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India should prepare for extreme weather events

The State needs a robust plan to tackle large scale climate-induced migration

Updated: Feb 16, 2020 19:08 IST

By Hindustan Times,

The continuity and intensity of extreme weather events in India in the 2018-19 period has taken even climate scientists and meteorologists by complete surprise, says the latest State of India’s Environment Annual report 2020 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One extreme weather event happened almost every month in India in 2018 and 2019, according to the State of India’s Environment 2020 report, released by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down To Earth, last week. In terms of deaths, 48% of the deaths in Asia due to extreme weather events happened in India (2018-19). In 2019, there were more deaths in India, even though the number of such events was fewer: 2,038 people died in 2019 due to extreme weather events, compared to 1,396 in 2018. While such events have always occurred, the report added, their character is changing, and there is now a clear imprint of global warming on them.

While the impact of the climate crisis is being seen across sectors — affecting health, education, livelihoods — several studies point out that a clear link is emerging between the climate crisis and social instability. A 2018 study, Climate Change and Violent Conflict: Sparse Evidence from South Asia and Southeast Asia, by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said that as the effects of climate crisis on livelihoods become more pronounced, support for rebel groups is likely to shoot up.

In India, climate migration is leading to a complicated and challenging situation. There is growing nativism and competition for resources on one hand, which has led to an anti-migrant sentiment, even when it comes to citizens from elsewhere in the country. But on the other, the climate crisis is leading to greater migration and mobility. These two parallel developments can lead to a crisis unless handled with care.

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