Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the most vulnerable to extreme climate events like floods, droughts and cyclones in India, according to a first-of-its-kind Climate Vulnerability Index released on October 26, 2021 by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
The report notes that majority of the Indian states and union territories are vulnerable to extreme climate events which often disrupt the local economy and displace weaker communities. More than 80 per cent Indians live in districts vulnerable to such risks.
India Climate Collaborative and Edelgive Foundation supported the study. It said that out of 640 districts, 463 are vulnerable to extreme floods, droughts and cyclones. More than 45 per cent of these districts have undergone unsustainable landscape and infrastructure changes. Further, 183 hotspot districts are highly vulnerable to more than one extreme event. The CEEW study also found that more than 60 % of Indian districts have medium to low adaptive capacity.
Dhemaji and Nagaon in Assam, Khammam in Telangana, Gajapati in Odisha, Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh, Sangli in Maharashtra, and Chennai in Tamil Nadu are among India’s most vulnerable districts.
On the report, CEEW CEO Dr Arunabha Ghosh said; “Combating the rising frequency and scale of extreme events is fiscally draining for developing countries such as India. At COP-26, developed countries must regain trust by delivering the USD 100 billion promised since 2009 and commit to stepping up climate finance over the coming decade.”
“Further, India must collaborate with other countries to create a Global Resilience Reserve Fund, which could act as insurance against climate shocks. This would ease the fiscal pressure on the most climate vulnerable countries, especially from the Global South. Finally, developing a Climate Risk Atlas for India would help policymakers to better identify and assess risks arising from extreme climate events,” he said.
Lead Author and CEEW programme lead Abinash Mohanty noted that the frequency and intensity of extreme events in India have increased by almost 200 per cent since 2005. “Our policymakers, industry leaders and citizens must use the district-level analysis to make effective risk-informed decisions. Climate proofing of physical and ecosystem infrastructures should also now become a national imperative. Further, India must create a new Climate Risk Commission to coordinate the environmental de-risking mission. Finally, with loss and damage rising exponentially due to the crisis, India must demand climate finance for adaptation-based climate actions at COP-26. Enhanced finance can also support India-led global agencies like the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) to further mainstream actions,” he said.
The CEEW study warned that north-eastern states are more vulnerable to floods, while the ones in the south and central are most vulnerable to extreme droughts. Further, 59 and 41 per cent of the total districts in the eastern and western states, respectively, are highly vulnerable to extreme cyclones.
The study indicated that only 63 per cent of Indian districts have a District Disaster Management Plan (DDMP). While these plans need to be updated every year, only 32 per cent of them had updated plans until 2019. Highly vulnerable, states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Karnataka and Gujarat have improved their respective DDMPs and climate-proofed critical infrastructures in the recent years.
Restoration of climate-sensitive landscapes will act as natural shock absorbers against extreme events.
Integration of climate risk profiling with infrastructure planning is imperative for protecting the existing and planned infrastructure projects.