphasises on disaster management and mitigation, sustainable development goals and composite vulnerability index for the State. Tiruvannamalai and Cuddalore are selected as pilot districts for preparing district-level action plans. This is a very complex issue that requires a multi-pronged approach," he added.
If one looks at the two general budgets presented by the DMK government, there is a clear intent and fiscal commitment to address the problem of climate change and put the State on the path of becoming climate resilient.
The Climate Change Mission is being personally headed by Chief Minister MK Stalin that would focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation activities with a total outlay of Rs 500 crore. The Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission, launched to identify and map 100 wetlands in five years and restore the ecological balance with focus on livelihood options, was allotted Rs 150 crore.
During this year's budget, the total allocation for the Environment, Forests and Climate Change Department was Rs 849 crore. Besides, the Government of India has also sanctioned a new JICA-funded project titled 'Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project for Climate Change Response (TBGPCCR)' with an outlay of Rs 921 crore for implementation over eight years from 2022-23 to 2029-30.
Care Earth Trust co-founder Jayshree Vencatesan says, "Tamil Nadu has retained much of its natural wealth despite being the most urbanised State of India. Paradoxically, Tamil Nadu, due to its geographical presence along the Bay of Bengal, is a designated vulnerable zone to climate change."
"In this context, the initiative of the State government to establish three dedicated missions to focus on greening, wetlands and climate change is commendable. While the contours of the Missions are being crafted, it is important that adequate attention is given to co-opt scientists and technical experts into the process, just as it is critical to factor in community representations. Although this may well be viewed as a de facto condition, it is not often the case," he said.
Bharath Jairaj from World Resource Institute says, "Tamil Nadu has a large coastal population that's at high levels of risk making them vulnerable to climate change. Imagine hotter summers, more rains and flooding in the monsoon. This will disproportionately impact the poor, and marginalised. These changes will deeply impact Tamil Nadu's food and water security. Tamil Nadu should plan for these and build more climate-resilient infrastructure and development plans."
Big ticket projects
Tamil Nadu Climate Change Mission - Rs 500 crore
Tamil Nadu Wetland Mission - Rs 150 crore
Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project for Climate Change Response - Rs 920.52 crore
Major expected outcomes from Greening Project by year 2032 include increase in carbon storage by four lakh metric tonnes, restoration of 3.6 ha of coral reef area, restoration of 600 ha of sea grass, increase of mangrove cover over an area of 1,050 ha, and 60,000 ha increase in tree cover
Successful rewilding of elephant 'Rivaldo 'in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
Successful capture of the problematic tiger (MDT-23) in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
Notification of Kazhuveli Bird Sanctuary (5151.60 ha)
Ambergris seizures worth of Rs 75 crore in several operations with the arrest of over 25 people since July 2021.
Use of drones and kumkis in The Nilgiris to drive away wild animals without unnecessary capture