Discussion on Adapting to Climate Change and Water Resource Availability in the Ganges

Climate change due the carbon emissions is now affecting the hydrological system of Northern India, which is based on two main phenomena: the monsoon precipitation in summer and the growth and melt of the snow and ice cover in the Himalayas. Due to its immense water resources, the mountain range is also known as the ‘Water Tower of Asia’. But increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) have now led to a slow decrease in the snow cover, glaciers and its hydrology and water resources that might increase more rapid rates if the trend continues. The perennial rivers in the north, Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra, are more at risk as snow and glacier melt forms a major part of the river water.


“Climate change is projected to have a short term and long term impact on the hydrological system. On the short term discharge of rivers in the north will increase due to the melting of snow and glaciers. On the long term the snow and glaciers will have melted for a great part and their contribution to the rivers’ flow will decrease,” says a HighNoon observation.

With this background, a Panel Discussion, ‘Adapting to the Changing Climate and Water Resource Availability in Ganges Basin’ was organised on February 3 coinciding with the 12th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2012. The Partners were European Commission, Alterra, Wageningen UR, TERI, IITD, IITK, Uni. Nagoya, Met Office, Max Planck Institute, Uni. Geneva, Uni Salford.  

The special event aimed at highlighting and sharing key findings, insights and experiences emerging from the ‘HighNoon’. The effort was to assess and understand the impact of climate change on water resources in the Ganges Basin using scenarios generated by the regional climate and hydrological modeling and integrating stakeholder perspectives from case study sites with the results of the modeling exercises, in order to assist in the participative identification and prioritization of adaptation strategies. The methods and concepts developed in this project combined different scales, groups of stakeholders and sectors providing useful information for policy makers as well as for researchers and practitioners on adaptation. The need for a multi-level governance perspective towards climate change risks, adaptation, and identification and removal of the barriers to effective implementation of actions was articulated at the session.

The welcome remarks and presentation of the Objectives, Dr Arabinda Mishra, Director, Earth Sciences and Climate Change Division, TERI who introduced the subject, speakers and the aims of the meeting.

Ir Eddy Moors, Alterra Wageningen University and Research Center, Netherlands elaborated on the topic "Adaptation to changing water resources availability in Northern India with Himalayan glacier retreat and changing monsoon was a very important challenge. The HighNoon Approach looks at Glacier/snow contribution, Climate projections, socio economic scenarios, water demand & distribution, stakeholder participation, water availability and informing the people and the policymakers for adaptation options and prioritisation.” He informed about the forthcoming plans also: “There will be Glacier, Snow Melt and Runoff in the Himalayas” conference on 6-7 February 2012 at Kathmandu, HighNoon Spring School, 2-5 April 2012, at New Delhi and HighNoon Final Event Science – Policy workshop on 6 April 2012, also at New Delhi."

Suruchi Bhadwal, Associate Director, Earth Science and Climate Change Division, TERI said, “People should now start thinking of futuristic situation and act accordingly.” Dr Pankaj Kumar, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology & Climate Service Center, Germany described the various Climate Scenarios for the Ganges Basin. A presentation on ‘Climate change impacts on water resources in Northern India’ was given by Dr AK Gosain, Professor, IIT Delhi.

A perspective from the field on climate change adaptation was provided by Dr Shiraz Wajih, President, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), Gorakhpur. He pointed that Gorakhpur was one of the three cities in India with a ready report on Resilience, ‘Towards a Resilient Gorakhpur’. “It was significant because Gorakhpur is one of the fastest growing cities in the mid-Gangetic plains and the urban systems could not be developed to keep pace with the city’s growth and the facilities have to be over stretched.”

Dr RS Rathore, Deputy Director General, U P Council of Agricultural Research, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh said that more detailed climate information was needed for planning purposes. Dr AK Gupta, Director, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, Uttarakhand asked, “What is the contribution of glacier melt to changes in runoff and groundwater?” SN Singh, Program Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapgari, Paschim Medinapur, West Bengal told that CCA needs an integrated livelihood perspective. “How do we overcome our departmental barriers?”

W Longvah, Project Director, Watershed Management Directorate, Uttarakhand Decentralized Watershed Development Project, Dehradun said that there a need for a holistic approach to reach the most vulnerable. “We formed farmer interest groups from agriculture and diary business, so that there is more sustainability. But people had to shift crops to higher regions. We should empower the poor people to fight Climate Change.”

B Chandrakala, Chief Development Officer, Allahabad District, Uttar Pradesh said that most important causes for climate change should be identified and change in precipitation should be taken up first. “But in the districts, inter departmental coordination is a herculean task. We should have a visionary leader to decide and take strong and tough decisions. The DM holds the meetings but the welfare is his challenge and others maintain their focus on their own area / department. For even running a primary school, community is there, institutions are there, but how to make them function is the question. Even in case of power, our economy runs on fossil fuels, mainly on thermal power. Not much research is available on affordable and realistic renewable resources. Common man can not afford the equipments for renewable energy. So, there is a need for make these a part of the mainstream. It seems research is somewhere lacking.”

Dr Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh, Former Secretary of Panchayati Raj observed, “The fact is that most state governments do not want to devolve powers to the panchayats. The process for this is on from the side of the Central government, but the process, pace and content of the devolution has been left to states. There was lot of opposition in the Rajya Sabha as many Chief Ministers didn’t agree and so a proper amendment to the constitution could not take place. Final digitilisation is not done, except in few states, so all information is not available to the stakeholders. But devolution in the true sense will happen, though at slow pace, providing local and pragamatic solutions to the local problems.

Source: Radiance Media Group.