The unbelievable silence from the political leaders of India about the threats and impacts of El Nino on people and the economy of the country indicates how callous our leaders are to important climate issues, said environmentalists and activists working in various areas of public interest. El Nino prediction received endorsement from India Meteorological Department (IMD) on April 14, 2014, when the campaigning for general elections in the country was at the peak.
El Nino is characterised by unusual warm temperatures in equatorial Pacific Ocean. Affecting the climate in larger part of the globe, “it takes rain from Asia and Australia and dumps it on the Americas,” as per NewScientist.
The manifestos of the political parties, especially the Bharatiya janata Party (BJP) that came out winner with a sweeping majority in the election held recently in India, too remained silent about it although possibility of development of El Nino was predicted by known climatologists and specialised research organisations early this year.
As impacts of El Nino, “India may have less rain and an arid climate to the extent of a drought like situation. Agriculture would be the worst hit,” says Dr Rahas Bihari Panda of Department of Environment Science, North Odisha University.
Hitting agriculture means fall in food production leading to food scarcity in the country that has a population over 1.2 billion that comprises a quarter of world’s hungry people.
Less domestic food production would force India to import food materials that could result in escalation of market prices.
With limited storage facility, an ambiguous procurement policy and ill-managed public distribution system (PDS), one can not expect the government to tackle a situation of food scarcity in the country successfully.
Keeping in view that nearly half of the Indians survive with less than rupees 20 (one third of a dollar) a day and about one fifth sleeping hungry even today, as facts presented by bhookh.com, it’s more likely that the number of hungry people in the country will go up.
“Such a situation may lead to chaos in the country,” says N A Shah Ansari, social activist and a community radio station manager adding that “the country must have an exclusive department to deal with such natural phenomenon including climate change.”
Apart from food, the biggest issue to be given a serious thought is the possible scarcity of water to drink, irrigate and use for industrial purposes because the rivers are overstressed and the reservoirs are overloaded with industrial requisitions. And, it’s again a fact that all reservoirs carry less water than their defined capacity because of no conservation measure since they are built.
“Hirakud contains at least 25% less than its capacity because of siltation. Already stressed to meet the demands of industries, the reservoir would fail to fulfil water demands for drinking and irrigation purpose,” says Mahanadi Waterkeeper Ranjan Panda, convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO).
“Even the source river Mahanadi will go dry while meeting the demands of industries in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. If there will be less rain both the river Mahanadi and Hirakud reservoir will be short of water to fulfil the human needs. But, unfortunately, our political leaders do not go deep into these issues,” Panda adds.
Experts say, water scarcity may lead to bad quality water supply for consumption of urban dwellers which may lead to several diseases such as gastroenteritis, jaundice and various skin ailments. Even conflict for water can not be overruled in such a situation, experts apprehend.
“People will suffer. The government may have to face troubles while dealing with the problems. But there is no shortcut. As we add to the atmospheric temperature everyday, such phenomenon would be more frequent than today – may be doubled as predicted by many. We need long term plans,” says environmental scientist Dr Rahas Bihari Panda.
As the predictions go, the country needs quick action to be prepared to deal with the possible chaotic situation in the country. The leaders, high sounding about development, economic growth and poverty alleviation need to understand the link between poverty and environment instead of separating the both, which is ironical!
By now, development of El Nino is almost certain. As NewScientist says quoting Meteorologist Wenju Cai of CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, in Melbourne, “it looks like a big one. The more heat in the Pacific, the bigger the El Niño, and right now, 150 metres below the surface, a ball of warm water is crossing that ocean. It’s huge.”
The gravity of the issues to come up in a developed El Nino situation demands immediate attention of the government and greater political will to keep the country prepared to face any possible climatic threat and its impacts.
But, unfortunately, the political leaders and the government don’t seem to be serious about El Nino or the environmental issues as a whole. Experts even wonder if they realise the kind of situation the country is going to face once the phenomenon gets matured.