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Over 80% Indians live in districts vulnerable to climate risks, finds CEEW study

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Region-wise, a study has found that India's northeastern states are more vulnerable to floods, while the ones in the south and central are most vulnerable to extreme droughts.

More than 80 percent of people in India reside in districts that are vulnerable to climate risks, a report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) said on Tuesday.
According to a first-of-its-kind Climate Vulnerability Index released by CEEW, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar have been categorised as most vulnerable to extreme climate events like floods, droughts and cyclones.
The study suggests that 27 states and union territories in India are vulnerable to extreme climate events that often disrupt the local economy and displace weaker communities.
The report comes days before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where developing nations including India are expected to demand that developed countries ramp up and deliver climate finance timely.
This will help developing countries to strengthen adaptation mechanisms against extreme climate events and also accelerate the low-carbon transition. The existing commitments made by developed countries are insufficient and yet to be met, the report claimed.
Dhemaji and Nagaon districts in Assam, Khammam in Telangana, Gajapati in Odisha, Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Sangli in Maharashtra, and Chennai in Tamil Nadu were found to be among India’s most climate-vulnerable districts.
At a time, when Climate Risk Index by Germanwatch considers India the seventh most vulnerable country across the globe, the CEEW study highlights that 463 out of 640 districts in India are vulnerable to extreme floods, droughts and cyclones.
More than 45 percent of these districts have undergone unsustainable landscape and infrastructure changes, it said, adding that 183 hotspot districts are highly vulnerable to more than one extreme climate event.
Region-wise, the study found that northeastern states are more vulnerable to floods, while the ones in the south and central are most vulnerable to extreme droughts. Further, 59 and 41 percent of the total districts in the eastern and western states, respectively, are highly vulnerable to extreme cyclones.
Reflecting on the financial challenges to deal with the climate risks, CEEW’s chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Arunabha Ghosh said combating the rising frequency and scale of extreme climate events is fiscally draining for developing countries such as India.
“At COP-26, developed countries must regain trust by delivering the $100 billion promised since 2009 and commit to stepping up climate finance over the coming decade. Further, India must collaborate with other countries to create a Global Resilience Reserve Fund, which could act as insurance against climate shocks. This would ease the fiscal pressure on the most climate vulnerable countries, especially from the Global South,” he said.
Dr Ghosh also suggested developing a Climate Risk Atlas for India, which would help policymakers to better identify and assess risks arising from extreme climate events.
The CEEW study claims only 63 percent of districts in the country have a District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP). While these plans need to be updated every year, only 32 percent of them had updated plans until 2019, it said.
Abinash Mohanty, Programme Lead, CEEW, and lead author of the study, said the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events in India have increased by almost 200 percent since 2005.
“Our policymakers, industry leaders and citizens must use the district-level analysis to make effective risk-informed decisions. Climate-proofing of physical and ecosystem infrastructures should also now become a national imperative,” he said.
Mohanty is of the view that India must create a new Climate Risk Commission to coordinate the environmental de-risking mission.
The CEEW study has recommended that restoration of climate-sensitive landscapes will act as natural shock absorbers against extreme climate events. It added that integration of climate risk profiling with infrastructure planning is imperative for protecting the existing and planned infrastructure projects.
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