Today, May 10, 2023, Legislative Assembly elections voting begins in one of the most climate-vulnerable states Karnataka. However, what is worrying is that the main political parties have stopped addressing the issue of climate change in their manifestos.
Surprisingly, none of the poll manifestos released by the BJP, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party have outlined a specific plan to address climate change problems in the state. Despite the state suffering from its dire consequences including droughts, floods and rising temperatures.
It is worth noting that despite the devastating impact of the natural disasters in Karnataka last year, “climate change” was not mentioned in any party’s manifesto in state elections.
The Western Ghats, one of the world’s 18 hotspots for conservation, is located in Karnataka, making the lack of attention to the environment all the more alarming.
Last year alone, more than 100 people died due to floods, rains and landslides, while around 6 lakh hectares of crops were lost due to irregular rainfall, and approximately 35,000 houses suffered complete or severe damage. The government estimates the total loss to be Rs 7500 crore.
Karnataka election: Climate change missing
The damage caused by extreme weather events such as floods, rains and landslides, Karnataka is facing significant climate change-related issues such as reduced rainfall, increased droughts, water scarcity, landslides and coastal erosion. These issues have been largely ignored by the main political parties in their manifestos and political agendas.
The impacts of these climate change issues can have significant economic, social, and environmental consequences for the state, including crop losses, property damage, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity.
In 2022, Karnataka suffered significant losses in terms of human lives, infrastructure, and agricultural production due to natural disasters such as heavy rains, floods, and marine erosion, which experts attribute to global warming caused by human activity.
More than 100,000 areca nut farmers spread across 12 districts of Karnataka are facing problems due to two diseases that have the potential to wipe out more than 70% of the standing plantations in the 12 districts, particularly Chikkamagaluru.
Last year, More than 100 people died due to flooding, rain and landslides, with around 6 lakh hectares of crops lost due to irregular rainfall and around 35,000 houses completely or severely damaged. The government estimates the total loss was Rs 7500 crore this year.
Rainfall in parts of Karnataka reduced
Karnataka is experiencing changes in the water cycle and rainfall patterns due to climate change, causing severe flooding in some areas and drought in others.
Over the past several decades, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events across the state.
According to a study, the amount of annual rainfall and rainy days has increased in the southern inland regions of Karnataka and Malnad, but there has been a reduction in the amount of annual rainfall and a slight decrease in the southwest monsoon in inland northern Karnataka and coastal regions. from 1960-1990 to 1991-2017.
The director of the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center (KSNDMC), G.S. Srinivasa Reddy, has noticed changes in the rainfall pattern and amount of southwest monsoon rainfall, which could affect the people of NIK. This region lacks rivers that flow during the June-July period, which is crucial for the harvest, and relies on the southwest monsoon for drinking water.
Droughts increased in Karnataka in 15 years
In recent years, extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, hailstorms, cyclones, heat waves, thunderstorms and lightning have increased in frequency and intensity across Karnataka. Between 2001 and 2019, the state experienced 15 years of drought, with some talukas affected for more than five consecutive years. Severe flooding occurred in 2005, 2009, 2018 and 2019.
Changes in rainfall patterns due to climate change pose a threat to surface and groundwater recharge and water security, especially in the inner north region of Karnataka, which has been severely affected by the drought.
Karnataka parts vulnerable to water scarcity
According to a report by the Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI), 17 districts of Karnataka, including Bangalore and the northern irrigated districts, will be highly susceptible to water shocks.
The researchers used 20 indicators such as water availability, population density, and temperature data over several decades to determine the range of vulnerability.
Rural Bangalore topped the list, followed by Raichur, Chikkaballapur, Kalaburagi and others. The report highlights the urgent need to address water security issues in these districts.
Increasing landslides in Karnataka
Karnataka has seen an increase in landslides during the monsoon season in recent years, particularly in the regions covered by the Western Ghats. The Ministry of Earth Sciences recently informed Parliament that between 2015 and 2022, the state has recorded 194 landslides.
Coastal erosion in Karnataka
A study by researchers from the Department of Marine Geology at Mangalore University and the Goa National Institute of Oceanography revealed that 40% of the 30 beaches along the Karnataka coast are experiencing some form of erosion.
Between 1990 and 2016, more than 20% of Karnataka’s coastline experienced erosion, according to government studies. Ullal was identified as the worst affected area, with an annual erosion rate of 1.3 meters since 1990, according to a 2019 study. Overall, 46% of India’s coastline has experienced some level of erosion in recent three decades.
High forest loss in Karnataka
Between 2016 and 2018, Karnataka lost more than 3,000 hectares of primary forest annually, exceeding the annual forest loss recorded every year since 2001, with the exception of 2007.
The most significant decline occurred in Dakshin Kannada and Udupi districts, with Dakshin Kannada losing 1,109 hectares of forest in 2016, 955 hectares in 2017, and 1,072 hectares in 2018, and Udupi losing 740 hectares, 857 hectares, and 665 hectares, respectively. In 2018 alone, the state lost 3,537 hectares of forest.
The Karnataka forest department has reported more than 2,042 bushfires since February 15, of which 627 have been large-scale incidents, according to its data.
The highest number of fire incidents was recorded in the Belagavi, Bhadravathi, Chikkaballapura, Chitradurga, Haliyal, Hassan, Ramanagara and Sagar forest divisions with 245, 178, 128, 129, 151, 117, 105 and 163 incidents respectively.
The lack of attention given to climate change in the manifestos of the major political parties is a matter of concern for the citizens of Karnataka. The state is experiencing the impacts of climate change firsthand, and it is critical that political leaders prioritize climate action on their agendas.
This includes developing proactive measures to mitigate water scarcity, address coastal erosion, and prepare for extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. As citizens go to the polls, they must demand that political parties take climate change seriously and come up with concrete plans to address climate change.
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