Climate change: It’s time to act!

Climate experts from Bengaluru have long been stressing for conserving natural resources

Several studies show that concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been rapidly increasing during the last few decades and the effects are already being felt, which are directly related to climate change. But very little is being done at the local level when it comes to tackling the effects of global warming. Amit S. Upadhye takes a look at six sectors in Karnataka where the government needs to work vigorously to reduce the impact of climate change.

For the last five years, the fishermen along the Karwar coast and Aganashini estuary are complaining about the dip in fish yield. They are forced to go deeper into the sea as well as to the bottom to fetch fish what they would easily get near the shore few years ago. Marine biologists working here state that the fish are migrating towards the cooler temperature regions due to rise in sea level and surface temperatures.

Fishery is not just an isolated sector bearing the brunt of climate change. Five more sectors in Karnataka – Transport, Building and Infrastructure, Agriculture, Energy and Water – will be affected to a certain degree in the years to come due to changing global temperatures.

Climate experts from Bengaluru have long been stressing for conserving natural resources such as wetlands and forest patches to fight against climate change, but there is hardly any support for such voices from the governments. Several lakes have been encroached and forest areas have been diverted for variety of non-forestry purposes.

Scientists working at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have already predicted that the parts of south India will be receiving higher volume of rainfall in the next two decades. “Several weather models have predicted higher volume of rains in the region. These developments may not be necessarily happening due to climate change, but these events, the extreme weather events can be attributed to change in climatic conditions worldwide,” says a senior research scientist from the Centre.

Dr T V Ramachandra, Head of Energy and Wetland Research Group of IISc, who presented a part last year on the carbon emissions in ten Indian metros in transport sector, says that the energy and transport sectors are major contributing factors for carbon emissions, and more research is required to ensure these sectors move towards low-carbon development in the years to come.

Arati Kumar Rao, an environmental writer says that at a local level, it is important that the government has a way to protect and nurture multiple sources of water. “We need to protect our catchments and ensure the health of community wells and the river commons. If it comes to that, and people do get displaced or have to migrate, is there a conscious, deliberate and just rehabilitation plan in place? There is nothing in place today that has worked for these folks. We need to ensure food security and livelihood of these sections of society in order to increase and build their climate resilience. We have to secure their rights - basic human rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution - that they unfortunately live without today,” she adds.

Conservation of water and its resources will be the most challenging work the government will face in the coming years. The environmental circle has been opposing the river diversion schemes and water lifting schemes from the tributaries. These projects which sound good on the paper have their own issues when it comes to implementation. Conserving the available wetlands and protecting them from pollution are the major challenges when it comes to water security. In the last two decades Bengaluru has lost more than 50 lakes to encroachments – both legal and illegal.

One cannot reverse the damage caused to a landscape by removing its water bodies. Already the state has been divided over water diversion projects, which could hardly yield any results. Instead the government can spend the money in reviving the water resources and conservation of water streams, suggests the experts.

Due to rise in sea level and temperatures fisheries will be the first sector to get affected by the climate change. Already the effects of sea level rise are visible in coastal parts of Karnataka where farmers are losing the yield of coconut trees which are planted closer to the sea. The temperature rise is also causing acidification of surface water which will have adverse effect on the fish yield.

The rise in surface temperatures will also kill the nutrients for fish resulting in smaller size of fish in the future. The marine biologists have already recording the mass fish migration from Karnataka shores where higher temperatures are being recorded. Coral reefs which are termed as ‘rain forests of seas’ are sensitive towards the rise in temperature and with corals disappearing it will have an effect on coral dependent fish species.

Several studies have indicated that agriculture sector will be the worst affected from the effects of climate change. There are several places in Karnataka where farmers have complained about the dip in yield as well as change in the rainfall pattern. The scientists in University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) Bengaluru have a prepared a Climate Change Mitigation Plan in Agriculture sector and it has also been implemented in several parts of the state. Scientists are trying to shift long range crops to medium and short range crops.

They are also suggesting harvesting crops which are resilient to current climatic conditions and also consume lesser amount of water. However these experiments are restricted to fewer farmers and the government must encourage research in these sectors for the benefit of farmers.

Three major coal based thermal power plants of the state – Raichur, Ballari and Udupi are the major concerns when it comes to contributing green house gases. The coal based units emits higher amount of carbon when compared to energy produced in the renewable sector. Karnataka which is blessed with 300 plus ‘sun days,’ needs to harness the solar energy on a large scale.

However a number of energy projects in the state remain on paper and no significant mark has been achieved in increasing the production of energy through renewable sources in the state. The availability of coal is reducing every passing year, and it is time the state government invest in mega energy projects in RE sector.

Building and Infrastructure
A study by the IISc showed that the per capita consumption of electricity of a person living in a normal area is about 1,700-1,800/units/per person and whereas the consumption in the area with glass buildings is close to 15,000 units/per person. This shows how the building sector is being misled and making structures in Bengaluru that suits the cold temperature countries.

By putting glasses on the buildings the energy consumption is going higher. The government must ensure the future buildings are energy efficient and are constructed in a way which suits the local climatic conditions. Such efforts are already being seen in Bengaluru, but majority of the builders in city do not comply with such norms.

A study conducted by the IISc, which looked at traffic composition of six mega cities of India- New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad - showed that there is significant shift from the share of slow moving vehicles to fast moving vehicles and public transport to private transport. The pollution levels and emission levels of Co2 in the transport sector is higher in cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad which have poor mass transport systems.

It is estimated that there is about 40% total carbon emissions in Bengaluru. Besides speedy completion of Metro rail, the local connectivity of city and its suburbs can be achieved by connecting trains, but the project has not been fancied by successive governments.

CO2 reduction strategies suggested by IISc

  • Reduce vehicular emission
  • Form strategy to reduce heavy duty vehicle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
  • Set a target to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels
  • Rolling resistance limits and tyre labelling requirements with mandatory tyre pressure monitoring
  • Pass legislation encouraging hybrid and electric vehicles
  • Accounting life time energy use and CO2 emissions while procuring vehicles (mandatory disclosure in vehicles information brochure)
  • Appropriate taxation regime to discourage private vehicles, phase out outdated, inefficient vehicles
  • Automation of public transport system to reduce idle time and improve commute efficiency
  • Appropriate urban planning with thresholds on regional growth (such as FAR fixation based on the infrastructure – width of the lane, etc.)
  • Improvement in public transport system (with apt share of commuter trains and user friendly buses)
  • Mode share: Measures facilitating less greenhouse gases intensive modes such as public transport and non-motorised transport, user friendly public transport and economically competitive train services
  • Innovations in vehicle design – smaller and light vehicles (for example in public transport) to reduce fuel consumption
  • Fuel efficiency: Development of technologies for vehicles and traffic management, measures to ease traffic congestion and awareness among the public about implications of rise in greenhouse gases

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( Source : deccan chronicle )
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