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[NEW DELHI] Climate change will make India hotter and wetter, with more cyclones and storms, and severe crop losses, predicts a study by the Indian and UK governments.

The study says temperatures will rise by 3-4 degrees Celsius, and rainfall will increase by 10 to 30 per cent by the end of the century, while sea level will rise by almost a millimetre a year.

These changes will also affect the country's forests and biodiversity, increase risks of malaria transmission and affect the transport infrastructure, it warns.

Key results of the three-year study, by India's Ministry of Environment and Forests and the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, were released on 8 September in Delhi.

The report says rainfall will increase most in central India and temperatures will rise most in the north of the country. Drought is predicted to increase in parts of India, but the three main river basins — the Krishna, Ganga (Ganges) and Godavari — are not expected to become drier.

As well as rising sea levels, India's coastal zone — home to a quarter of the country's 1.1 billion people — will face stronger and more frequent storm surges and cyclones, predicts the study.

It says climate change will mainly affect rain-fed (not irrigated) fields, which account for about 60 per cent of India's agricultural area.

A rise in temperature of two degrees Celsius will cut wheat yields by 1.5 to 5.8 per cent in subtropical parts of India, and by more in the tropical belt. Rice yields are also expected to fall, especially in the east.

The report says India's forests are also under threat, with about 70 per cent of plants unlikely to adapt to climate change. This will affect wildlife and rural communities. Nearly 200,000 villages are in or near forests and depend heavily on forest resources for livelihoods.

In large areas of central India, the number of months in which malaria can be transmitted is set to increase, warns the study.

It also examined how climate change could affect the transport infrastructure, using as a case study the 760-kilometre Konkan Railway line, which runs along the west coast of India.

Rising temperature could affect the stability and strength of building materials, while increased rain and sea levels could cause erosion and flooding, raising maintenance costs, says the study.

It used the climate models developed by the UK Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. The models were tested for India by comparing existing data on climate change with predicted changes. The trends were evident in initial stages of the study itself (see 'Phenomenal' temperature rises threaten India).

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