The Ministry of Earth Sciences has hit the ground running by putting into motion its plan to honour the global pledge at the recently concluded United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15). It is now looking to prepare a draft law to conserve 30 per cent of the coastal and marine ecosystems by 2030 — a target agreed to by 188 countries, including India.
Speaking exclusively to News18, MoES secretary Dr M Ravichandran said the country has to urgently identify some coastal ecosystems which are most susceptible to climate risks and declare them as protected.
“Whether it is Mangroves or coral regions, these areas have to be measured and properly earmarked. We will put into place a law so we can prohibit any kind of human activity, be it fishing or resource utilisation there,” said the senior scientist on the sidelines of the 108th Indian Science Congress in Nagpur.
With the target set for 2030, the top scientist said there is very little time and ocean exploration will have to be expedited to help identify the most vulnerable coastal ecosystems. “We will have to explore and map our available ecosystems. Only then we can look to protect them,” he added.
With nine coastal states, 1,382 islands, and a vast coastline of nearly 7500 kilometres, India has vast marine ecosystems that are increasingly vulnerable to climate change.
The government’s latest efforts are part of the global action for conservation and management of at least 30 per cent of the world’s coastal areas and oceans by 2030 and restoration of 30 per cent of degraded terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Only eight per cent of marine areas are currently under protection. The commitments are part of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed to by 188 countries, including India, at COP15 which concluded in Montreal in December 2022.
Stubborn La Nina — Impact of Climate Change
The senior scientist, who earlier led the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, said the persistence of La Nina — an ocean phenomenon characterised by cooling of surface waters over equatorial Pacific Ocean — into the third consecutive year is worrisome as it is associated with higher monsoon rains over India.
“Climate change is changing weather patterns all over the world. While it is still a subject of study, this triple-dip La Nina too seems to be an impact of climate change. We have also been doing long-term studies to understand the phenomenon but it is extremely difficult to predict,” he said.
The world is already 1.1℃ warmer than the pre-industrial levels and the oceans are absorbing more heat than ever. This is resulting in rise in sea levels, putting vast marine ecosystems as well as coastal areas under extreme risk. Marine heat waves are already taking a toll on fisheries, he added.
Marine Spatial Planning, Blue Economy
The ministry is also looking to strengthen coastal marine spatial planning as part of its draft National Policy on Blue Economy envisaged earlier.
Elaborating on the plan, the MoES secretary said: “We need to know which areas would be most at risk under the global warming scenario or if there is a rise in sea levels. We need to know where the risk of inundation is so that we can develop guidelines and divert it to other regions. This requires detailed modelling studies and that’s where marine spatial planning will help us.”
Some of the most devastating impacts of climate change are manifested through the oceans, which in turn influence the monsoon over India. The IPCC has warned of increased intensity of rainfall over India under warming scenarios and rise in extreme rainfall events.
“We will have two major problems – droughts in some places and flooding in others. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour, leading to sudden and heavy downpours. That’s why we are worried because we depend heavily on monsoon. So, we need to urgently adapt and mitigate. The risks are too many and action is critical,” he said.
The 108th edition of the Indian Science Congress is currently underway at Nagpur University.
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