Eight Indian states — Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal — are highly vulnerable to climate change, according to a national climate vulnerability assessment report.
These states, mostly in the eastern part of the country, require prioritization of adaptation interventions, the report pointed out.
Among all states, Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand have over 60 percent districts in the category of highly vulnerable districts.
Lack of forest area per 100 rural population was found to be one of the major drivers of vulnerability for Assam despite the fact that the state has a forest cover of 42 percent, followed by low road density, the report said.
In case of Bihar, the report cited poor health infrastructure to be the key vulnerability driver in 36 districts, followed by a high percentage of marginal and small operational holders in 24 districts. The lack of implementation of the rural employment scheme MGNREGA, causing a lack of alternative livelihood opportunities, appeared as a key driver in 14 districts of Bihar, followed by a lack of women's participation in the workforce in 11 districts. Lack of crop insurance and rainfed agriculture were key drivers of vulnerability for Jharkhand.
The report, titled 'Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Adaptation Planning in India Using a Common Framework', which identifies the most vulnerable states and districts in India with respect to current climate risk and key drivers of vulnerability, was released by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Secretary Ashutosh Sharma.
Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim and Punjab have been categorized as lower-middle vulnerable states. Uttarakhand, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Nagaland, Goa and Maharashtra have been categorized as states with low vulnerability.
"We have seen how extreme events are on rise both in terms of their number and severity. Mapping the parts of India that are vulnerable to such changes will help to initiate climate actions at the ground level. The report should be made easily accessible to all stakeholders so that it can benefit climate-vulnerable communities across India through development of better-designed climate change adaptation projects," said Sharma. He also suggested that the maps should be made available to people who need it.
"Assessing vulnerability was the first step towards assessing climate risk. There are two other components like hazard and exposure that need to be also assessed to arrive at overall climate risk. "DST would take up these assessments in the next phase along with sectoral vulnerability assessments and assessments at sub-district levels," said Akhilesh Gupta, Head, Climate Change Programme (CCP), DST.
Prof N H Ravindranath retired climate change expert from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), explained that the report has helped identify the most vulnerable states, districts, and panchayats and will aid in prioritizing adaptation investment, developing and implementing adaptation programs.
Director of IIT Mandi Professor Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi and Director of IIT Guwahati T G Sitharaman hoped that the report will be taken up by the states for initiating climate action.
A total of 94 representatives from 24 states and two Union Territories participated in the nationwide exercise jointly supported by the DST and the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation (SDC).
Corinne Demenge, Head, Swiss Cooperation Office, Embassy of Switzerland in India, hoped that the assessments will contribute to the development of more targeted climate change projects and that they will support the implementation and the potential revisions of the State Action Plans on Climate Change.
"The assessments can further be used for India's reporting on the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. And finally, these assessments will support India's National Action Plan on Climate Change," she added.
The assessment will help policy-makers in initiating appropriate climate actions. It will also benefit climate-vulnerable communities across India through development of better-designed climate change adaptation projects.
In a developing country such as India, vulnerability assessment is considered an important exercise to develop suitable adaptation projects and programs.