India bore maximum brunt of extreme weather events in 2020: Report
Source: The New Indian Express
News: An International Report titled “Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown” has been released by Christian aid, a relief and humanitarian agency based in London.
- The report listed 15 most destructive climate disasters of 2020 that cumulatively had an expenditure tag of around $150 billion calculated only on insured losses.
Key Takeaways from the report:
Source: New Indian Express
- Cyclone Amphan which affected countries in the Bay of Bengal and caused maximum damage within coastal districts of West Bengal of India displaced 4.9 million people accounting for the biggest displacement due to an extreme weather event anywhere in the world in 2020.
- Economic Impact: The economic impact of the Cyclone Amphan was fourth in global climate related disaster list following the United States and Caribbean hurricanes, China floods and the United States fires on the west coast.
- Floods in India: The floods in India were the fifth most expensive extreme weather event in the world costing the country $10 billion.
- More importantly, as many as 2,067 lives were lost during the June-October floods, the highest number of fatalities due to climate change-induced weather events this year.
In India, over 75% districts hotspots of extreme weather events, finds study
News: Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) has released a report titled “Preparing India for Extreme Climate Events”.This is the first time that extreme weather event hotspots in the country have been mapped.
- Hotspots: Over 75% of districts in India are hotspots of extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves and cold waves.
- Extreme Climate Events: The frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of extreme events have risen in recent decades.While India witnessed 250 extreme climate events in 35 years between 1970 and 2005, it recorded 310 such weather events in only 15 years since then.
- Cyclones: After 2005, the yearly average number of districts affected by cyclones tripled and the cyclone frequency-doubled.
- Floods: The decade 2000-2009 showed a spike in extreme flood events and in associated flood events which affected almost 473 districts.
- Droughts: The yearly average of drought-affected districts increased 13 times after 2005.Until 2005, the number of districts affected by drought was six, but after 2005 this figure rose to 79.
- Microclimatic zones shifting: These are areas where the weather is different from surrounding areas.The study has found that they are shifting across various districts of India.
- Reasons: Some reasons behind this shift in microclimatic zones is change in land-use patterns, disappearing wetlands and natural ecosystems by encroachment and urban heat islands that trap heat locally.
- Develop a Climate Risk Atlas to map critical vulnerabilities such as coasts, urban heat stress, water stress, and biodiversity collapse
- Develop an Integrated Emergency Surveillance System to facilitate a systematic and sustained response to emergencies
- Mainstream risk assessment at all levels, including localised, regional, sectoral, cross-sectoral, macro and micro-climatic level
- Enhance adaptive and resilience capacity to climate-proof lives, livelihoods and investments
- Increase the participatory engagement of all stakeholders in the risk assessment process
- Integrate risk assessment into local, sub-national, and national level plans.
Hazardous ideas for Himalayas
Context: China’s major hydropower project as a part of its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), on the Yarlung Zangbo River, in Mêdog County in Tibet.
More on news:
- The hydropower generation station is expected to provide 300 billion kWh of electricity annually. The Chinese authorities say the project will help the country realise its goal of reaching a carbon emission peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060.
- Indian counterparts were quick to restate their plans to dam the Himalayas on this side of the border. India is reportedly considering a 10-GW hydropower project in an eastern State.
What are the various misadventures that can happen due to the building of hydropower dams?
- Unavailability of dams: Both countries ignore how unviable such ‘super’ dams projects are, given that they are being planned in an area that is geologically unstable.
- Competing dams: Over the past 20 years, both China and India have been competing with each other to build hydroelectric dams in this ecologically fragile and seismically vulnerable area.
- There are two hydropower projects in the works in Arunachal Pradesh on the tributaries of the Brahmaputra: the 600 MW Kameng project on the Bichom and Tenga Rivers and the 2,000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectricity Project.
- China has already completed 11 out of 55 projects that are planned for the Tibetan region.
- Overestimating economic potential: In executing these hydroelectric projects, the two countries have overestimated their economic potential and grossly underestimated the earthquake vulnerability of the region.
- Earthquakes in the region: High seismic zones coincide with areas of high population concentration in the Himalayan region where landslides and glacial lake outburst floods are common.
- About 15% of the great earthquakes of the 20th century occurred in the Himalayan region. The northeast Himalayan bend has experienced several large earthquakes of magnitude 7 and above in the last 100 years, more than the share from other parts of the Himalayas.
- The 2015 Gorkha earthquake of magnitude 7.8 in central Nepal resulted in huge losses in the hydropower sector. Nepal lost about 20% of its hydropower capacity consequent to the earthquake.
- Landslides: The main mechanisms that contributed to the vulnerability of hydropower projects were found to be landslides, which depend on the intensity of seismic ground shaking and slope gradients.
- Heavy siltation from giant landslides expected in the project sites will severely reduce the water-holding capacity and life expectancy of such dams.
- Even without earthquakes, the steep slopes made of soft rocks are bound to slide due to deforestation and road-building.
What can be done?
- Nature reserve: In recent years, the Himalayas have seen the highest rate of deforestation and land use changes. The upper Himalayas should be converted into a nature reserve by an international agreement.
- Himalayan river commission: The possibility of a Himalayan River Commission involving all the headwater and downstream countries needs to be explored.
- India and China, the major players in the region, would be well advised to disengage from military adventurism and seek ways of transforming this ‘roof of the world’ into a natural reserve for the sake of humanity. Carbon neutrality should not be at the expense of the environment.
Crucial expertise of CAPFs
Context: The diverse experience of security forces has helped greatly in combating COVID-19.
Discuss the role of CAPFs during the pandemic?
- Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) carry out the task of overcoming the disaster, by not only carrying out rescue and relief operations, but also by moderating the pains and problems arising out of the disaster.
- CAPFs comprise the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal, Assam Rifles and the ITBP.
- Role played by the CAPFs:
- Setting up Quarantine centres: Even before covid-19, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had already set up its 600-bed quarantine centre in Chawla on the outskirts of New Delhi.
- Quarantine assistance: Out of the 324 Indian passengers in the first batch that arrived in New Delhi from China’s Wuhan, 103 were quarantined at the ITBP Centre.
- Coordinated response: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had roped in specialists from the Safdarjung Hospital to coordinate with ITBP officials.
- Similarly, The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had directed the CAPFs to establish 5,400-bedded quarantine centres with 75 isolation wards, spread over 37 centres across the country.
- Testing and Training: Immigration officials entrusted with conducting COVID-19 tests of the passengers arriving in New Delhi were trained by the NDRF.
- The NDRF has trained over 30,000 personnel in disaster management across the country.
- Role of Disaster Response Forces: The NDRF has been carrying out rescue and relief operations, and is also training the State Disaster Response Forces personnel in all States.
- Relief work: A sum of ₹10 crores was sanctioned for the CRPF by the MHA to carry out relief work for those displaced in the aftermath of the lockdown.
- Expertise and SOPs: The expertise acquired by ITBP personnel and the Standard Operating Procedure prepared by the ITBP came handy for the States and other police forces in establishing their own quarantine centres and COVID-19 hospitals.
- For instance, a 10,000-bed quarantine centre was established in Chhatarpur in New Delhi by the ITBP, where over 10,000 patients have been treated till now, according to ITBP spokesperson.
What steps can be taken?
- There is a need to expand the strength of trained personnel. Personnel can be deployed at quarantines centres after short term courses.
- A proposal mooted by NITI Aayog last year, to conduct a bridge course for dentists to solidify them eligible for the MBBS degree, could be revived, and such doctors could be on stand-by to help in such emergency crises.
It is these CAPF personnel who give an impression of existence of government administration even in the remotest corners of the country. Their versatile experience can be utilised to the nation’s advantage.