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Climate change impacts on Ground Water Resources of Kerala, India

Climate change impacts on Ground Water Resources of Kerala, India

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The highland, midland and low land of Kerala enjoying a tropical monsoon climate in the current climate situation is boud to shift in the coming decades for worse. Unless the mind set of the several generations of dwellers are changed the state and its population will go through the severities of climate change phenomenon.
The highland, midland and low land of Kerala enjoying a tropical monsoon climate in the current climate situation is boud to shift in the coming decades for worse. Unless the mind set of the several generations of dwellers are changed the state and its population will go through the severities of climate change phenomenon.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Dr.Thrivikramji.K.P. on Feb 28, 2011
Copyright:Public Domain


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Dr Thrivikramji.K.P.Emeritus Fellow, University of KeralaDept. of Geology, Kariavattom Campus
 thrivikramji@gmail.com  Abstract
Even though geoscientists are familiar with climate transitions of the geologic past, to day¶s concernon global climate change (GCC) due to tropospheric heating, - a forcing by steadily risingaccumulation of green house gases (like CO2, NOx, CH4, H2O as water vapour)- portends a bluntglobal threat to every facet of human life as well as other ecosystems. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of scientists drawn from thevarious UN member countries, in a four volume report (one solely meant for chiefs of member nations of the UN) draws up a grim picture of the manner in which various systems and subsystemswill be affected by GCC and prescribes a set of µurgent¶ measures for mitigation and adaptation tominimize the impacts.In respect of Ground water (GW) resources, the IPCC report laments aboutlack of access to available and reliable data bases and non-uniform standards across the world andproposes to concerned nations to undertake research to monitor and create quality data sets on GWresources in order to come up with reliable forecasts. Primarily, rising global temperatures in the coming decades are bound to alter the hydrologic cycle invarious regions of the world and global rise in sea level, threatening the coastal population by beacherosion and consequent loss of property, livability and peaceful life but from salinity intrusion into thecoastal and island aquifers. Other consequences of rising temperatures are higher rates of evaporation of water from continental sources (like, ponds, lakes and canals) and from thepedosphere, shift in the pattern of rain fall, modification of the agroclimatic zones and the sowing andharvesting seasons. Given the same climate, factors influencing the ground water wealth of a province are physiography,geology, thickness of regolith, soil cover and the vegetation. Consequently, highland, midland andcoastal land of Kerala may play newer roles in the degree of rain water infiltration runoff andtranspiration. Secondary effects of GCC are in respect of loss of natural nutrient rich top soil consequent on theshrinking of tree crowns and ground brush due to their wilting in the rise in average atmospherictemperatures and the extended duration of such seasons. The current tacit balance in the wet-and-dry season couple is what makes Kerala appear green and the farm economy one among the robustin the country, especially in respect of the share of spices, tea, and coffee and rubber production andhence the states GDP and the population dependent on it. The WHO pictures various types of deterioration of human or societal health as a tertiary consequence of GCC. It is imperative that we design based on sound and reliable data sets methods, systems andprocesses for implementation to overcome the future water shortage in the domestic, agricultural andindustrial sectors in order to survive in the new climate regime.
Climate Change (CC) phenomenon is nothing new to geo-science or geoscientists as there has beenat least three ice ages in the recorded history of the planet Earth. However, the phenomenon of Green House Gas (GHG) driven CC, about which caused a huge concern among the community of nations, culminated in the creation of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) under auspices of the UNGA,. The four part IPCC report (one part is entirely devoted to the heads of nations) as well as the frame work conferences that followed, have led to a new universal awarenessand concern in the minds of lay citizens and the specialists alike. In addition, by awarding the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and to the documentary film -
AnInconvenient truth
- by Al Gore (former VP in the Clinton administration), the Nobel committee choseto highlight and loudly caution the impending dangers of global climate change (GCC) as a result of uncontrolled emissions of Green house gases (e.g., CO2, CH4, SOx, N2O etc) by burning of fossil
fuels like coal and petroleum. As a consequence, the International community of governments, civiland scientific societies, industry, business and trade groups and media, have come in chorus askingfor formulations for mitigation and adaptation of CC impacts.  . The primary geophysical impact of GCC is the global sea level rise (SLR), due to a). rise in theaverage atmospheric temperatures on the continents, b) volumetric expansion of oceanic waters dueto radiative heating and c) the discharge of huge volumes fresh water to the global ocean (furtheringthe rise in sea level), from melting of ice in continental ice sheets and sea ice (for e.g., the westernAntarctic sheet, Arctic sea ice, Greenland ice cover, glaciers in Alps and Himalayas and the Tibetanice sheet/glaciers).The projected secondary implications (i.e., biophysical) of melting of ice and snoware many and practically inconceivable and incomprehensible by the vast majority of citizens. 
Impacts of GCC and SLR
 IPCC examined the various facets of consequences GCC, using Global Climate Models to analyzeand predict the impacts. The climate of continents and the spatial pattern of climatic zones on thecontinents will under go a transition due to climate change. Extent of arid and semi arid zones willexpand; number of hot days and cold nights will go up; average day time temperatures, andfrequency of such days will rise, so does the colder nights. The water loss due to higher rateevaporation from open water bodies like ponds, lakes and reservoirs and canals will climb to higher proportions. The soil moisture, other wise a large pool of water in the soil, will undergo faster depletion due to higher air temperatures. The rainfall intensity will go up along with a diminution of the frequency leading to unusual hydrologicfloods, higher flood stages inundating the flood plains and adjacent low lying areas. Initially, themelting of the Tibetan and Himalayan glaciers will flood the rivers rising from these regions, affectingvast areas and populations in China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. However, this temporaryphase of ³water feast´ reaching levels of flood havoc will give way to one of ³water famine´, once theice caps are wasted and exhausted and the rivers slowly become ephemeral. The consequences of such ice melt are bound to affect directly or indirectly roughly one third of the world population. The SLR will directly impact human settlements, infrastructure and industries in several scores smalland large towns and cities and large metropolises in Coastal Land Zone (CLZ) manifesting as loss of coastal land and property and investments due to heightened coastal erosion and deeper reach of storm surges, deteriorating water quality of coastal aquifers, lagoons and estuaries, devastations tocoastal and terrestrial ecosystems. Fall in the precipitation and consequent fall in infiltration andrecharge of aquifers in the vast expanses of permeable coastal land around the world will push thesaltwater-fresh water interface landward and consequent thinning of the freshwater zone andpushing to the brink the fresh water security of several hundred millions of people settled along theCLZ, Yet another manifestation of CC is pictured as tertiary consequences affecting human health due torise in incidence of vector borne diseases, heat stress on human psyche, decreasing water supplyand falling sanitation in population centers and even civil disorder and CC refugees. Possibleimpacts arising out of GCC, level of probability of incidence and possible impacts are summarized inTable 1  
Table 1, Effects, degree of likelihood and manifesting impacts (after Gilman et al, 2007)Geophysical effect Probability  Impacts likely to occur Higher max. Temp., more hotdays, and heat waves over nearly all landmassesVery likely(90-99%)Increased deaths and serious illness in older agegroups & urban poor; increased heat stress inlivestock & wildlife; increased risk of damage to anumber of crops; increased electric cooling demand& reduced energy supply reliability.Higher min. temp., fewer colddays, frost days and coldwaves nearly over all thearea.Very likely(90-99%)Decreased cold related morbidity & mortality;decreased risk of damage to a number of crops &increased risk to others; extended range & activity of pests & other disease vectors; reduced heatingenergy demand.More intense precipitationeventsVery likely(90-99%)Increased flood, landslide, mudslide & avalanchedamage; increased soil erosion; increased flood run
off; increased recharge of some flood plain aquifersIncreased summer dryingover most of mid-latitudecontinental interiors &associated risk of drought.Likely(67-90%)Decreased crop yields, increased damage to buildingfoundations caused by ground shrinkage; decreasedwater resource quantity and quality; increased risk of forest fire.Increase in tropical cyclonepeak intensities, mean andpeak precipitation intensities Likely(67-90%)Increased risk to human life and risk of increasedinfectious disease epidemics; increased coastalerosion and damage to coastal buildings andinfrastructure; increased damage to coastalecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroveswamps.Increased droughts andfloods associated with El NinoeventsLikely(67-90%)Decreased agricultural & rangeland productivity indrought and flood prone regions; Decreasedhydropower potential in drought prone regions
  Table 2 is a qualitative summary of vulnerabilities of systems (both natural and manmade) due toGCC related responses that are very likely to affect the civil society, civil order and political societyand economy of nations. Orderly and peaceful life of citizens will be at risk due to GCC forceddisruptions and therefore the preparations for facing the climate change challenges cannot wait anylonger. 
Table 2 Systems vulnerable to GCC System Manifest vulnerabilityEcosystems 60% are degraded  (e.g.,Wetlands of Kerala) and most severely stressed; e.g.,Aral sea, Central Asia ; with past climate change ecosystems shifted to newzones; Human interference and blocking by infrastructure already stressedecosystems do not shift locations; even a short excursion from normality canlead to collapse.Water availability Deprivation of 500 million people in semi arid and 200 million in arid zones;allocation and access are contentious; aquatic ecosystems and humans areaffected by problems of untreated return flow entering fresh waters; agriculturalintensification can lead to contamination of surface and subsurface water. By2050, 42% of population may live in countries with inadequate fresh water stocks. Desertification due to increased drying will force 30 million to flee sub-Saharan AfricaUrban Forms Only 20% of 1.6 billion lived in urban areas in 1900, but today it is 50% of 6.6billion; by 2050 with population of 9-10 billion vast majority of large urbancenters will be in global south; climate change will aggravate all nocuousaspects of urban life in global south.Civil systems A brew of climate change stress and related wants of city life may disrupt civilorder of population centers; may result in chaotic civil life.Tourism At 10% of world business activity tourism is a driving force in the economy;warmer climate taking over temperate regions will restrict out flow of warm air seekers; Ecotourism in south American states, tropical Kerala will graduallyvanish by relocation or disappearance of flora; shifting climate will affect inflowof tourists; Mediterranean and tropical western seaboard of India can becomeunpleasantly hot. For nations developing tourism the stakes are especially high.
 Indian scenario
In the late 80¶s, during a toast, Mr. Gayum, President of the Republic of Male on a state visit to India,gifted of a copy of a treatise on ³Sea Level Rise due to Green House Effect   etc´  (Barth and Titus,1984) to late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi (then PM of India). This triggered soon a co-coordinated researchprogram (Coordinator: late Prof. V.Asthana, JNU) to examine and assess the economic loss to thenation due to impact of sea level rise. Since then, much else did not happen in this area at least inIndia, in spite of the award of the Nobel peace prize-2007 to IPCC and Mr Al.Gore (producer of ³theinconvenient truth´). Now under the PMO¶s office, a set of 9 missions have been identified aiming toreduce the Indian CO2 emission and consequent impact on global climate. In addition, the AnnaUniversity (Chennai) inaugurated a Department of Climate Change Studies. 
Kerala Specifics

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