It has to be accepted that climate change is a global phenomenon and is happening for real. Rising sea and temperature levels are proof of that. Increasing temperature levels is mainly caused due to increase in pollution levels resulting in an increase in the surface temperature of seas and the formation of cyclones, thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rain in the nearby areas. Due to this, the livelihoods of farmers are getting affected as their crops are not growing properly.
Severity of climate change
West Bengal has witnessed a significant escalation in the severity of climate change in just one year, as revealed by the latest report from the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) on India's state of the environment. in 2023. The report, released on the eve of World Environment Day, highlights the increase in extreme weather events in Bengal, which has experienced 24 such events in just over five months this year, compared to a total of 10 events throughout the year 2022.
According to the report, India encountered extreme weather events on 314 out of 365 days in 2022, resulting in the loss of more than 3,026 lives and damage to 1.96 million hectares of crops. While heat waves predominated in early 2022, hailstorms have become the predominant extreme weather event in 2023.
CSE Director General Sunita Narain said: "Our intent is to use the best data points available to tell you the story of India's environmental performance: where it has faltered, where it has made progress towards a sustainable existence and where, if It's that there were some, it's the gaps in the data."
Bengal's environmental and climate governance
The report assesses Bengal's environmental and climate governance in various categories, revealing a mixed performance compared to other states. In terms of overall environmental performance, Bengal is in the bottom five states, scoring 3.7 out of 10. Telangana tops the list with a score of 7.2, attributed to its progress in increasing forest cover and municipal waste treatment. However, Bengal falls below average on parameters such as "proportion of water bodies not in use", "stage of groundwater abstraction" and "change in number of polluted river reaches".
In terms of agriculture, Bengal ranks 11th with a score of 4.6. Madhya Pradesh leads in this category due to its high share of net value added and significant growth in food grain production. However, almost half of the growing area in Madhya Pradesh remains uninsured. In terms of public health, Bengal ranks 16th, with Delhi leading the way. Delhi allocates most of its budget to healthcare and has a strong network of healthcare facilities, though it has a low immunization rate.
Extreme weather conditions
The change of weather has resulted in survival and existential threat to people living near the coastline. Their source of income, as well as health and safety, are at risk. Due to the cyclones and extreme weather conditions especially near the coastline fisherman in places like Digha, Mandarmani, and Diamond Harbour are facing life threats daily during their operating times in the Bay of Bengal.
The effect of this change in the weather pattern has also affected the local farmers. Their produce gets affected as the saline water of the Bay of Bengal flows inland mixing up with the fresh river water used for irrigation and takes away the rich soil destroying the crops. This problem is very commonly seen in the Sunderban Delta in West Bengal followed by coastal regions used for farming in Odisha.
Climate risk-prone region
West Bengal is projected to become the 60th most climate risk-prone region in the world by 2050, according to a global report released this week. The study, titled XDI Gross Domestic Climate Risk, aims to help investors make informed long-term investment decisions and assesses more than 2,600 regions around the world.
The report highlights that 14 Indian states are expected to be among the top 100 regions facing climate risks by mid-century. Bihar is expected to top the list with an overall ranking of 22, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 25 and Assam with 28.
Regarding West Bengal's climate risk ranking, an expert associated with the study stated: "West Bengal ranks 60th in terms of climate risk by 2050, and the modeling shows that damage to the built environment in Bengal may increase by a 81 percent from 1990 to 2050 Flooding is the main danger of this damage in West Bengal, but coastal flooding also plays a role."
China leads the world list of vulnerable regions, followed by the United States and India. Major economic hubs such as Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, and Taiwan are also expected to be in the top 100 regions most prone to climate risk by 2050.
Rise in average temperature
Mr. Debarshi Duttagupta of Kolkata Cloudchasers, an amateur group of storm chasers and weather enthusiasts stated, "Due to the rise in average surface temperature of the Bay of Bengal the severity of cyclones has been increasing from the past few years. This should be a matter of huge concern as super cyclone formations like Yash, Amphan, Fani, and Bulbul are becoming common now.
These cyclones are not only affecting West Bengal but are creating devastating effects in Andaman and Nicobar, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Previously West Bengal was not much affected by these storms as they went generally to Odisha and Bangladesh but now the situation is changing and this is very scary for cities like Kolkata."
Every year during the monsoon season, the city of Kolkata is facing waterlogging problems like never before. The situation is so hostile that boats have been used recently by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to bring out people from the waterlogged areas and provide help.
Being known as the Mangrove Man, environmentalist and teacher Mr. Umashankar Mandal working in the Sunderbans from 2009 to plant and save the mangrove trees shares some of his thoughts on this. “After the cyclonic storm Aila in 2009, the Sunderban delta was pretty badly affected. The loss of rich cultivable land and freshwater was immense.
Seeing the loss I made up my mind to do something for protecting the land. It started with a donation of medicines, clothes, and other essentials to the affected families but after a period of time, I also started planting the mangrove trees. Planting mangroves helps in restricting cyclones or storms to enter the mainland as they act as a wall and takes the blows on them thus reducing the damage of crops, fishing ponds, plants, livestock, and human life.
Rate of storms increased
In recent years, the rate of storms taking place has increased manifold. As time goes this will increase. As long as we don’t plant trees and stop polluting our environment this rapid climate change cannot be prevented. And as for prevention, it's very tough as it has already started. If you see properly villages after villages are being abandoned by their occupants as they are moving inland towards towns and cities.
This is resulting in increasing pressure on the cities like Kolkata as the population demographics are shifting in multiple gears. More population means that more pressure on finite resources like groundwater and fuel leading to depletion of these resources at an alarming rate. Previously groundwater was known as a renewable resource but the rapidly increasing dependency on it for various use has turned it into a finite resource.” (Climate Change in West Bengal)
Depleting freshwater levels are a high concern for amateur enthusiasts and environmentalists like Debarshi Duttagupta and Umashankar Mandal. It is very unfortunate that the general public as well as the government has turned a blind eye towards this. Districts like Purulia, Asansol, parts of the Bardhaman district are facing droughts over a few years and the rate of affected farmers is increasing. Floods are also common in areas in Howrah, Hoogly, Haldia, Tamluk, and North and South 24 Paraganas. This has also resulted in the spread of infectious diseases like Dengue, Malaria.
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