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Climate Crisis in Garo Hills: Heatwaves, water sources drying, reduced monsoon

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By Samgar R Sangma

Climate change is an issue that requires urgent attention because it has a range of adverse effects on the environment and people’s well-being. The Garo Hills region of Meghalaya in India is no exception. In this area, several factors contribute to climate change, including deforestation, slash and burn cultivation, illegal timber logging, illegal stone quarrying, mining and the burning of fossil fuels.

One of the significant impacts of climate change in the Garo Hills region is the increase in temperature, which leads to heatwaves, hotness, and high humidity. These extreme weather events can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke, particularly among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and people with pre-existing health conditions.

Another impact of climate change is the drying of natural water bodies, springs, streams, and tributaries of major rivers. The reduction in water resources can affect agriculture and livestock rearing, which are major sources of livelihoods in the region. Additionally, the reduced availability of water can lead to conflicts between communities over access to water resources. As a result, climate change exacerbates poverty, particularly in rural areas.

Moreover, climate change has made rainfall patterns and intensity unpredictable, leading to a shortfall of monsoon showers. The reduced rainfall during monsoons affects agriculture, which is the backbone of the rural economy. The paddy fields solely depend on nature’s rains, and with less water, the farmers’ productivity is at risk, causing food insecurity.

Monsoons are a crucial source of rain in many regions of the world, and they play a crucial role in supporting agriculture, recharging water reservoirs, and supplying drinking water to communities. However, climate change is making monsoons increasingly unpredictable, leading to several significant impacts on the environment.

In the Garo Hills region of Meghalaya, North East India, the shortfall of monsoons due to climate change has reduced the availability of water for irrigation and drinking. This deficit in rainfall is leading to crop failures and food shortages, resulting in increased poverty and malnutrition. The agricultural sector is being adversely affected as crops like paddy fields solely depend on rainwater, leading to cracks on the soil surface or flooding during heavy rains.

The variability of rainwater due to climate change can also affect human health, especially in areas where water scarcity is a recurrent problem. During drought seasons, people may have to walk long distances to find water, with many sources being contaminated, leading to water-borne diseases.

Additionally, the decrease in rainfall can lead to the depletion of water in the soil, leading to the drying up of vegetation and forests, threatening biodiversity, and reducing habitats for wildlife.

Moreover, the excess or shortage of rainfall can also lead to flooding and landslides, causing damage to infrastructure, crops, and loss of human lives.

In summary, the shortage of monsoons due to climate change is causing several problems in the Garo Hills region, affecting the water availability, food security, agricultural sector, and human health. Tackling these issues through long-term and effective measures like agricultural adaptation, afforestation, and sustainable water management can mitigate the impact of these shortages and help the region become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Lastly, the increase in temperature and reduced rainfall leads to the drying up of the soil, causing cracks on the soil surface, fundamentally affecting crop yields. The cracking paddy fields can result in crop failures, leading to food shortages in the region.

To address these issues, it is crucial to adopt measures that mitigate climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the use of renewable energy sources can mitigate climate change. Additionally, enhancing water conservation measures, such as rainwater harvesting, can ensure that communities have access to water even during droughts. Adopting climate-smart agricultural practices can help farmers improve their yields and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

In conclusion, the adverse impact of climate change on Garo Hills is a reality that requires broad-based support from all stakeholders. Immediate and targeted action can mitigate these adverse effects and support the region’s transition to a more sustainable economy.

(The author is the Program Head of CEPARD, Garo Hills, Meghalaya, India.

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