Climate Change' in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (for example, using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Climate change also refers to the long-term variations in temperature, precipitation, wind and other elements of earth’s climate at considerably longer time duration and place.
With this context, our cover story on Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR) examines that biophysical environment, socioeconomic conditions, and the livelihood of the people inhabiting the Himalayan regions and the adjacent areas have been in a state of flux for quite some time due to the climate change/global warming and its consequences. The diverse ecosystem of NDBR with unique biodiversity is at risk with rise in global warming. Massive floods in the year 2013, washed away bands of beautiful meadows in the Valley of Flowers—a core zone in the NDBR. Scientists at the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Research and Environment (GBPIHED) have been apprehensive that composition and diversity of species are all set to be affected by the climatic anomalies, thus jeopardizing the conservation value of the protected areas of Himalayas and their respective environments. Apart from scientific researches, analysis of indigenous knowledge also provides a keen insight into the changing climate and its impact. Gradual changes in climate are being felt by the local population. Reduction in winter snowfall, spring rainfall, and meltdown flows are a few evident examples.
Our cover story also highlights the fact that timberline and alpine vegetation with medicinal and aromatic plant species have also become vulnerable to extinction due to the threat posed by climate change. It also leads to low soil moisture and eventually low crop yield and crop diseases. Sudden increase in soil-borne infections caused by insects of Coleoptera species and the spurt of diseases, such as rust and blight in potato and cereals are also being attributed to climate change. Experts, while pointing towards adoption of certain mitigation strategies and priority interferences, also feel that acquiring knowledge of the people, biodiversity, vulnerability and their linkage through participatory management and research should be given utmost priority.
The special report in this issue highlights the fact that The Draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, seeks to do away with the Central Wetlands authority, and vest all powers to conserve wetlands in the respective states. While the pros and cons of this new legislation may be debatable, however, the existence of a state authority in itself is no guarantee for the conservation of wetlands. For this, a wide diversity of stakeholders need to play a role in the process. Since the conversion and obliteration of wetlands is a common problem at most places in India, we need implementation processes that enable broad consultation and review.Ajay Mathur, Director-General, TERI