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Akhilesh Gupta, with a Doctorate in Atmospheric Sciences from IIT, Delhi joined the India Meteorological Department in 1985 and is currently an Advisor to the Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences. He is the brain behind the soon to be launched Weather Channel. He was also part of the Co-ordination Team which drafted India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change. Here, he speaks to i4d about the Action Plan as also about the India Meteorological Department’s modernisation plan apart from the impact of climate change on the Indian sub-continent.
What was the rationale behind India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change?
The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) is in response to India’s current vulnerability to climate change and strong commitment to sustainable development through energy-efficiency and conservation of natural resources guided and driven by science and technology advancement. The fact that India is home to 16% of the global population, more than 1/3 of population needs adequate shelter, 20% of its GDP comes from agriculture and 500 million livelihoods depend on natural resources, 15% live in coastal areas and about 40 million ha of India’s land (nearly 12%) is prone to flooding, 16% afflicted by drought (60% of net sown area), 3% under landslide hazard and a long coastline of over 7500 km, represents high vulnerability to climate-related disasters. Thus, both our economy and our lifestyles are inextricably linked to climate and its variability make climate change an issue of immense importance to our country.
India’s development agenda focuses on the need for rapid economic growth as an essential precondition to poverty eradication and improved standards of living. Meeting this agenda, which will also reduce climate-related vulnerability, requires large-scale investment of resources in infrastructure, technology and access to energy. India also lacks the necessary financial and technological resources needed to meet threats from climate changes. Only rapid and sustained development can generate the required financial, technological and human resources.
In charting out a developmental pathway which is ecologically sustainable, India has a wider spectrum of choices precisely because it is at an early stage of development. The National Action Plan focuses on directional change in our development path that would ultimately lead to avoided emissions. India’s heritage of environmental friendly lifestyles and recognition of its international responsibility as a developing country form the basis for action. These actions will enable us to engage constructively and productively in global efforts to preserve and protect the environment through pragmatic, practical solutions which are for the benefit of entire humankind. India’s international policies shall align with its national strategy to deal with climate change.
How are we planning to implement the National Action Plan on Climate Change?
The NAPCC has come up with 8 National Missions. These are:
1. National Solar Mission
2. National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency
3. National Mission on Sustainable Habitat
4. National Water Mission
5. National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system
6. National Mission for a Green India
7. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture
8. National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change
As per the implementation mechanism outlined in the NAPCC, these National Missions will be institutionalised by respective ministries and supported by creating an inter-Ministerial group representing other sectoral Ministries concerned along with Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission and non-Government representatives, including representatives of Industry, Civil Society and the academic and scientific communities. Each Mission will be tasked with evolving specific objectives spanning the remaining years of the 11th Plan and the 12th Plan period 2012-13 to 2016-17. Wherein the resource requirements of the Mission call for an enhancement of the allocation in the 11th Plan, this will be suitably considered, keeping in mind the overall resources position and the scope for re-prioritisation. The detailed Mission objectives and the timelines laid down for their fulfillment will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change which will also periodically review the progress.
Does the IMD monitor incidences of climate change in India? If yes, how does it do this?
India Meteorological Department has over 100 years of meteorological data on temperature, rainfall, winds, etc. Today, IMD maintains over 500 manual and over hundreds of automatic surface weather stations; over 700 hydrometeorological stations; and over 200 agro-meteorological observatories. It also receives data from over 3000 non-departmental observatories in the country. As an active and responsible member of World Meteorological Organization (WMO), IMD shares real time data with each WMO member country in the world on a daily basis. IMD also monitors and reports every extreme weather event that occurs in its area of responsibility. The inferences drawn by IPCC on global warming and climate change over the Indian region are largely based on archived data of IMD. IMD has a massive modernisation plan to expand this network to make it much denser and accurate. There will be additional 550 automatic surface weather stations and 1350 automatic raingauge stations by next year itself. The Ministry of Earth Sciences has an ambitious plan to set up a network of observatories for atmospheric flux measurements. This would help in measuring levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the Indian region more accurately.
Is there a link between climate change and the increasing severity and frequency of tropical cyclones?
Tropical cyclones form over warm sea when sea surface temperature (SST) exceeds 26.5