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The terrifying impact of climate change in north India

Updated: Jun 16, 2019

The freshly elected nationalist government of India has innovated with the creation of the “Ministry of Water”. This is probably one of the first of its kind, and a sign of the changes that have started to impact the countries in the climate change frontline. This initiative aims at trying to resolve an impossible equation.

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti

On one side, the inexorable increase of the population. Soon, one person out of five in the World will be an Indian resident. While at the time of independence, the count was at 350 mio people, the population has exploded to reach 1.3 bio. Notwithstanding changes in the fertility and death rates, it will surpass China in 5 years, and be home of 1.5 bio people in 2050. With more people to house and feed, this inevitably means more land to build and cultivate, and growing water needs.

So, on the other side, there is the scarcity of water resources. Record temperatures are recorded in India. With 50.8°C on June 2nd, the city of Churu has become the hottest spot on Earth, and the fifteen hottest places on the planet on that day were in North India or Pakistan. This is associated with the worst drought since 1950, except for 2012. The rain deficit is in the range of 50%, 51% of the land is in a state of severe drought, in places since 2014, and the upcoming monsoons are predicted to be mediocre. In Mumbai, the reservoirs are now at 13% of their full capacity. In this megalopolis of 19 mio people, 41% living in slums, water is restricted to 70 liters per day and per household, priority being unsurprisingly given to Hindus and higher castes. The municipality admits it doesn’t have a clue of what will happen if the monsoons are insufficient.

On average, the volume of water available was 1.5 m3 per person and per year in 2011 and will drop to 1.1 m3 in 2050. The job of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the new minister of water, is titanic. He officially committed to connect all homes in India to a drinking water system, knowing that 600 million Indians have "difficult" or "very difficult" access to water.

The Mangrove Foundation does its share, our actions target 6255 people in Odisha, while the Indian government has wisely spent $63.9 in defense in 2018. Also read our previous blog on “India and Development Aid”.


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