About Climate Action at CHA
Natural Hazards and Climate Change in South
Asia and the Pacific is also the global region most prone to disasters. It’s likely this situation will be considerably aggravated by climate change. Four environmental disruptions induced by climate change are of particular concern in Asia and the Pacific: sea-level rise and storm surge, cyclones and typhoons, riparian flooding, and water stress.
In fact, of the world’s total population exposed to floods each year, 64 per cent are in South Asia. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report highlights South Asia’s vulnerability to climate change, predicting rising temperatures, more variable precipitation, and increasing intensity and frequency of natural hazards.
Climate Change Impacts
Asia and the Pacific will be greatly impacted by climate change, partly because of its high exposure to climate impacts and partly because of the great vulnerability of some areas. This warming will be least rapid in Southeast Asia, but stronger in South and East Asia, and stronger in the inner parts of Asia, especially in North Asia. South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia will also very likely experience an increase in the occurrence of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and flash floods, as well as a 10–20% increase in tropical cyclone intensities.
South Asia is expected to see enormous population growth in the decades ahead, particularly in densely populated urban areas, many of which are located in low-lying coastal zones particularly vulnerable to slow-onset hazards linked to climate change. Disasters themselves have also been identified as drivers of urbanization. Consequently the World Bank has predicted that South Asia is likely to become “the most vulnerable area in the world to disaster events.” The Asian Development Bank has identified key “environmental hot spots” in South Asia that are most likely to face hydro-metrological hazards. (See figure below)
Whether, and to what extent, a natural hazard develops into a disaster is dependent on a community’s capacity to withstand the effects of the hazard. Factors such as weak levels of governance, poor infrastructure, conflict, climate change, food insecurity and poverty can all contribute to weakened resilience to natural hazards. At the same time, for example, many people living in flood-prone areas have also developed the capacity to cope with, or even benefit from, normal flooding during the annual monsoon season.
Tackling Climate Change
It is important to remember that smallholder farmers in developing countries are at the sharp edge of climate change and they are the least equipped to cope. Smallholder men and women would thus need to be provided with the means to adapt to climate change. They need seeds that are more resistant to drought or to floods, need cutting-edge agricultural technologies, microfinance services to allow them to invest in the future and to help tide them over in the lean times, and weather-indexed insurance to protect them from the shocks of climate change.
Poor rural people manage vast areas of land and forest. Smallholder farmers have the potential to provide a wide range of environmental services that contribute to carbon sequestration and limit carbon emissions. These include planting and maintaining forests, engaging in agro-forestry activities, managing rangelands and rice lands, as well as watershed protection that limits deforestation and soil erosion.
Impact in Sri Lanka
For Sri Lanka, the import prices of wheat, sugar and milk powder (due to an increase in the cost of feed) are likely to be adversely affected. There could also be direct weather effects, particularly for agriculture and power generation. It is important that the government and businesses are pro-active in considering timely mitigation measures. As mentioned, agriculture, irrigation/water supply and power generation are the sectors which are most likely to be affected.
With 31% of the population involved in agriculture, clearly this sector requires particular attention. There is a high probability that the drought conditions, which have been prevailing in the country, will be intensified as the effects of El Nino gathers strength.
Seeds of early maturing and less water intensive crops need to be provided, particularly in areas of the country that experience ‘water stress’. Consideration should also be given to ways and means of maximizing production of various crops in the Yala Season before the full effects of El Nino kick-in as the year progresses. In the longer term, the agricultural research system should be geared to pursue vigorously the improvement of productivity. Improved seed varieties and better agronomic practices can have significant benefits.
Livestock production can also be affected. Drought and the increased prices of imported feed could depress both milk and meat production.
Attention should also be paid to the implications for the food and nutrition levels of the people, particularly in vulnerable areas of the country. Priority should be given to ensuring the protection of infants as well as pregnant and lactating women.
Timely action should also be taken to initiate water conservation efforts and regulate the release of water for different purposes: agriculture, households and power generation. A concerted effort should be made to promote rain/drainage water harvesting; and invest in minor tanks. Difficult decisions will need to be made regarding the use of water for different purposes; all of which are important for the lives of the people. A key component would be a national water print calculator for domestic water use including washing, gardening, washing vegetables/groceries used, commercial including leisure, garments, agriculture/plantation, industry. Intention is to be conscious of usage and commit users to avenues for mitigation and replacing of water stocks.