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.
- 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