Climate phenomena and food security

Source: The post is based on the article “Climate phenomena and food security” published in “The Hindu” on 13th September 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Environment- climate change

News: The author discusses weather disruptions in India, focusing on the impacts of the Western disturbance and El Niño. They stress the significance of two types of water in agriculture and the necessity for India to adjust its agricultural practices and water management in response to climate change.

What weather disruptions are faced by India?

Extended Western Disturbance: This disturbance, which usually brings moisture to the western Himalaya and northern India during winter and spring, remained active late into the summer.

Landslides and Flooding: These events resulted in significant infrastructure damage and loss of life in the western Himalaya and northern India.

Affected Population: More than 25 lakh people were potentially impacted in an area estimated between 2,124 and 7,362 sq. km.

El Niño Phase: Evidence showed an intensifying El Niño phase which could influence the southwest monsoon.

Northeast Monsoon: Studies found that 43% of heavy rainfall events in the northeast monsoon, including the devastating 2015 Chennai floods, coincided with an El Niño.

What are the two types of water in agriculture?

Green Water:

This is rain-fed soil moisture.

Used by food and cash crops.

Transpires back into the atmosphere.

Around half of the cultivated area in India depends on green water.

75% of India’s daily diet water footprint is green water, highlighting the importance of rainfed agriculture.

Blue Water:

Found in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater.

Basis for irrigation, drinking, and industry use.

Maintains ecological flows in rivers.

Dominant crops in irrigated areas, like rice paddy during the kharif season, use green water for about 35% of their needs.

What are the impacts of El Niño on India?

Weakened Precipitation: Climate-linked warming due to El Niño may weaken winter precipitation from the Western disturbance and shift it to more intense rain events.

Southwest Monsoon Influence: An intensifying El Niño phase can potentially affect the southwest monsoon, though the relationship between them has changed over time.

Rainfed Agriculture: El Niño affects rainfed agriculture by delaying rain starts, impacting sowing, and by causing higher temperatures that negatively influence plant growth and soil moisture.

Food Production: In the 2015-2016 El Niño year, soybean production in India declined by 28% from the 2013-2022 average.

Northeast Monsoon: 43% of heavy rainfall events in the northeast monsoon, including the 2015 Chennai floods, coincided with an El Niño.

How should India respond?

Shift in Crops:

Move towards less water-intensive crops like millets to reduce the vulnerability of the food system to phenomena like El Niño.

Over 30% of blue water can be saved with such shifts, though saved water might be quickly used unless policies are in place.

Alternative Strategies:

Adaptations and alternative crop strategies are now available, like switching to shorter growing cycle crops.

Advisories to farmers are crucial for switching crops.

Utilizing Forecasts:

Both the Centre and the States, along with farmers, should benefit from forecasts about phenomena like El Niño.

Enhancements in short-term weather forecasts are vital.

Dam Management:

There’s a clear need for alternative management of dams and reservoirs to minimize flood disasters and protect aquatic ecosystems.

Governance Response:

Emphasize sustainable water-sharing between humans and nature, rejuvenating rivers, and diversifying agro-food systems.

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