Rising temperature and climatic changes could be a substantial threat to India's growth by 2050, according to a World Bank Report. The changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns may decrease India's GDP by 2.8 per cent and depress the living standards of nearly 50 per cent of the country's population, said the "South Asia's Hotspots -- The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards" report.
So what is a hotspot?
As per the report, these are areas where changes in average weather will adversely affect living standards. Inland areas are predicted to be more affected than mountainous or coastal regions.
The report analyses two future climate scenarios -- climate sensitive, where some collective action is taken to limit greenhouse emissions, and carbon sensitive, where no action is taken.
Muthukumara Mani, lead economist and author of the Report, says, "At least 600 million people in India currently live in areas that are projected to be hotspots by 2050 under the carbon-sensitive scenario. This is almost 50 per cent of our population."
In the report, living standard is measured by per capita consumption expenditures that will be affected by change in weather patterns. In India, weather changes will have a negative impact on living standards and water-stressed areas will be most adversely affected.
However, in Nepal and Afghanistan climate change may increase precipitation which in turn will have a positive effect.
"Increase in temperature and change in precipitation will affect health, agriculture, human productivity and migration, all in turn affecting the living standards. And the most affected will be households engaged in agriculture," Mr Mani adds.
Seven out of top 10 most-affected hotspot districts fall in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. The remaining are in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
So which state will be the most affected?
Chhattisgarh is expected to see a 9.4 per cent change in living standards under the carbon-sensitive scenario followed by Madhya Pradesh 9.1 per cent and Rajasthan 6.4 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 4.9 per cent and Maharashtra 4.6 per cent . The water availability (ratio of surface water use to groundwater use) in all the above regions is under 1 per cent.
So what should be done?
Experts say the government has policies in place but much more awareness needs to be created. "It is ironical that while this report is being released at the same time when green cover in Delhi is being cut, it is imperative that water stress be reduced, opportunities in non-agricultural sectors are increased. The policy makers must take a multi-pronged approach," says Mr Mani.
The report highlights the need to strengthen localised resilience to climate change. The analysis predicts a 30 per cent improvement in education, non-agricultural jobs and reduction of water stress can bring the decline down from 2.8 to 1.9 per cent. It also warns exacerbation of the above factors may worsen things sooner.