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[NEW DELHI] India must develop a comprehensive climate resilience strategy that includes innovations in agriculture and water management, says a World Bank report.

Other recommendations include improving publicly-accessible climate information systems and shifting to dryland farming.

The report, released last week (25 May), analyses the impact of climate change in three Indian regions — two drought-prone and one flood-prone — and is the first of its kind in South Asia.

India is already experiencing the effects of climate change and is at risk of greater impacts in the future, the report says.

An analysis of arid regions in the Andhra Pradesh state indicates that farming incomes could decline by more than 20 per cent by 2050 because of a projected temperature increase from 2.3 to 3.4 degrees Celsius and a 4–8 per cent increase in rainfall.

In a drought-prone belt of Maharashtra state, a temperature rise from 2.4 to 3.8 degrees Celsius could reduce sugarcane yields by 30 per cent. And rice yields in flood-prone coastal regions of Orissa state could decline by 12 per cent.

The report argues for a shift in agricultural systems. For drought-prone areas it recommends reforms in dryland farming, including effective water management and conservation, while for flood-prone areas, it suggests strengthening flood detection, forecast and management systems. 

Priti Kumar, senior environment specialist at the World Bank's India office in Delhi, told SciDev.Net that India's current range of policies and sectoral programmes "do set an example for the South Asia Region … India's disaster relief programs are also among the best in the world and have done much to counter the severe effects of extreme events".

But, say Kumar and colleagues in the report, reactive approaches such as relief and emergency assistance must be complemented with initiatives that promote longer-term climate resilience .

Kumar says the report can inform other South Asian countries that face similar climate-related vulnerabilities but they should take into account country-level specificities when arriving at optimal adaptation solutions.

Amit Garg, professor at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad, says the latest recommendations validate IIM's own long-standing suggestions for long-term climate change impact assessments. India has started assessing the impact of climate change on a few individual projects, he says, such as a new railway project in the Konkan region of western India. But the country now needs to do this on a routinely for most infrastructure and crop projects.

Link to full World Bank report