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Climate Change

Kerala is a small strip of land lying at the south-west tip of India. It lies to the north of the equator between 8° 18' and 12° 48' north latitude and 74° 52' and 77° 24' east longitude. Kerala extends over an area of 38,863 sq.km which is only 1.03 percent of the total area of India. It has a total coastline of 580 km. Its width varies greatly from west to east. It is about 120 kilometres at its maximum and just 30 kilometres at its minimum. Although Kerala lies close to the equator, its proximity with the sea and the presence of the fort like Western Ghats, provides it with an equable climate which varies little from season to season. The temperature varies from 28° to 32° C. Southwest Monsoon and Retreating Monsoon ( Northeast Monsoon) are the main rainy seasons. Owing to its diversity in geographical features, the climatic condition in Kerala is diverse. It can be divided into 4 seasons - Winter, Summer, South-West Monsoon and North-East Monsoon. Temperature: Temperature data for seven IMD (India Meteorological Department) stations of Kerala were collected from National Data Centre of IMD, Pune from 1956 to 2004.(49years) There was an increase in maximum temperature over Kerala by 0.64° C during the period of 49 years. It was further observed a clear upward trend in surface air temperature of Kerala. Rainfall pattern: Kerala showed decreasing trend in monsoon rainfall for the period 1901-2007. After 1999,rainfall was below long term average rainfall (except in 2006). Another study showed that Kerala experienced decline in annual monsoon rainfall during the recent past decades(1961 and 2003 ). Rainfall data for the IMD stations of the State of Kerala for the period from 1871 to 2008(140 years) revealed a declining trend in annual and southwest monsoon rainfall during the past 60 years. Lowering of water tables: It was observed by the Central Groundwater board that lowering of water tables in certain regions of Kerala reported to be critical and alarming. Rise in sea level: Observations based on tide gauge measurements along the Indian coast, for a period of 20 years and more for which significantly consistent data is available indicate that the sea level along the Indian coast has been rising at the rate of about1.3mm/year on an average. The mean sea level rise trends in Kochi (Kerala), based on 54 years of available data, is 1.75mm per year. Estimation of inundation of coastal areas due to sea level rise was made for one location (Kochi) along the west coast of India. The estimate shows that the inundation area will be about 169 km2 of the coastal region surrounding Kochi for a 1.0 m rise in sea level. The potential impacts of global climate change in coastal Kerala are salinity intrusion into aquifers and rise in salinity of wetlands (Thrivikramaji,2008). It has also been observed that over exploitation of ground water in certain stretches of kerala coast has contributed to the entry of salinity into the coastal aquifers from the sea. Water-borne diseases: In 2008, World health Organisation (WHO) reported that an outbreak of chikungunya in Kerala in the last two years (2006 and 2007) was mainly due to climate change. Climate change was one of the key factors of the chikungunya outbreak in Kerala during 2006 and 2007,” says Poonam Khetrapal Singh, deputy regional director (Southeast Asia) of WHO. In the last two years, over 100 people died, while more than 100,000 were affected by the mosquito-borne disease in the coastal state.“There are other reasons of the spread of the disease but climate change cannot be denied as a prime reason. Due to change in climate, it becomes conducive for mosquitoes to spread to new areas and affect people,”. Chikungunya is a viral disease that spreads through the bite of infected mosquitoes. It is characterised by severe, sometimes persistent, joint pain, as well as fever and rash. Malaria is a climate-sensitive disease and its transmission dynamics are greatly affected by climatic conditions. The development of the parasite takes place in a mosquito . “Global warming is a major cause of surge in chikungunya, dengue and malaria in Kerala. These vector borne diseases will intensify with climate change and more people and new areas will fall prey to it,” according the report of WHO in 2008. Decline of agricultural crops: Kerala state was facing serious crisis in major areas of food security, agriculture and marine resources due to climate change. The agriculture sector in Kerala was badly affected due to continuous rain. The untimely rain in Kerala, which hit the entire region since March 14, 2008 has caused crop damage and flooding. It is estimated that farmers could not harvest paddy worth about Rs. 128 crores (1280 million rupees) due to unexpected flooding in the Kuttanad fields. The thermo-sensitive crops like black pepper, cardamom, tea, coffee and cocoa will be badly affected as temperature range (the difference between maximum and minimum temperatures) is likely to increase and rainfall is likely to decline. Heavy pre-monsoon showers (and a lethal attack by wasps) may hit pepper production in Kerala, the main producer of the commodity in India. Increase in maximum temperature of 1-3° C during summer 2004 adversely affected thermo-sensitive crops like black pepper and cocoa in Kerala (Rao et al.,2008). Records show that almost all the plantation crops suffered to a great extent in 1983 and 2004 due to disastrous summer droughts. Climate change and unseasonal rain in November and January over the last two years(2009 and 2010) had been dampened the prospects of mango farmers in Palakkad district in Kerala. Monitoring Various agencies both governmental and non-governmental are monitoring and studying the impact and implications of climate change in India particularly in Kerala . The studies are going on the various aspects like rainfall patterns, carbon emissions, depletion of groundwater tables, depletion of mangrove vegetation, reduction of crops, sea level rise, prevalence of vector-borne diseases etc. Several projects are going on under the auspicious Governments/NGOs on climate change mitigation and adaptation. .

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