As G8 leaders meet in Italy this week with climate change hot on the agenda, residents of Mumbai, India are experiencing the most severe water shortages in living memory. The summer monsoon, typically an immense force that dictates the ebb and flow of daily life in the region, has not yet arrived. The BBC reports that there has been a 75% decline in rainfall from last year’s levels, and the city has cut residential water access by 30%.
According to Vinuta Gopal, energy and climate change campaigner for Greenpeace, climate change is increasing the prevalence and severity of drought and flooding across the region and altering monsoon patterns throughout the subcontinent. This year, the Indian Meterological Department was unable to predict the annual monsoon with any degree of accuracy.
While scientists extrapolate and predict, analyzing the long-term effects of disrupted weather patterns, India’s farmers are feeling the immediate effects. Two thirds of Indian agriculture is unirrigated and dependent on monsoon rain. In a country where farmers refer to their livelihood as a “gamble with the monsoons,” this year the farmers are unsure as to when to plant their crops. A loss of income and shortage of food appear imminent.
In an Oxfam report issued this month, it is clear that India’s farmers are not alone. Climate change is wreaking havoc on poor communities throughout the world, and in particular in the tropics, where people are witnessing erratic weather patterns, increased rates of water- and insect-borne diseases, and sea-level encroachment. As representatives from the developing world sit this week in l’Aquila and reject targets of cutting emissions by 50% by 2050, it will be their poorest citizens who will continue to bare climate change’s brunt.
Photo Courtesy of McKay Savage