Climate change to have large-scale effect on NE biodiversity

Study warns that change in temperature and quantum and intensity of rainfall to have a long-term impact

PTI | June 10, 2011



The impact of climate change is likely to result in large-scale changes in the biodiversity of the Northeast, a study has revealed.

The study, sponsored by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), has warned that change in temperature and quantum and intensity of rainfall coupled with extreme weather condition would have a long-term impact, particularly on the structure and composition of forests in the region.

The impact is likely to be more severe in areas where other pressures are deemed to be high, including stability of the natural systems affected due to socio-economic pressures such as encroachment on forest areas, over-grazing, felling of trees for jhum cultivation, etc.

With the impact not being uniform across the region, it is expected to be higher in certain areas and on certain communities because of various factors.

They include physio-geographic and topographic features, degree of association with climate-sensitive environments and ecosystems, socio-economic, political and cultural characteristics of the region and communities, the study pointed out.

The study seeks to understand the factors that determine the vulnerability of the Northeast in terms of the effect of the climatic change and identify measures to reduce the impact.

The study asserted that despite its rich natural resources, the region lagged behind others in terms of social and economic development.

Comprising eight states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, the area is unique due to its rich forest resources that account for nearly 25 per cent of the total forest cover in India and covers nearly 66.8 per cent of its geographical area, much higher than the national average of 21 per cent.

With a total population of about 38 million (3.8 per cent of the country's total population), the region has observed changes in its demographic and socio-economic profile which have acted as important drivers for the alteration in its resource base.

The last three decades have witnessed intense land use change with increase in the demand for urbanisation, grazing, agricultural land and settlements, increased demand for fodder, fuel wood and timber production.

It is estimated that approximately 30 per cent of the total forest cover in the region is under pressure due to these factors, the TERI study said.

Besides pressures from natural hazards such as floods, forest fires and landslides, the study pointed out, seismic activity further exposed the region to the threats.

Lack of effective early warning systems and disaster management systems further intensify the impact of natural hazards, it pointed out.

The incidence of poverty is high with the percentage of population living below the poverty line as high as 32 per cent, much higher than the all India average of 21.6 per cent.

The study further said that the region had a low level of industrialisation and lacked infrastructure facilities to be able to exploit its rich natural resources.

Though it is sparsely populated with an overall density of 149 persons per sq km compared to the country's average 313 per sq km (census, 2001), the region has, however, recorded a high population growth with the decadal growth higher than the national level of 21.5 per cent.

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