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[NEW DELHI] India and the United Kingdom have announced plans to collaborate on sustainable development projects, including conducting research on climate change together.

According to UK environment minister Elliot Morley, details of the collaboration will be finalised in March when his Indian counterpart A. Raja visits the United Kingdom to attend a conference on environment and energy.

Morley, who was in Delhi last week to attend a conference on sustainable development, said the discussion with India would be the first in a series of dialogues that the UK will initiate with developing countries with rapidly growing economies.

He added that China would be the next country that Britain engages with in this way, which is aimed at addressing the issue of achieving economic growth without damaging the environment.

Climate change is one of the areas of collaboration identified in a joint statement issued by Tony Blair and Manmohan Singh, the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and India, during Singh's visit to the United Kingdom last year.

The other areas include clean sources of energy, biotechnology and bioinformatics, nanotechnology, agriculture, and health research.

Climate change is also a central theme of the United Kingdom's presidencies of the G8 group of industrialised nations and of the European Union this year. According to Morley, the UK plans to invite developing nations with rapidly growing economies, including Brazil, China, India and South Africa, to this year's G8 meeting in Scotland.

David King, chief scientific advisor to the UK government, told the Delhi conference that the United Kingdom was keen to share information to help national governments create policies for mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts.

King said the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in the United Kingdom has been holding talks with Indian scientists about collaborative studies using computer models of climate change. These will look at the impact of climate change on Indian coastlines and on the monsoon rains.

A fluctuation of just ten per cent from the average monsoon rainfall can cause either severe flooding or drought, King pointed out. "We need to study carefully how the Indian monsoon will be impacted by climate change and how India will be able to adapt to it".

Indian coastlines are also under threat from the major sea level rises that climate change is predicted to cause.

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