Earlier this year, the World Bank warned warming global temperatures would pose a significant risk to India, causing extreme drought in some areas and extreme flooding in others. Indian officials this week are meeting with global industry leaders to exchange ideas on how to fight climate change and encourage sustainable development.
Sudripta Roy, the chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh said he has not had to look too far to witness the effects of climate change. Roy has conducted aerial surveys and found the glaciers in his northern, mountainous Indian state are receding at an alarming level.
A recent government survey estimated the amount of deglaciation at 21 percent in the last 50 years.
“I used to fly about 20 or 25 years ago, the number of lakes we used to see were much fewer in number," he said. "The lakes have gone up, that means that the ice is melting and the lakes have been formed. And whenever the lakes break down, they will come down into the catchment, and they are five or six major rivers that flow, and we can have floods.”
Roy is one of several officials from across India who are gathering in New Delhi this week to outline their climate change mitigation plans, while also learning from other city and state governments, private companies and the World Bank.
Experts say, while no two Indian states are the same, they can work together to find solutions to water shortages and drops in crop yields - potential challenges the World Bank says India faces if the world’s average temperatures increase between two and four degrees centigrade by the end of this century.
The World Bank report Turn Down the Heat
, which was released in June, says climate change will make India’s summer monsoon season highly unpredictable, leaving some areas underwater while others are left with too little water for irrigation, power generation, or consumption.
World Bank Climate Change Practice Manager Neeraj Prasad said some states are already putting in place industrial and agricultural practices that help protect against climate change and minimize the impact on the environment. He said these lessons are being shared beyond India’s borders to nations in Southeast Asia and Africa.
“Things like systemic rice intensification - increasing rice production, making do with less - less land, less water. Lessons that have been tested and run efficiently in places like [the Indian states of] Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are now being used in Kenya,” he said.
Officials like Prasad and Roy say as one of the world’s emerging economies, India does not have to sacrifice growth for environmental sustainability. They say smart growth is possible and getting that message to industry and communities even at the grass-root level is key.
"The aspirations of the people are very high, they want to develop, they want to grow, and they want to create more and more buildings, infrastructure, schools, colleges, and hospitals. All of these are very important for a good quality of life, at the same time, if it comes into conflict with the environment, that is the challenge which is where to balance,” said Roy.
For the chief secretary of a state located in the Himalayan Mountains, not meeting the challenge could mean lives lost if and when the next natural disaster hits.