India must offer incentives to build climate resilience for agriculture – survey

Even though India has advanced towards promoting greener forms of energy in the rural areas — such as promotion of small solar sets — there is a dire need to promote judicious use of resources like ground water as the agriculture sector is the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, says the finance ministry’s annual Economic Survey.

“Many central and state-level incentive schemes (especially KUSUM and state solar policies) are promoting uptake of low carbon technologies such as decentralised solar systems for community scale water supply and irrigation as part of its agenda to build rural resilience in rain-fed regions. Some water supply schemes mandate groundwater assessments before approving solar-based pumping installations,” the report said.

“However, these assessments do not consider climate projections for the regions. Similarly, solar irrigation pumps are being subsidised all over the country without any incentive for farmers to use groundwater judiciously,” it added.

“Such schemes (can) have an immense impact in reducing production losses during dry periods.”

It suggested the introduction of incentive schemes that are designed based on cropping patterns, local environment and climate projections, which should promote water conservation and rainwater-harvesting among farmers, the survey said.

Building local resilience

“Such convergence will not only build local resilience while transitioning to low carbon technology, but will also influence the credit market in developing guidelines for supporting much-needed technological advancement in the agricultural sector,” the survey added.

It cited the report of the Global Commission on Adaptation report that said investing $1.8 trillion in five key areas — strengthening early warning systems, making new infrastructure resilient, improving dryland agriculture, protecting mangroves and developing resilient water management — can yield net benefits worth $7.1 trillion.

As per the Global Climate Risk Index in 2018, India lost $37 billion due to climate events such as cyclones battering the east coast and flooding and landslides displacing millions of  people in the southern state of Kerala. India is expected to lose about 34 million full-time jobs in 2030 as a result of heat stress.

Most of the impact will be felt in the agricultural sector, other sectors such as construction will also be impacted, the survey added.

“These losses underscore the need for investment in building resilience and adoption of policies for mainstreaming risks through building appropriate social protection mechanisms, including the provision of social insurance and social assistance,” the survey said.

With the increasing conversion of natural forests into secondary forests driven by agriculture and development, the risk of new infectious diseases is high — requiring climate risk insurance to also include pandemic insurance as well, it added. 

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