Grave warnings

Grave warnings

Effects OF climate change

Crop and fuel prices have been rising rapidly in all South Asian countries: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and others because we do not have enough of both. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report 2007 indicated that sea levels are rising rapidly. Scientists at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development at Kathmandu say that glaciers in the Hindukush Himalayas are retreating due to the effects of climate change. They also say that Maldives and the southern portions of Bangladesh are at the risk of being flooded for longer durations and ultimately drowned.

Ahmadul Hassan of Bangladesh says that their farms suffer from salt water flooding. Paddy cannot grow in saline water! Dhrupad Choudhary and Andreas Schild, ICIMOD, say that “People in the plains are vulnerable to effects of climate change.” Changes have been severe on global cereal production since rainfall has been untimely and erratic. Studies conducted in 2009, show reduction in duration of rain and snowfall leading to dry spells in Nepal, Bhutan and India. Temperatures and pests had increased, they found. And there was an overall impact on food and income.

They found that in Uttarakhand and Nepal, cropping was delayed to match the rains. Seeds were soaked and deep sown. Seeds were wetted and wrapped in litter to germinate. Mixed cropping was adopted. Regular crops were replaced by a different variety of the same crop for better growth.

Adaptive measures

Badri Janam and his community have brought water back in their dried up stream near Dhulikhel in the forests of Kavre district in Nepal. They have replanted indigenous trees like Silloune, Seema, rhododhendron, Chillouni etc. and have regenerated the forests in the last 20 years. They are farmers and own agricultural land of their own. Yet, they maintain 24 hectares of forestland and get timber, non timber forest produce (NTFP), grazing fodder etc. 

Seedlings are provided free to the community. They also grow high value crops here like cardamom, broom grass etc that leads to revenue. Visitors pay Rs 500 to Rs 1000 to visit the forests. Badri Janam says that women are encouraged to be a part of the committee; given improved cooking stoves and taught tailoring.

Community based maintaining of forests began in 1978. There are about 16,000 such forests in Nepal. Kavre and Sindhupal Chowk districts led the movement, says Rajendra Prasad Sarpota of the Ratomate Forest User Group. Narayan Prasad, chairman of this group, says that, “it was only 18 years ago that the govornment of Nepal handed over the forests for maintenance. Trees here have been planted at a distance of 5 metres from each other to prevent landslides.” Bamboo groves have been found to be very effective in preventing landslides while pine has been found to deplete groundwater.

“Monsoons have become unpredictable,” says Narayan Prasad. “There are floods in one area and about two km away, there could be an arid region without rain.” There was a Community Knowledge Service (CKS) Asia Coordination meet at Bangalore, in June last year. Local communities involved in farming, traditional healing, fishing etc as a means of earning their livelihood are being encouraged by NGOs to hold on to their skills and also expand them in the form of herbal and medicine garden projects, eco-tourism projects, evolving better methods to prepare land for farming etc. so that they do not have to look for alternate ways of livelihood or migrate to cities.

Water resources have depleted and the face of agriculture has changed in South Asian countries. Drastic effects of climate change are seen in the Himalayas and the plains as glaciers have begun to recede, lakes are being formed and the rivers are getting erratic water supply. Dr Schild says “What is happening in the Himalayas is affecting food security elsewhere.”

A stream ran through Panchkhal and met the needs of most households. “Four years ago, this stream dried up,” say the villagers. They dug a well, which dried up in a year. Then, a borewell was dug 250 metres into the soil with help from an NGO. This gives about 80 litres of water per day to the families for Rs 150 per month. There are power cuts in the area that last for 11 hours. The villagers have set up a biogas plant that runs on animal and human waste and gives them fuel. Dependency on the forests is reduced.
Sudas Sharma of ICIMOD says, “pre monsoon rains have been heavy this May and the rain has already destroyed newly planted paddy.” Pre monsoon showers playing havoc with crops, is true of most South Asian countries.

Saraswoti Bhetwal owns 0.7 hecatres of terrace land in Lamdihi village of Jhikhu Khola. She grew only maize earlier, now she has diversified into rice, potatoes, gourds, chillies and tomato. This has lead to an increase in her earnings.

She uses drip irrigation in her fields. Rainwater harvesting gives stored water for dry spells. Small water harvesting ponds collect rainwater to irrigate fields. She plants fodder grass on the border areas that serve as fodder for her cattle and goats. In the farm they cover the compost with a plastic sheet so it decomposes early and the fertiliser is ready in a shorter time. Farmers are trained at her farm to make organic pesticides. They also have a small self help group that give loans at low interest rates. Similar adaptive measures will help in India, too!