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Water plays a vital role in life. Without water, existence of life is not possible. Without water, agriculture is not possible. Without agriculture, we cannot meet the ever rising demand for food.
Climate change, as we all know is disastrously affecting our environment and the ecological balance. Glaciers, ice bergs and the north and south poles are melting at a rate higher than ever. This is greatly changing the water cycle. Climate change thus severely affects the water levels.
Climate change will have a momentous effect on agriculture in terms of water quality and quantity. This will be aggravated by the increasing demand for food as populations and incomes increase.
For centuries together, farmers have locally organized the water cycle through irrigation and drainage. The change in the hydrological cycle will influence the agricultural practices.
The rural population of the developing countries, for whom agriculture is the primary source of income and employment, will be affected due to agriculture’s vulnerability to the changing climate.
In this report, we shall discuss about the effect of climate change on water resources and agricultural practices which in turn affects the food supply.
Climate change has a huge impact on the world as a whole. The impact of climate change on the farmers is perhaps something which most people have not given a thought about. On the contrary, this seems to be one of the most important problems faced due to climate change. Climate change has a major impact on the availability of water and weather pattern. This triggers a chain of events. As water availability and weather pattern changes, farmers have the only option of changing their agricultural patterns to adapt to the surroundings. They often turn to chemicals such as fertilizers to increase their yield. Some even quit farming and turn to other professions. This is usually prevalent among farmers who have a low income as they do not have enough money to buy these chemicals and the abnormal weather conditions frequently lead to crop failures. This leads to a drastic decline in amount of food produced and thus leads to food scarcity. Food scarcity leads to a hike in food prices and thus unequal distribution of food among the globe as a whole.
According to a report published by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 11 June 2011, the world will face a water scarcity for agriculture as a result of climate change. In the survey titled “Climate Change, Water and Food Security”, climate change will reduce the amount of water in river run-offs and aquifer rechargers in the Mediterranean and semi-arid areas of the Americas, Australia and Southern Africa. Asia, where farmlands are irrigated by snowmelt from glaciers, will be affected and the river deltas will face reduction in water supply. Loss of glaciers which support more than 40% of world’s irrigation will disastrously affect the amount of surface water available for irrigation. There will be acceleration in the hydrological cycle which increases the rate of evaporation of water from land and sea. This will increase rainfall in tropical areas and higher latitudes while a decrease will be felt in semi-arid and mid-arid latitudes and the interior of the continents. An increase in the growing season of northern temperate zones and a decrease almost everywhere else will be seen.1
The same report also gives some suggestive measures which countries can undertake. One key area requires countries to implement improve and maintain water accounts, which involves collecting data on amount of water used, transferred, etc. and analyzing them to make decisions on how water resources can be managed. At farm level, farmers can change cropping patterns to match the weather pattern. Efficiency can be enhanced by introducing soil moisture conservation practices. Mixed agroforestry, according to the report, also holds promise. Going by the report, these above mentioned systems can sequester carbon and offer additional benefits like reduced evaporation rates, and upgraded soil conservation and water withholding capacity.2
1 UN News June 11 2011 – http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38673#.USyhm966ZLM
2 FAO Report June 11 2011 – http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/79964/icode/
India displays an extensive array of climatic conditions – from the high altitudes of Himalayas to the long coasts, from the parched deserts of the West to the forests of the East. Owing to these complications, the effect of climate change will fluctuate across the country depending on the climatic conditions.
In India almost 360 million people are undernourished and 300 million people is poor.3
Agriculture in India principally depends on the South West Monsoon, a short three month period. Hence, any deviation in this pattern will disrupt agriculture. Predicted effects include a drop in wheat production. Experiments have proven a 0.40C rise in the annual surface temperature. A predicted increase in maximum and minimum temperatures is sure to affect the ecosystems and water supply. Important rivers like Cauvery, Ganga and Narmada are likely to experience seasonal and frequent water shortages.4
In India, impact of climate change will increase sub-regional disparities and more extreme rainfall. This is catastrophic in a country that obtains about 100 hours of rainfall in a year. A study conducted by the World Bank in two droughts prone states and a flood prone state revealed that farmers in the drought prone states will see their income reduce by 20% and sugarcane yields fall by 25% while flooding will vividly lessen the rice yields by 12% in the other state.3
The fertile Indo-gangetic plain will face a drop in precipitation by 5% which will fatally decrease the growing period. Large parts of central India will surely see a rise in the surface temperatures thereby lethally decreasing the yield of most crops. The climatic shifts are related to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields and the chronic hunger status of Indian society show that farmers are unable to handle and adapt to the weather pattern.5
According to a study conducted by the Central Research Institute for Dry land Agriculture, Kharif crops will be affected by the rainfall variability while the Rabi crops will be affected by the rising temperatures. The study has also shown that wheat (staple food of northern India) will be affected by the temperature while the rice crop (staple food of southern India) will be affected by both the increase in temperature and decreasing rainfall. Legumes have proven to benefit from the increased temperature but have failed to withstand the water paucity. Another thing to note is that milk production will decrease as the yielding capacity of the cow decreases as temperature increases.6
Chennai, as a metropolitan, does not face any consequences of climate change on agriculture. But this does not mean that it does not face any problems regarding food supply and water scarcity. As a matter of fact, food prices are soaring and water shortage is becoming an inevitable crisis.
Scientists predict a 20C rise in temperature and drop in production of crops by 20%7
Data has shown an increase in the temperature of sea surface by 0.310C between 1981 and 2001 April and an increase by 0.150C between 1981 and 2001 October. Although this seems to be a small change, the damage done is catastrophic to the aquatic life. The frequency of spawning of fish has decreased. Thus the total catch has decreased over time. This has greatly affected the availability of this fish.8
I conducted a survey in my neighborhood on this topic. Based on the results, it can be found that there will be a definite hike in food prices in the coming days. This can be attributed to the unpredictable nature of the rains which is caused due to global warming. This is also reduced by less and less area coming under the cultivated land which is accelerated by the growth of industries and extensive use of fertilizers which has led to farmlands turning into wastelands. The prices of Mango, Eggplants, Rice, etc. are likely to rise. Water scarcity is also being faced and will continue to be faced in Chennai if no measures are taken. This is mainly because of the increasing number of complexes which use too much ground water leaving very less behind. Chennai also does not have any natural reservoir as such to store rain water.9
The complete survey can be found in Annexure A
9 Survey conducted. This can be found in Annexure A
Currently, the world as a whole faces a food crisis mainly due to climate change. If these continue with no preventive measures being taken, a chain of events will occur which will eventually lead to apocalypse.
Due to water scarcity, farmers tend to pull out more water from the ground thereby depleting the ground water resources and destroying the water table. Then, there would be less water available for farmers to use for irrigation. More importantly, there would be less water to quench the thirsts of the world. This will lead to heavy food shortage problems which will definitely lead to hike in food prices.
Most likely, history will repeat itself. In 1789, a major event occurred that changed the course of time. It was the French revolution and its main cause was food shortage and the rise in food prices. Perhaps, another revolution might get sparked all over the world that would lead to a change in the course of time again. It might be for the greater good, or it might just lead to deaths, sickness and finally the end of the human race.
Another way of looking at this is that as all those who are unable to afford the high prices of food will just perish due to hunger and malnourishment. The population of the country decreases and the problem of overpopulation are overcome. But, as people start dying, the country’s production reduces. The countries all over the world slowly start becoming undeveloped.
As this process takes place, riots will occur and countries will disintegrate. Wars will emerge and will perhaps lead to the third World War which will be fought for water and food. Basically, cataclysm will be raining down and the Dooms Day will dawn.
Either way, there will be an end to our species if we do not take immediate actions to prevent these extreme situations.
POSSIBLE COURSE OF ACTION
If we were to solve the root of all these problems, then we would look at climate change and global warming. But solving this is not contained by the potential of one country. So, we have to observe adaption strategies for the problems mentioned in this report.
Firstly, we need to improve our research methods for forecasting floods. We also need to develop hybrid varieties for crops to make them withstand droughts and high temperatures. These should be available to the farmers at an affordable rate. The changing weather pattern should be analysed. Farmers should be made aware of this pattern so that they can plan their practices to match with the weather pattern to ensure greater yield and productivity.
At the farm level, water management should be made compulsory. Although simple, crop rotation can do wonders. Farmers should reduce their dependence on ground water. Farmers should deploy more effective means to irrigate their lands. Drip irrigation and water sprinklers are effective. They should intensify cropping patterns for increased production. Application of fertilizers should be matched with the irrigation. This will also help in escalating the yield.
Finally, everyone should be educated and made aware of the current crisis faced by the world. This will make them realise the threat and motivate them to take steps in conserving water and food.
After researching on this topic, I am very much concerned about the effects of climate change on agriculture. It directly influences the weather and amount of potable water thereby causing water scarcity and crop failures which eventually leads to food shortages. There is an unquestionable need for us to save water and stop lavishly frivolling away with food. If we do not do so the future generations will perish with nothing left to survive on. This is my opinion after researching on this topic.
Word Count: 1,977 words
Internet Pages Resourced
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http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/article1156870.ece – Retrieved on 28 February 2013
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