THE CLIMATE MONITOR Issue 13, June 2009
THE MONSOONS FINALLY MADE IT ! After a series of forecasts for an early monsoon, Mumbaikars found themselves in the middle of June, suffering the sweltering heat, wondering where the rains were. The monsoons usually make it to Mumbai by June 10th every year, but this year, after some alarm, the monsoons arrived 16 days late on June 26th. It’s the most delayed monsoon this century. While monsoons have always been fairly variable, the late arrival this year could indicate a general shift of monsoon pattern: 2007 showed a delay of 8 days and 2005 showed one of 9. Although, Deputy director of the meteorological centre R V Sharma said the rains had arrived as late as June 25 in 1905 and 1959, a delay of 2 weeks has serious impacts for agriculture (as discussed later in the newsletter). What happened this year? The monsoon hit Kerala early (on May 25th) and proceeded to make its way up north and enroute was disrupted by cyclone Aila. “Cyclone Aila, followed by two other cyclonic storms, broke the current and carried away the moisture turning the atmosphere dry," said director of the meteorological centre, S C Sahu.
over time. However, it is clear that new climate phenomena in one part of India (like super cyclones in the Bay of Bengal) will impact weather in other parts of the country, thus having far reaching consequences and that we will be increasingly unable to predict. The impacts of such unpredictability and variability are likely to be massive. Anokhi Parikh, Deputy Director, TCP-India
MONSOON IMPACTS The livelihood of three-fifths of the Indian population depends on agriculture, forestry, wetlands and fisheries. Since the monsoon-dependent crops account for nearly half of India’s agricultural production, the country’s food security and sustained economic growth is at stake. With the global recession impacting growth in manufactured goods and services, the government was counting on agriculture to grow at least 2.5% to shore up the economy. A bad monsoon will mean poor farm output and, in turn, poor sales for everyone from consumer goods manufacturers to tractor makers to motorcycle manufacturers. (Economic Times) Nitin Paranjape, CEO & MD of Hindustan Unilever, told the Economic Times, “We are listening to what the weatherman has to say everyday. Subject to the (behaviour of) monsoons in the next few months, we should see good growth for the FMCG sector. The business depends on monsoon and the country depends on the monsoon.”
Source: National Climate Centre Office, India Meteorological Department (2007) Whether this signals a climate change related shift in monsoon patterns is difficult to ascertain with certainty. The data show that the onset of the monsoon in India has been fairly variable
Indeed, a good monsoon is critical for kharif crops— sugarcane, rice, corn, soybean and cotton that are sown during June-September. Besides this, a good monsoon also helps in increasing the output of winter-sown (rabi) crops like wheat by raising the soil moisture. Business India reports that this year, India has turned into a major importer of sugar, which has in turn increased prices globally, therefore an increased sugarcane output can help reduce sugar imports.
Significantly, the main reservoirs throughout the country have been showing lower storage levels since the beginning of June. For example, the water level at the Ranjit Sagar Dam reservoir has been steadily declining as a result of less inflow of water from it for power generation and irrigation purposes during the past few weeks, reports Tribune India. Meanwhile, the BMC is increasing water cuts in Mumbai from 20 percent to 30 percent as of July 7, 2009, reports the Hindustan Times. Additional Municipal Commissioner Anil Diggikar said “Catchment areas have not received any water since the rains began. The western suburbs and parts of the city have water supply to tide over 25 days. The eastern suburbs have enough to last for two months.” Its no wonder that the government and economists are banking on agricultural growth to rescue the slowing economy. Sachchidanand Shukla, Economist, Enam says: “To achieve the RBI’s GDP growth estimates of 6 per cent in 2009-10, it’s imperative that agriculture grows at least 3 per cent this year. For that, it’s critical that the monsoon is good this year.” His sentiments are echoed by Ajit Ranade, Chief Economist, A.V. Birla group who says: “In a good year, the importance of monsoon gets diminished. But at a time when the other engines of the economy are feeling the heat of the global meltdown, it’s important for the farm sector to deliver.” Anushka Pinto, Project Manager, TCP-India
EFFECT OF BLACK CARBON ON MONSOONS IN INDIA Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have analyzed that black carbon (BC) aerosols cause reduced monsoon rainfall over India. Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air and can occur naturally, from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and the alteration of natural surface cover, also generate aerosols. About 10 percent of the total amount of aerosols in our atmosphere are made by human activities, and is mostly concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere, downwind of industrial sites,
slash-and-burn agricultural regions, and overgrazed grasslands. Atmospheric aerosols, which are fine particles suspended in the air, comprise a mixture of mainly sulfates, nitrates, carbonaceous (organic and black carbon) particles, sea salt, and mineral dust. BC is of special interest because it absorbs sunlight, heats the air, and contributes to global warming. BC emissions, a product of incomplete combustion from coal, diesel engines, biofuels, and outdoor biomass burning, are particularly large in China and India. The NCAR researchers analyzed a six-member ensemble of twentiethcentury simulations. Making changes only to time-evolving global distributions of black carbon aerosols in a global climate model, they studied the effects of black carbon (BC) aerosols on the Indian monsoon. According to their findings, the BC aerosols act to increase lower-tropospheric heating over South Asia and reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface during the dry season. With the onset of the monsoon, the reduced surface temperatures in the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and over India that extend to the Himalayas act to reduce monsoon rainfall over India, with some small increases over the Tibetan Plateau. During the summer monsoon season, the model experiments show it is likely that BC aerosols have contributed to observed decreasing precipitation trends over parts of India, Bangladesh, Burma, and Thailand. These experiments point to the regional importance of BC aerosols for rainfall patterns over much of Asia, and in the Indian monsoon region in particular. Supriya Rao, Project Manager, TCP-India
AN INTERVIEW WITH INIR Inir Pinheiro works with an extremely fascinating organisation called Grassroutes, set up to create sustainable opportunities for village tourism, managed by the villagers themselves, in order to
control the ill effects of tourism and channel economic development. Inir Pinheiro of Grassroutes told us “Tourism is one of the greatest economic mediums for development, but it is also one of the greatest exploiters of culture, environment and people.” A prototype of the village tourism model has been developed by Grassroutes in existing villages near Nasik. Purushwadi village located in District Ahmednagar, Block Akole, is one such prototype, where villagers have been trained in hospitality and basic infrastructure owned and managed by villagers has been set up. Additionally a village tourism committee has also been put in place to serve as a regulatory body equipped to appropriately deal with any village tourism related issues. While a single village is not economically sustainable, Grassroutes is testing its prototype by creating a network of six villages all of which are located within 4 hours travel time from Mumbai and/or Pune by 2011. Each village will have its own unique selling proposition, such as location, village culture or local livelihood. Once an economically sustainable network of villages has been established, Grassroutes will look at implementing their model all over India. The idea is to have not more than 40 tourists in a village at any given time, and while generation of income is not the primary goal, this model certainly augments the income of a rural family. In Purushwadi alone the annual household income has increased by 20-30%. The motivation behind setting up this model is driven by the fact that the rural inhabitants in the area are no longer able to sustain themselves on the grain that they sow each year, as compared with their forefathers, who were not only able to feed their families, but were also able to sell their surplus. Today, there is enough grain for only 8 months of the year, which forces inhabitants to migrate in search of work. As such the tourism model serves a dual purpose of augmenting income and reducing migration of workers; significantly, the model has had other tremendous effects on the self-confidence and pride of the villagers, not to mention that some of them have even been inspired to seek a higher education. Unfortunately, urban and rural inhabitants exist in different realities, which Grassroutes aspires to connect, thus bringing me to the crux of my article, the inhabitants of Purushwadi and nearby areas are
presently in turmoil on account of sporadic rainfall. Normally, the sowing season for kharif or summer crop is the first week of June and after a month the crop is transplanted. At the moment, while seeds have been sown, the rainfall pattern is so sporadic and unusual that the villagers are struggling to deal with their crop, having never experienced anything like this before. They are unable to recall similar patterns having occurred in the past so as to draw from previous experience. For those that are close to water bodies or rivers, they are able to lift irrigate, but these are in the minority. The majority of people are literally looking to the skies for answers. The situation has worsened so much that entire villages are inclined to migrate, but where will they go? “Climate change doesn’t always include global warming, but can also mean changes in weather patterns that people are ill-equipped to deal with” says Pinheiro. Anushka Pinto, Project Manager, TCP-India
A FIRST FOR US! This month, the Climate Project-India organized, for the first time, a training program for civil society, the aim of which was to equip diverse members of our society with comprehensive tools to spread the critical message of climate change. Through these inspired citizens TCP-India hopes not only to build on their network of presenters, but to create a society willing to effectively tackle the impacts of climate change. Approximately sixty participants attended the oneday interactive training session held on June 12, 2009 at the British Council in Mumbai. The program kicked off with a presentation by our very own Director, Gaurav Gupta and Deputy Director, Anokhi Parikh. The participants were taken through a detailed slide show exploring the science and impacts of Climate Change, with a particular focus on India. There were several guest speakers at the training who addressed various aspects of climate change including feasible solutions. Dr. Anish Andheria from the Sanctuary talked about the impact of climate change on biodiversity. Nature First, an environment solutions consulting company, showcased what corporations could do to earn ecological as well as economic benefits. Anil Ranglani from an organization called Daily Dump not only outlined the
benefits of composting wet waste, but also demonstrated how easy this process actually is. Vikrant Chheda from Water Wise explained how rain water harvesting could be implemented in building societies and the immense benefits associated with this process. Vikram Shetty from Twin City talked
On a happier note, we were lucky enough to benefit from Anand and Anish’s expert knowledge of the parks flora and fauna and learnt about the medicinal qualities of the plants that we saw.
We are looking forward to the next walk in August by which time the Monsoon will be in full swing. Hope to see you all there! about solar energy and how one could implement the technology in one’s home by using solar water heaters, amongst other products. Overall, the training proved successful with all of the participants having qualified as TCP-India presenters equipped to create awareness about the impacts of climate change and the solutions to combat these far reaching consequences. Jaspreet Arora, Analyst, TCP-India
A FOREST IN OUR MIDST Early last Saturday morning the Climate Project team alongside a group of true nature enthusiasts gathered at the gate of Sanjay Gandhi National Park for an exclusive ‘monsoon nature walk’ with Anand Pendharkar (Wildlife expert) and Dr. Anish Andheria (Trustee of TCP India). We witnessed firsthand the ‘awakening of the forest’ which only the rains can bring about. Although there were no leopard spottings, we were lucky enough to see an extremely rare Banded Bay cuckoo. Sadly the most common sighting in the park nowadays is the ‘homo sapien encroacher’, whose presence often comes at a price for other park inhabitants. We witnessed the plight of many of the parks freshwater crustacean inhabitants, who were being carried away in jute sacks to be sold at market rather than roaming the forest floors.
Interesting fact: Sanjay Gandhi National Park covers 20% of Mumbai’s land area and is responsible for 10% of the city’s water supply! Farah Mahava, Volunteer, TCP-India
MEET THE NEW TCP-INDIA VOLUNTEERS Richard Strauss is currently studying English at Lady Margret Hall College at the University of Oxford. He is going to be with TCP-India for two months. After being involved in the Oxfam campaigns through the University society, he is keen to learn about the global challenges presented by climate change from a different perspective. Farah came onboard the TCP India team as a volunteer last month. She has been working in Financial Services for the last six years. Until recently, Farah was based in London and was working as a fund manager for Sanlam. Prior to this she worked with Deloitte. She has a BA in Management Studies from the University of Nottingham, and is a CFA Charterholder. Farah enjoys travelling and scuba diving.