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A long-term, climate-resistant development path should guide India’s development: analysis


In May, India faced a double whammy: a super cyclone, Amphan, even as the country battled coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The cyclone was one of the most powerful to hit the east coast of India in more than 20 years. Before losing steam, it reached sustained wind speeds of more than 225 kilometers per hour, showing a peculiar rapid intensification with its wind speeds rising three times in 48 hours.

This is worrying. The climate crisis will warm the oceans, helping to generate and intensify future cyclones.

Amphan killed at least 86 in West Bengal, the most affected state. Although the financial damages are still being assessed, it is unlikely to be as huge in terms of deaths as Cyclone Bhola (1970) or the Orissa supercyclone (1999) that killed thousands of thousands of people, respectively. The success in limiting the loss of life is evident by the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin (2013) and Cyclone Fani (2019) in which, despite their ferocity, the deaths remained in double digits.

Minimization of loss of life was made possible through technological and institutional interventions. At the technological level, India has invested heavily in the past decade in strengthening its ocean observing network, radar technology, and storm forecasting skills to enable a timely assessment of the genesis and physiology of cyclones. Forecasting runways and landing areas in advance helps to take precautionary measures. In Amphan’s case, information about its genesis, its likely trajectory, its advance, its inherent characteristics such as wind speed and possible landing areas were made available to the authorities and the public at least one week before landing. real.

At the institutional level, India has learned the complex configuration for managing disaster relief. While the country faced severe natural calamities in the late 1990s, such as the Orissa super cyclone (1999), the Gujarat earthquake (2001), and the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), the world witnessed much debate and discussion on disaster response and preparedness. He highlighted the need for a comprehensive disaster management plan. This led to the enactment of the Disaster Management Law under the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which establishes policies, plans, guidelines and response measures in case of a disaster.

Despite these successes, India still faces a challenge to minimize economic losses. Regardless of early warnings, agriculture and infrastructure continue to be the hardest hit by calamities. A United Nations (UN) report on economic losses and disasters estimates that in the past 20 years India has suffered $ 79.5 billion due to climate-related disasters. Amphan’s economic damage can easily reach millions of dollars. Preparedness to reduce loss of life should be extended to reduce loss of livelihoods, basic services and infrastructure.

How does India achieve this? How do you replicate the lessons learned by minimizing loss of life and infrastructure?

India urgently needs to develop a long-term vision on climate resilient development based on social needs, environmental sustainability and economic viability. Investing in infrastructure on an ad-hoc basis poses the risk of “locks” that are almost impossible to reverse. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has aptly referred to infrastructure as a key pillar under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It was at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit that the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure was launched. With the physical infrastructure that supports the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and, as highlighted by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), the role of improving disaster resilience, especially infrastructure , is a cornerstone of long-term sustainable development.

A long-term climate-resistant development path that incorporates the socio-economic requirements of infrastructure modernization will help plan a strategy to save infrastructure, livelihoods and millions of lives. In addition, it will enable efficient allocation of resources in climate smart initiatives to help maximize profits. With basic infrastructure and alternative sources of livelihoods, central and state institutions will be better equipped to deal with disasters and recovery.

As we move toward transformative action from incremental change, it is essential that a long-term climate resilient development path lead the way. It should consider strengthening institutions, at both the national and sub-national levels, along with providing smart incentives to promote next-generation climate-resistant infrastructure. Addressing aggravating vulnerabilities in areas such as agriculture, water resources, urban and rural built environments and human capital is key to a sustainable, resilient and self-sufficient India.

Karan Mangotra is Associate Director for Growth, Diversification and Marketing, TERI. Saurabh Bhardwaj is a member and area coordinator at the Center for Climate Modeling, TERI

The opinions expressed are personal.

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