Swiss Helping India cope with climate change

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According to Kuriger, both the Alps and Himalayas face similar challenges due to climate change. In both regions temperatures are predicted to increase, rainfall patterns are expected to change and the frequency of natural hazards like glacial lake outburst and flooding are likely to increase.

Therefore, adapting to climate change in the Himalayas is one of the areas where Switzerland is helping India. The Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP) promotes collaboration between Swiss and Indian scientists on glaciology in order to better monitor glacier retreat.

“We have been directly approached by the Indian government to train researchers in glaciology because there are not enough specialists in the country to monitor glacial retreat,” said Kuriger.

Climate-related disaster preparedness is another vulnerable area for India. In June 2013, around 5,700 people lost their lives due to devastating floods in the Himalayan mountain state of Uttarakhand. The floods were caused by 400% increase in rainfall over two days along with a high amount of water released by glacial lake outbursts.

Lack of a clear disaster preparedness and management strategy was partly to blame for the huge loss of lives in the floods. Inadequate information, awareness and preparedness turned the hazard into a disaster according to a report by the National Institute of Disaster Management.

Risk management in mountain zones is one of Switzerland’s strengths that can be adapted to the Himalayan environment. “The three-pronged Swiss risk management approach of prevention, preparedness and response can be transferred to the Indian scenario and help communities respond to extreme events. If we look at the disaster that happened last year in Uttarakhand, better risk analysis and timely interventions can save a lot of lives,” said Kuriger.

Besides the Himalayas, the SDC is also helping India tackle the problem of too little water, particularly in semi-arid parts of the country that depend on rain-fed agriculture. Increasing temperatures and changes in the rainfall patterns will further exacerbate water scarcity problem in these regions. This involves encouraging local farmers to adopt an adaptive sustainable agriculture strategy that involves water budgeting, water harvesting and changing cropping patterns.

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