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A report by an Indian based Strategic Foresight Group has said that there is a major catastrophe in the making.

Water scarcity and effects like desertification and soil erosion would bring rice and wheat yields in China and India down by as much as 50 percent by 2050, the report said.

“China and India alone will need to import more than 200 to 300 million tonnes of wheat and rice,” it said.

“This will create havoc in the global food market … for people everywhere, because the prices will go up substantially,” Waslekar said.

Water depletion in the river basins would displace millions of people in the four countries by 2050, he said.

“We are looking towards a disaster of more than 100 million migrants,” he said, “and conflicts within and between countries.”

The report called for more cooperation between the four nations in the management of the river basins.

The basins of the rivers, including the Yellow River and the Yangtze in China and the Ganges in India, are home to 1.3 billion people.

WWF pioneered a project in the Langtang region of Nepal that empowers communities to adapt to climate change impacts.

Faced with water shortages, unpredictable rainfall, and shifting seasons, the project has helped these local communities become “water smart” by

•Installing special tanks that store rainwater for irrigation

•Using drip irrigation for more efficient watering

•Establishing schools for farmers where they learn how to adapt to climate change with drought-resistant crops, crop rotation, and  sustainable ways to raise livestock

•Starting seed banks to distribute local seeds more tolerant to extreme droughts and rainfall

We’ve also helped communities plant trees and grasses along slopes which restores wildlife habitat and prevents future landslides. New and efficient cooking stoves have been distributed that use 40% less wood, protecting the surrounding forest habitat of wildlife such as red pandas. And we’ve helped to install weather stations to gather data to monitor climate change and educate the community. “Going to the Farmer’s School and learning the new techniques have made a vast difference to my life, and I am happy that my family can live comfortably now.” – Maympoyalmo, farmer in Nepal

By focusing on the needs of both people and nature, WWF has taken an integrated approach to addressing climate impacts and preparing for the future. This approach can serve as an example to help other Himalayan communities live in the face of climate change.

More than a billion people directly depend on the Himalayas for survival. And while Climate Change is global and can affect the entire planet, the immediate repercussions are local. In the Himalayas, it will adversely affect habitats and ecosystems and endanger the very existence of life not just in the adjoining areas of these mountains but also everyone living below in the plains. It is at an alarming rate that Climate Change is taking place and is likely to exert more pressure on natural resources and the environment. The core causes are associated with rapid urbanization, industrialization, and economic development.

 

The impacts will be catastrophic.

 

On Economy

Developing countries are most vulnerable to the economic impacts of climate change. The increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events can have serious economic consequences. The impact of climate change on agriculture and the fragile ecosystems in Nepal will have a direct impact on agricultural productivity and tourism, and consequently on the country’s economy.

 

On Agriculture

Over two-thirds of Nepal’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Farmers follow traditional agricultural patterns, relying on rainwater and seasons. Changes in local and regional temperatures, the form and amount of precipitation, rainfall patterns, soil moisture content, and sunshine and cloudiness threaten traditional agriculture in Nepal. Moreover, climate change will increase the occurrence of extreme events like floods, droughts and hailstorms, which can also have a drastic effect on agriculture. Rising temperatures and increased rainfall may also lead to more pests and weeds, which will reduce agricultural productivity.

 

On Freshwater

The total amount of water flowing from the Himalayas to the plains, and then on to the Indian subcontinent is estimated to be about 8.6 million cubic meters per year. This water supports approximately more than a billion people. Decreases in snow accumulation and glacial retreat might lead to acute water shortages in the future.

 

On Health

Climate change will affect people’s health both directly and indirectly. Heat stress and other heat related health problems are caused directly by very warm temperatures and high humidity. Similarly, warmer climatic condition may cause a sharp increase in the spread of vector borne diseases like malaria, dengue, yellow fever and encephalitis.

 

On Glaciers

Almost 67% of the glaciers in the Himalayas have retreated and in Nepal, this process is as rapid as 10m a year. In the future, this will result in water scarcity in Nepal and for more than a billion people living downstream who depend on glaciers and snow as a source of fresh water. Nepal has 3,000 glaciers and 2,000 glacial lakes out of which 20 Lakes are at risk of bursting. Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) and Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) have already experienced many Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). GLOFs can have a devastating impact on people, livestock, forests, farms and infrastructure.

 

On Forests

Forests cover almost 29 per cent of Nepal. They absorb and store carbon dioxide. When trees are cut down and burnt, carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. Forests play a critical role in balancing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, helping to minimize the impact of climate change. The rapidly changing conditions caused by climate change make plant species more vulnerable to disease and pests, contributing to the degradation and fragmentation of forests.

 

On Biodiversity

Climate change will alter the world’s habitats and ecosystems. Climate change will alter the fragile ecosystems of the Himalayas. As it warms up, vegetation and wildlife will move to higher altitudes. This change will upset the ecosystem balance and seriously endanger the survival of many plant and animal species. Rapid climate change will not give plants and animals enough time to adapt to the new situation. Biodiversity loss, besides the immediate impact on species, will affect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the people who rely on such resources.

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