'Water management a challenge'

But his message has an ominous tone to it: By 2020, millions of people in Africa would be living in a water-stress situation, and climate change would only exacerbate the stress, leading to conflict. “The management of water will be the major challenge of the future,” he said, urging governments to think far ahead to set up regulations and improve technologies for recycling water.

He said governments in India’s coastal states also needed to be well prepared for the growing impact of rising sea levels like the intrusion of salinity in water bodies and agricultural soil.

In the 20th century, sea level rise has increased an average of 17 centimetre, with some parts of the world like Guatemala showing sea level increase of 20 centimetre.

Pachauri who reiterated jokingly that he intended to “keep the shackles” of the IPCC chair till his term ends in 2014 “though some people want to have them removed earlier”, was here to deliver the Vasudeva Dempo Memorial Lecture. The economist said the only way forward was “to shrink the footprint of human activity” because there was no other planet to dump our waste on. We are already 30 per cent in excess of the world’s absorption capacity. 

Pachauri said studies carried out in the Western Ghats region showed that as a result of warming, at least a quarter of the plant species there were under a serious threat of extinction. Some species have already been lost. “Biodiversity lost means a reduced ability to produce medicines and agricultural produce,” he said.

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