Erratic monsoon keeps a parched Sri Lanka guessing


COLOMBO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Warm April weather is nothing new in Sri Lanka. Over generations, Sri Lankans have become accustomed to temperatures of up to 34 degrees Celsius during this month, when the sun moves directly overhead. They also know from experience that the baking heat will soon be eased by the arrival of the monsoon in May. But this once-predictable cycle is changing. Weather experts, government officials, farmers and ordinary people seem unsure as to what the monsoon season is likely to bring this year.

Biodiversity maintained, happiness regained

On context of Godavari Kunda Community Forest members’ effort to clean the river track that flows down to many downhill areas in Lalitpur, the locals shared their experiences of deforestation of the forest and the harsh consequences they faced then after. But the continuous effort of local has brought a noticeable difference in the availability of water and increase in the yield in the area. The people who once were cutting trees to earn few hundred rupees are now giving scholarship to many students and running micro credits to help farmers with the money they gain from the community

Heat-resistant mustard debuts in southern India

Heat-resistant mustard debuts in southern India

Sandip Das | New Delhi, Jan 4: 2014

Traditionally grown in Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, the heat and drought-tolerant mustard varieties developed by public sector institutions in the last few years have made a debut in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the current rabi, or winter season.

The two heat-resistant varieties, Pusa 21 & 29, developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), an institute under the ministry of agriculture, has been sown on trial basis in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka this season.

The two mustard varieties possess not only ability to withstand higher temperatures in October, when sowing usually commences, but also possess low erucic acid, which reduces pungency in the oil and is considered healthy.

“We grew these two heat resistant varieties in our research stations located in Tamil Nadu in the last few years and we hope consumers in southern parts of the country would like the less pungent mustard oil from the varieties grown,” DK Yadava, principal scientist, division of genetics, IARI told FE. IARI mustard varieties have more than 56% share in total breeder seed market.

If the new varieties are accepted by farmers in the southern India, the country’s annual mustard production is expected to rise sharply during next few years, which may reduce dependence on the edible oil import.

The country’s annual mustard production has been in the range of 6.6 million tonne to about 8 million tonne in the last five years.

The production has been sustained mainly due to early sown heat and drought tolerant varieties such as Pusa mustard 25, 27, 28, besides Vijay, Mahak and Agrani developed by IARI.

“Mustard has been largely grown in largely rainfed regions of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh because it could be grown with lesser number of irrigation,” Yadava noted.

A senior official with agriculture ministry said average temperature prevalent in the northern India in the month of October has increased by about 2 degree centigrade in the last one decade.

The early sown (September) variety of the crop, mostly developed by IARI and state government-owned institutions, have been helping farmers dealing with rise in temperature.

“Seed varieties developed for dealing with

climactic variations such as salinity, drought and heat have given wider choices to farmers in the northern parts of the country and this could be replicated in the southern India as well,” agriculture ministry official said.

The government has increased minimum support price (MSP)

for mustard to R3,000 per quintal this year from R2,500 per quintal in 2012-13.

The role of mustard in the country’s edible oil sector is vital as it contributes about 20% of total production. The country is self sufficient in mustard production and a smaller quantity is exported.

Most of the country’s mustard oil consumption is based in eastern and northern parts of the country. Besides being used for cooking, mustard oil is used for preparation of hydrogenated fats (vansapati) and the residue (oilmeal) is used for poultry feed.

Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are major mustard producing states. Rajasthan produces 44% of the country’s mustard output. Globally, India accounts for 19% and 11% of the total acreage and production.

India’s Genebank identifies core wheat genes for development of varieties to deal with climate change

India’s gene bank identified core genes which would help in development of new varieties of wheat, rice and vegetables which would withstand climatic variations.

Sandip Das
New Delhi, Jan 1:

Following three years of research, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) has identified core genes which would help in development of new varieties of wheat, rice and vegetables which would withstand climatic variations.

These varieties, identified from the four lakh accessions held with NBPGR or the national gene bank, would help deal with variations in temperatures, rainfall and alternations in climate conditions witnessed during the last few years.

To start with, new wheat varieties developed through identifying around 2000 core genes from 25,000 accessions have been tested in hotspots such as Gurdaspur (Punjab), Cooch Behar (West Bengal) and Issapur farm (Delhi), in a move prior to transferring them to state-owned breeders for multiplication — for seed development purposes. These core genes are capable of capturing various genetic traits available in the bank.

This assumes significance because due to rising demand, the country needs to increase wheat production gradually. In 2012-13, the country produced 92 million tonne of wheat.
However according to an official with Karnal-based Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR), fluctuations in temperature and possibility of yellow rust attack pose a challenge for scientists to sustain and increase wheat production at the current level.

“We are evaluating the performance of core genes thro-ugh field trials before transferring it to breeders for further multiplication,” KC Bansal, director, NBPGR, told FE.

The trials in Gurdaspur are focussing on the varieties of the deadly yellow rust which impacts the wheat crop virtually every year. The experimentation at Cooch Behar is focussed on dealing with blight and the gene bank’s own farm at Issapur is working on developing heat tolerant varieties.

The seed breeder with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has been invited to visit the field trial spots for evaluating performance.

Currently, according to regulations, the germplasm held with the gene bank is only shared with state-owned research institutes.

Similar experimentation on developing a core rice gene is also being undertaken by the gene bank Of the total collection of germplasm with the genebank, about 90,000 belongs to rice varieties. Others include wheat (25,000), vegetables (24,000), oilseeds (55,000) and pulses (50,000). The traits of these crops arekept in a genebank in the form of seeds.
NBPGR has collected genes of around 1,500 crop species, including ornamental, oilseeds and medicinal. But the majority of them, which are critical to food and nutritional security, will be around 15-20.

The bureau has prioritised 15 categories, including rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet, finger millet, chick pea, mustard, okra, brinjal and mango, for gene preservation initiatives.
The bank had started the exercise of collecting germplasm in 1976-77 from all over the country. In 1996-97, the premier institute collected the highest number of germplasms (close to one lakh) under a mission-mode programme.

Top agricultural scientists associated with the characterisation drive by the gene bank say the purpose was to help breeders in providing them with large genetic variability which helps in quality seed development.

Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events

Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events

Far from being isolated, the Philippines typhoon Haiyan followed other extraordinary meteorological events that are becoming more frequent and increasingly severe Three weeks ago the most powerful typhoon ever recorded to hit land destroyed parts of the Philippines. The devastation has been catastrophic, flattening homes, schools and hospitals and leaving thousands dead and 5.5 million children affected.

Unicef has worked in the Philippines since 1948 and experienced staff returning from the worst affected areas such as Leyte are reporting having never seen anything like this – not even after the Asian tsunami on Boxing day almost a decade ago. They have seen hundreds of kilometres of coconut groves literally blown away by 300kph winds. A coconut tree takes 12 years to grow, so this is a decade of livelihoods wiped out in a single storm.

I am incredibly concerned about the children who are without a doubt the most vulnerable right now. But as the immediate shock of the typhoon news reports begin to fade from people’s memories we need to address with energy and decision the true facts behind the intensity of the Philippines typhoon.

If the Philippines typhoon was an isolated incident, it would be a meteorological phenomenon, but the real worry is that far from being isolated, these events are both frequent and increasingly severe. This typhoon comes on top of other extraordinary meteorological events that have occurred recently; unprecedented floods caused by a cyclone in Sardinia last week; unprecedented typhoons in the United States a few weeks ago; unprecedented rains that caused the Pakistan floods in August and last year.

We can not turn a blind eye to the stark reality; the reality that is climate change. Leaving aside the appalling individual tragedies that have occurred we must see that these are flashes of the future. Climate change is contributing to these events becoming more intense.

Hazards only become disasters when a population or society’s capacity to cope within existing resources is overwhelmed. In such a situation, children, especially the hardest to reach, are always the most vulnerable. Disasters put children at greater risk of death, exposure to disease and trauma, and disruption to their education and social development.

As disasters intensify with increasing impacts of climate change, there must be an expansion of adaptation and resilience programmes in vulnerable countries to protect children from risk. Unicef’s disaster risk reduction programmes implement simple measures like early warning systems which can mean the difference between life and death. These programmes work – the Indian state of Orissa’s disaster preparedness plan implemented last month undoubtedly saved lives as nearly a million people were evacuated when a cyclone was known to be heading towards the eastern coastal region.

Last weekend the UN climate change talks ended in Warsaw. The Philippines disaster should have sent an urgent message demanding bold action to protect children from disasters like these and delivered plans for how we can effectively rebuild when the worst happens, but the lack of energy has left me speechless. I can not believe we are not yet gripping this issue with the urgency that is needed and unless we do that, what you see isn’t going to be one event that shocks and saddens us but an event that is repeated and repeated and repeated.

I’m not saying that human beings alone are causing global warming, they’re not. The Earth is going through one of its warming cycles, but there is no doubt, none whatsoever, that human beings are adding to that and adding to that in a dangerous and ultimately fatal way. Unless we begin to take this seriously, according to experts, climate related disasters could affect 375 million people every year by 2015, up from 263 million in 2010.

Climate Change in Shigar Valley

Climate Change in Shigar Valley

Changes in Local Climate – Precipitation and Temperature Analysis


The aspects of changes in local climate that were assessed included the following:

Change in winter temperatures

The climate of Shigar can be classified as dry continental Mediterranean. The general

perception of the community members was that the winter season has become milder and shorter, and summer is now considerably warmer. April and May were characterized by moderate temperatures, while summer season was identified as very hot, with temperatures

reaching about 400C in July.

The respondents reported a definite increase in winter temperatures over the past 5 years. A few villagers, including a village head, reported that minimum winter temperature has

increased from about -250C (5 years ago) to about -120C in the past 2 years. The village head also mentioned that in 1996 the minimum winter temperature fell to -360C. Respondents

further stated that till 5-10 years ago, winter lasted from November till February and now it

starts in December. They added that there is hardly any snowfall anymore, while 10-15 years ago snowfall was a continuous feature in winter. Earlier, pots would break, oil would freeze, and trees and birds would perish during the harsh winter season.

Discussions revealed that about 5 years ago people required several blankets (3–4) to keep them warm in winters, but since the past 2–3 years one blanket suffices the need. The complete

stock of quilts and blankets in each household is no longer required. Further, the community members said that there has been a drastic reduction in the use of woolen clothing and carpets in homes. Additionally, pedestal fans were never needed in summers before, but now they are in common use. Conversely, now few bukharis (heaters) are needed to warm houses.

6 Community Perceptions on Climate Change in Shigar Valley – A Case Study

Change in quantity of fuelwood required for heating in winters

Respondents reported a reduction of atleast 50% in the use of fuelwood by households during

winters, in the past 5 years. According to one village resident, his fuelwood consumption has drastically reduced, from 200 kg to 25 kg.

Change in flowering time of fruit trees

The main fruit tree species in Shigar are apple, apricot, cherry and pear. A shift in the

flowering time, by about 7–15 days, was reported to have taken place during the past 5-10

years. Previously, flowering took place in mid-April, but since 2007 fruit trees blossom

between the last week of March and the first week of April.

Change in location / altitude of pasture sites

The study revealed that there are 22 grazing sites for the 22 villages of Shigar Town. In other words, there is one site designated to one village. Permission is needed to use another

village’s site.

The respondents were asked to quantify the number of hours it took to travel to the pastures in 2003, as opposed to in 2007-08. The response to this question was divided. 53% of the persons that were interviewed reported that there has been a change in their travel time; some reported a lengthening of travel time by about 2-3 hours, denoting that they now had to travel to higher altitudes to reach good pastures. However, it needs to be mentioned here that thedisparity in response may be due to the varied locations of the pastures that are used by the respondent. The pastures which are already at a higher altitude may not have undergone any change, while those located at lower altitudes may have dried; hence forcing the communities

to go higher up the mountains.

All respondents reported that the quality and quantity of grass in pastures had deteriorated,

due to a decrease in precipitation since 2005-06. The grass that was waist high earlier was now only knee high. Moreover, 10-15 years ago, livestock grazing took 1-2 hours, but now it takes a whole day. However, one respondent notified that fodder is easily available now, due to early greening of trees.

Impacts of Climate Change Severally Affected Sharonkhula Upazela

published on: 7/11/13

6 years have been  passed since Cyclone Sidr inflicted heavy damage on property and infrastructure in up to 30 districts in Bangladesh on November 15th, 2007. The destruction affected approximately 8.9 million people, resulting in large-scale humanitarian needs in the country. Severally effected area is Southkhali Union of sharonkhula upazella. After Sidar there are 40 percent of the people leave this area. 15  percent of this people still not return. Due to see level rising and boleshawar River embarkment erosion the half of the southkhali Union area submerged by tidal height and salinity water. This saline water seriously impacts on the livelihood of this area people.see details