South Asia has faced many social and economic problems in past few decades, and does so today. It is a well-known region for its unique traditions and cultural orientation. There are eight countries in the region – Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Afghanistan – and they are economically based on agricultural production. All of these countries aim to reach their developmental goal through minimising economic barriers. Appropriately planned economics are the key to the development of a country. Further, it can play a major role in developing countries through the political orientation towards development goals.
Both developing and developed countries need to adapt to climate change, especially in terms of economic planning. This is becoming more important to developing countries since they need to manage with lack of economic resources to adapt to climate change. However, development requires such adaptation, and development progress may even slow down due to the increase in extreme weather conditions. For example, Himalayan melting results in the loss of assets, drawing resources from development, increasing mortality and spreading communicable diseases. The overall result would be reduced productivity and investment in agriculture. Urban migration precipitates changes in economics, business and decision making.
Development aids adaptation
Some previous studies have argued that economic development is the best route to climate change adaptation. Development enables countries through their economic activities to diversify and become less dependent on agriculture, a sector which is more likely to be vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Development also reduces the vulnerability of countries as it makes more resources available for reducing its impact, and supporting disaster mitigation. For example, increasing investment in science and research will help to invent new vaccines for epidemic diseases like Dengue.
Adaptation is also necessary for development. Development progress will be faster if the economy uses adaptation measures such as changing crops and cropping patterns etc. Merging indigenous knowledge with new inventions should also be considered. Therefore, climate adaptation-based development needs to be implemented.
Adaptation costs are the costs incurred by societies to adapt to changes in climate. This includes the cost of planning, preparing, facilitating and implementing adaptation measures.
Changes to harvests and planted areas are the main effects of climate change in South Asia. The countries tend to respond to these by changing cultivation practices, which results in a decrease in productivity, and increases the prices on the consumer market. After this, consumers change their buying patterns and look for cheap and low quality products. Some multinational organisations take advantage of this kind of situation and try to promote their low-nutritional food to use these markets for dumping. These actions lead to an increase in malnutrition. Therefore, South Asian economies require productivity-enhancing investments as an adaptation measure to climate change. However, this is currently tricky due to the lack of resources, as well as the poor governance and limited financial capabilities of these countries.
Regional infrastructure requirements include electricity, water, communication, sanitation, health and education facilities, as well as general public buildings. All construction should follow strict building standards to enable assets to withstand predicted changes in climate. These constructions should be built taking into account the climate 50 years from the date of construction. Existing assets require modifications in accordance with climate change adaptation such as replacing cooling and heating equipment. This is generating high adaptation costs for those economies. However, climate change is likely to affect the demand for infrastructure facilities. For example the demand for higher dykes of roads will be increased in coastal areas to cope with sea level rises and storm surges.
Island countries in the region are particularly at risk of sea level rises caused by climate change. Island countries such as the Maldives and Sri Lanka are vulnerable because of their size, limited resources and geographical location. Reconstructing or repairing residual damage, port upgrades, increasing dykes on seaside roads and so on are required high financial and technical support. The best engineering practice for sea and river dikes requires additional height needed to plan for 50 years into the future, and developing countries need to stick to this.
South Asia previously had a balanced water supply (ground and rainfall) for the past few decades. The region was known for self-sufficiency and they tend to export excessively. Now with the impact of climate change, it has changed in different ways. Some agriculture-based economies receive heavy rain fall, which destroys the harvest. In contrast, some areas face years of severe droughts and the entire harvest can be degraded. Additional reservoir storage capacity-building, ensuring appropriate water management, the distribution of industrial and agricultural requirements, and maintaining access to pure water for the public have all become challenges to South Asian economies.
Human health in South Asia is critically affected by climate change. The region accounts for a larger population with a considerable proportion of the world’s poor population. Deaths recorded among the affected population are increasing day by day not only due to epidemic diseases like Malaria and Dengue but also because of cold and heat conditions, flooding and malnutrition. Structural adaptation is required, especially for hospital and medical services. Investments must also be increased in the fields of science, research and logistics.
Climate science informs us that the impacts of climate change will increase over time, with major impacts on South Asia, such as the melting of the Himalayas, will occur more in the future. South Asian economies should focus more on the problems arising from climate change that would result in stunting their development. Investment is needed for climate change adaptation.
It is important to go back for indigenous methods, especially in the agriculture industry. Similarly, these governments must protect people and their properties from upcoming natural disasters and the effects of climate change. This lets the world to realise that South Asia contributes less to climate change, but the impact of climate change weighs heavy on the region. Those who are more responsible for this must think of the injustice to the people living in this region, their properties, their environment, their development needs and their right to live freely.