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South Asia: Shared Views on Development and Climate Change

South Asia: Shared Views on Development and Climate Change

The World Bank is to support the development priorities of countries in South Asia by addressing climate change related risks and harnessing development opportunities that promote low-carbon growth, says a new report - Shared Views on Development and Climate Change, released ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

About the report

December 6, 2009 - Geography coupled with high levels of poverty and population density has made South Asia especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The region faces daunting climate‐related development challenges. "Impacts ranging from of higher temperatures to more variable precipitation and more extreme weather events are already being felt in South Asia. It has been projected that these will intensify," Richard Damania, World Bank Lead Environmental Economist for the South Asia Region speaking ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7 to 18, 2009.

Damania listed three unique factors that make South Asia vulnerable to the impacts of climate change:

  • Poverty and population increase;
  • Threats to water supply and agriculture; and
  • Vulnerability to natural disasters.

First, South Asia has the highest density of poverty in the world. With an estimated 600 million South Asians subsisting on less than $1.25 a day, even small climate shocks can cause irreversible losses and tip a large number of people into destitution.

Second, South Asia is endowed with great rivers, which are the lifelines of the regional economy. The ice mass covering the Himalayan-Hindu Kush mountain range is the source of the nine largest rivers of Asia, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus. Glacial melt coupled with more variable precipitation could severely compromise livelihoods and the future prospects of agriculture.

Third, South Asia suffers an exceptionally high number of natural disasters. Between 1990 and 2008, more than 750 million people—50% of the region’s population—were affected by a natural disaster, leaving almost 60,000 dead and resulting in about $45 billion in damages. As climate-related risks intensify, there will be a need to respond proactively to build resilience through prevention and preparedness rather than through relief and response.

Need for regional cooperation:

Many of the most severe impacts of climate change are likely to be regional and will call for coordinated regional responses. Bangladesh shares 54 rivers with India. Changes in upstream runoff and demand due to climate change could significantly impact future water availability across all these rivers. Regional cooperation can play a key role in adaptation and development in the Himalayan region. "It will also call for more basin‐wide river management, with coordinated capacity to lower flood peaks and augment low‐season flows, said Damania.

Feature Stories

- Climate Change in the Maldives - December 10, 2009

- Are South Asia’s ecosystems at the brink of extinction? - December 2, 2009

- Why is South Asia Vulnerable to Climate Change - December 1, 2009

- Water: South Asia's Lifeline at Risk


Download the Report


Full Report


Executive Summary

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: The Global Scene

Chapter 3: South Asia’s Climate Vulnerability

Chapter 4: The Way Forward

Chapter 5: The Sector Outlook

Chapter 6: Climate Change and the Water Sector

Chapter 7: Agriculture and Rural Sector

Chapter 8: Natural Disasters

Chapter 9: The Health Sector

Chapter 10: The Social Dimensions of Climate Change

Chapter 11: Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Chapter 12: The Energy Sector

Chapter 13: The Transport Sector

Chapter 14: The Urban Sector



Climate Change & South Asia

- South Asia's population is projected to rise from 1.48 billion (2005) - 2.22 billion (2050).

- In 2008, an estimated 600 million South Asians subsisting on less than US$1.25 a day.

- About 70% of South Asians live in rural areas and account for about 75% of the poor.

- South Asia is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, with over 900 events reported since 1970.

- 60% of Bangladesh is flood prone.

- Between 1990 and 2008, South Asia lost about US$45 billion in damages due to natural disasters.

- South Asia contain 16% of floral and 12% of faunal species found in the world.

- Coral coverage in South Asia has declined from more than 40% in 1997 to slightly above 20% in 2002.

- India’s rate of car ownership in 2000 was just 10 vehicles per 1,000 persons, compared to a worldwide average of about 113 vehicles per 1000 persons.

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