New Survey on Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources in India

on January 31, 2012 10:38 PM EST

Bangalore, India
River cutting through farm land near Bangalore. (Photo: mckaysavage)

A major new survey of the likely effects of climate change on India's water resources published today identifies huge challenges to maintaining adequate supplies in the next few decades, but argues that these can be overcome with an integrated, multi-sectorial approach that takes into account water use from farm to river basin level. The book's editors say that more investment, further policy reforms and their implementation will be needed if India is to remain food secure whilst protecting the natural systems on which agriculture relies.

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The book, "Water and Climate Change: an integrated approach to adaptation challenges" is the culmination of the three year Climawater project, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Bioforsk, a national research institute in Norway and implemented by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, New Delhi and the International Water Management Institute. It will be launched today by the Honorable Minister of Rural Development, Shri. Jairam Ramesh, and the Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development, Mr. Erik Solheim. The book draws heavily on research carried out over several years in the Godavari River Basin which covers large areas of the states of Andhra Pradesh (where most of the fieldwork was done), Maharashtra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Pondicherry, as well as parts of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

"We are convinced that India can rise to the water supply challenges that climate change will bring," say Dr. A K Gosain of IITD and Dr. Udaya Sekhar Nagothu of Bioforsk, two of the book's editors. "What we have compiled is a comprehensive analysis of the impacts that climate change poses to Indian water management and some potential strategies for addressing this. We believe, in India, this is one of the first studies using a multi-scale integrated approach."

In recent years there has been a revolution in water management thanks to improved computer modeling and satellite remote sensing technology. This has enabled researchers to monitor water use down to farm level, and then apply these observations at the basin scale. Coupled with new social research on how farmers and other water users make water resource decisions, the book's editors believe that this comprehensive methodological approach can give policymakers the holistic overview they need to develop future sustainable and equitable water management strategies.

"It is critical that we adopt a multi-level approach to the problem of climate change and water management," says Dr. K Palanisami of the International Water Management Institute and a co-editor of the book. "We need to look at issues at farm level right up to the whole river basin if we are to successfully deal with the challenges. It is vital that we involve people at all levels and that we look at both social and environmental concerns."

The book makes some key recommendations for India's water managers including the development of "low regret" (meaning with low risk, simple and practical) policies, improving and sharing water databases, plus better dissemination, capacity building and awareness on the likely effects of climate change and how we can adapt to it. The editors hope that the book will encourage similar research in other basins in India.

Water and Climate Change: an integrated approach to adaptation challenges" edited by Udaya Sekhar Nagothu, A K Gosain and K Palanisami is published by MacMillan Publishers, India Ltd.

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