Burning Issues



-Shivani Thakur

It’s July and we are experiencing the impact of monsoons in different parts our country. Where Mumbai was nearly washed away by heavy rains, the northwestern region saw its weakening effect. The predictable monsoon has become highly unpredictable. The rains either get delayed or loose the tempo after a great start. Their unpredictability has been a cause of embarrassment to our weather forecasters. Although these forecasts could be a cause of human error but the underlying problem is not so simple. These untimely rains are part of many climatic changes occurring not only India but worldwide.

For our country where nearly 70% our population is dependent on agriculture, monsoons can play havoc on the lives of farmers as well as indirectly effect our urban counterparts. Worldwide climatic changes are seen in the EL NINO effect in South America, droughts in Spain, France, and floods in eastern parts of Europe. A first ever collaborative research on earth’s climate reported in January 27, 2005 issue of the journal Nature suggests that the temperatures on earth could rise as much as 11 degrees Celsius by 2050.” Uncertainity in prediction of the climate response to rising levels of greenhouse gases” (D.A.Stainforth, et al. Nature vol.433 p403 January 27, 2005). The arctic meltdown for the fourth straight year to its smallest area in this century is linked to the buildup of greenhouse gases. This would put pressure on already endangered Polar Bears, seals and other wildlife. This would mean that by the end of this century Arctic might become completely ice-free.

In India, the effect of climatic changes is visible on the monsoons. Scientists are warning that the southwest monsoon is weakening and India may face droughts. Weather scientist from Cochin University of Science and technology say that the duration of break (weak) monsoon spells has increased by about 30% since 1950. The number of days in June –September monsoon season with daily average of 8mm a day increased and days with rain more than 12mm a decreased by 45.4% and 78.1% respectively in last 53 years. The impact can be felt in many parts of India. We are experiencing droughts in Rajasthan and floods in Bihar and UP. The greenhouse gas emissions of India will increase from 1,000 million tones to 3,000 million tones. Temperatuers would see a rise by 3-4 degrees Celsius in next 30 –40 years. The higher temperatures would result in higher rainfall about 10-12% but concentration will shift to central peninsula and west coast with less rainfall for north and northeast.

The climatic changes would also have an impact on the seas especially Bay of Bengal where sea level is rising. The Indian Institute of Oceanography says there has been an increase in cyclones in the Bay of Bengal particularly post monsoon along with increased maximum windspeed. In Himalayan regions there is lies snowfall and temperatures reaching record high in places like Shimla. Uttranchal hills, one of the most water – fed areas, is experiencing severe water crisis. Dr.R.K.Pachuri, Director general at The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) says that good snowfall assures continuous water is fed to the small tributaries of major rivers. Most of the tributaries have dried up. Less water means less drinking and power cuts since hydro power plants run only if there is sufficient water in the reservoir. The famous Gangotri glacier, which feeds the Ganga, is receding by 23 mts a year. By 2035 Himalayas are expected to lose most of its glaciers and global warming is the major cause . The short-term dangers of melting glaciers would be floods; the long term would mean rivers would turn into trickles. The flora and fauna unable to adapt to this change would become extinct.

The impact on agriculture would be fewer yields in rice and wheat. Pest population will increase affecting agriculture. Wild Asses in Rann of Kutch would lose their habitat because of rising sea levels. Mangroves will get submerged; coral reefs will get bleached because of rising sea temperatures, as the colorful algae they feed on will no longer be available. Nearly 30% of coral reefs of Gujarat are bleached. These climatic changes could bring either another ice-age which lasted almost 1000 years or submerge land totally under water both resulting in loss of human habitation and forever loss of Planet Earth.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Below is a link to a video clip uploaded on youtube.com Sir David Attenborough shows how global warming is real and down to us. This small clip was shown on the programme 'Are we changing planet Earth?'


Tips to view the video clip: Click on the stop button and wait till the whole clip of 2 min 44 secs downloads. Then press the PLAY button. The download takes awhile. But the wait is worth it !!


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