Climate change threat to Maharashtra's cropped area

77% of Maharashtra’s cropped area vulnerable to climate change: Study

The data was collected on 44 indicators related to climatic as well as socio-economic variables which were identified based on experts’ opinions

A map highlighting the district-wise socioeconomic vulnerability in Maharashtra. Credit: Special Arrangment

As the farmers from Maharashtra have been worst hit by the recent floods and extreme weather events, a recent study highlights how such climate change impacts might get worse from here on.

Of the 36 districts in Maharashtra, 11 districts were found highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, droughts, and dwindling water security and account for almost 40 per cent of the cropped area across Central Maharashtra.

In the same way, 37 per cent of the state’s agricultural area spread over 14 districts were moderately vulnerable, which takes the tally to three-fourths of Maharashtra’s cropped regions as high to moderate vulnerable to the prevailing climate crisis.

A research study —‘Socio-economic vulnerability to climate change — Index development and mapping for districts in Maharashtra’, revealed that extreme climate conditions highly affect the livelihoods and agrarian economy of Maharashtra.

The study conducted by Chaitanya Adhav at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, Haryana, under the guidance of Dr R Sendhil from ICAR-Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, revealed that  Nandurbar was the most vulnerable district to cyclones, floods, droughts, changing rainfall patterns and extreme temperatures affecting its crop production.

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"Other highly vulnerable 10 districts include Buldhana, Beed, Jalna, Aurangabad, Hingoli, Parbhani, Nanded, Akola, Amravati, Washim,” said Adhav.

The study also lists down 14 districts as moderately vulnerable, which include Dhule, Jalgaon, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Sangli, Solapur, Osmanabad, Latur, Yavatmal, Wardha, Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondia and Gadchiroli.  

The dominant crops from these districts that will bear the brunt of the climate suggest that farming of jowar, rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton, ragi, cashew nut, barley, millets could get adversely affected more in the future.

Adhav said their findings showed that most of the highly vulnerable districts fell under the Central Maharashtra Plateau Zone, which makes up to 22.22 percent share of the total cropped area in Maharashtra. The Central Vidarbha Zone has an additional share of 6.78 percent area as highly vulnerable.

The authors explained that to quantify the climate change-induced risk, the socio-economic vulnerability index (SEVI) was calculated using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approach considering key climatic parameters such as exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity of districts to climate vulnerability.

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The data was collected on 44 indicators related to climatic as well as socio-economic variables which were identified based on experts’ opinions.

The author mentioned that the study did not include Mumbai City and suburban districts in the analysis. According to India’s Livelihoods Report 2019, farming is the prime livelihood source for 51 percent of Maharashtra’s population.

“Mapping of districts shows that there is an instant need for focussed policy efforts to address the socio-economic vulnerability in Central Maharashtra Plateau Zone, Scarcity Zone (Dhule, Part of Nandurbar and Aurangabad), and Eastern Vidarbha Zone,” Adhav said.

Nine districts including Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Nashik, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nagpur and Pune were found to be least vulnerable to climate agricultural distress.  

Meanwhile, climate experts said that as states like Maharashtra develop their climate action plans to tackle the climate crisis and reduce emissions, this study is indicative of the dire consequences of not acting on climate with urgency.