Coping With Weather Changes

Bharat Dogra

Reports of highly erratic and unexpected weather behaviour continue to pour in from various parts of the country. Monsoon arrived in many parts of the country, but before this heavy rains at the time of high summer were reported this year from many parts of North India. Earlier harvesting of rabi crop was badly affected by unexpected rains and storms. A little before this unprecedented hailstorms caused very high damage in many parts of the country particularly in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra

Villagers were astonished to see that in some cases a single hailstone weighed in excess of 250 grams. The seriousness of the injury that can be caused if such a big hailstone hits the head or other exposed part of the body can be well imagined. In fact serious injuries and even deaths have bean reported in recent years from some hailstorm affected areas.

The extreme distress which farmers suffer when their hard work of several months is destroyed in a day or two of unexpected weather behaviour cannot be described in words. Several cases of suicides by farmers who suffered such adversities have been reported recently.

Distressing as such incidents of highly erratic weather behaviour are, it is likely that this phenomenon will be increasing in the near future as the world is moving further along the path of man-made climate change. Although the phenomenon of climate change is not yet fully understood, it is clear that this will herald many kinds of weather extremes and much more erratic weather behaviour can be expected. To cope with this what is urgently needed is many-sided preparations with special emphasis on agriculture and rural areas.

Keeping in view climate change related new threats, government's policies need a huge and significant shift (including budget allocation, overall thrust of governance and other aspects) in favour of poorest and marginalised sections, small farmers, rural life and farming based livelihoods (with their lower GHG emissions and importance for food security), environment protection and disaster prevention as well as better relief work at the time of disasters and adverse conditions. It can no longer be business as usual for the government as new threats bring new responsibilities. Budget allocations should shift very significantly in favour of agriculture, and related activities and environment protection.

Also there is a clear need for low-risk, low-cost and organic farming practices based on making best possible use of local resources which are suitable for changing weather conditions. The traditional wisdom about diverse varieties has to be reclaimed by rural communities. This will empower them to make necessary changes without depending forever on obtaining advice from distant sources. Above all the self-reliance and knowledge base of rural communities should increase. This aim should be integrated closely with the strengthening of oral decentralisation.

Vol. 47, No.7, Aug 24 - 30, 2014