Environment

Climate Change and Republic Day – Points to Ponder

There has been considerable debate and discussion on whether the rain related calamity in North Kodagu during August last year was entirely a natural disaster or whether man made factors were also responsible.

Be that as it may, areas with an average annual rainfall of 220 inches received up to 380 inches. Even this high rainfall by itself need not have wreaked havoc. It was the short period of a few days during which unprecedented torrential rains pounded these hills and valleys. This was clearly an ‘Extreme Weather Event’; and such extreme weather events are a result of climate change.

The world scientific community is overwhelmingly of the opinion that climate change and global warming are largely due to human induced factors including Carbon Dioxide emissions and loss of green cover across the globe.

So it has come to pass that climate change disasters are upon us even here in Kodagu; it is not something that happens in faraway Alaska with forlorn Polar bears standing on drifting sheets of ice or tornados devastating the American East Coast!

But climate change is not just about a warmer planet or more frequent weather related calamities; the real looming threat is about permafrost melt across snow and ice covered regions of the world. With warmer temperatures, permafrost melt will release massive amounts of Carbon Dioxide and Methane. This in turn will trigger accelerated warming of the atmosphere. Some permafrost melting is already underway in the Arctic and the Tibet region.

What is permafrost? Permafrost is made of a combination of soil, rocks and sand that are held together by ice. The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long. When permafrost is frozen, plant material in the soil, called organic carbon, cannot decompose, or rot away.

As permafrost thaws due to global warming, microbes begin decomposing this material. This process releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere. When permafrost thaws, ancient bacteria and viruses in the ice and soil are also activated. These newly-unfrozen microbes could become an unmanageable health hazard for human and animal life. Scientists have discovered microbes more than 400,000 years old in thawed permafrost.

At the present rate of global warming, permafrost melt will begin to peak within our children’s life time. Once that happens, Armageddon beckons, and humanity will be playing out the end game…. This is everyone’s battle; time is running out…..

But what about our 70th Republic Day? In the VVIP’s gallery, Mr. Nithin Gadkari was those who applauded with pride while the military paraded past Rajpath. The smartly marching contingents and the intimidating tanks, artillery guns and missiles serve a purpose. It sends out a strong message that we, as a Nation are well prepared to guard our borders, skies and coast lines against any form of external aggression.

Yes, Mr. Gadkari, India has the fourth most powerful Army in the world; but our military might cannot save us from climate change and permafrost melt. That is where you come in. You have the very important portfolios of Road Transport, Highways and Water Resources. Kindly heed our call and cancel the linear ‘development projects’ through the Western Ghats that will lead to hacking of lakhs of trees in prime catchment areas. And please shelve for good the inter-state river linking projects that will prove disastrous for our Country.

The river interlinking project envisages linking the flood prone rivers originating from the Eastern Himalayas and rivers of Central India with the rivers in drought prone regions to create a Win-Win situation of managing floods and drought. The rapidly melting glaciers of the Eastern Himalayas are a major cause for the flooding of the Eastern Himalayan Rivers. But what will happen after the glaciers have melted? The river interlinking will need numerous large dams. Punjab and adjoining areas of Rajasthan are battling water salinity caused by water logging on account of the Bhakra Nangal dam project, and agriculture output has plummeted. The river interlinking will cause large areas of forests to disappear. This will result in accelerated climate change and increased human animal conflict, as animal migration corridors are cut off. The river inter linking project is at an estimated cost of 5.6 lakh crores! About six lakh people will be displaced.

Drought can be better tackled by watershed management and floods call for climate change mitigation. These measures will be at a fraction of the cost of river interlinking.

The sad truth is that there are huge profits to be made in in destruction and construction, but there is very little money in conservation and protection. Mountains, forests and rivers have evolved over millennia. Excessive tampering with these eco systems through human engineering is unwise. The horrific tragedy in Kedarnath region of Uttarakhand occurred barely five years ago. Will we never learn?

Kindly ponder, Mr Gadkari…. JAI HIND!

Col. Cheppudira Muthanna

Guest author: Col. Cheppudira P. Muthanna (Retd).

Coordinator, Save Kodagu and Cauvery Campaign

 

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