Adapting to climate change in Northern India
Millions of people in the Ganges basin depend on water resources from melting snow and ice as well as from monsoon rainfall. However, developments such as retreating glaciers, changing monsoon patterns, and declining groundwater levels coupled with increasing population and enhanced water demand for irrigation are likely to place water resources under considerable stress.
The urgency of the problem was recognised in 2007, when both the impact of climate change on water resources and the high uncertainty in projected future changes were identified as two of the most important areas for European Union (EU)–India research collaboration. As a result, over €3.3 million of funding under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) was made available to initiate the HighNoon project, which put the focus on developing adaptation measures in Northern India.
HighNoon is a collaborative effort between European, Indian, and Japanese partner institutes. Started in May 2009, the three year project was coordinated by Alterra, Wageningen UR, in the Netherlands.
“HighNoon resulted in an improved understanding of the biophysical and the social system, at present and in the future,” explains HighNoon Project Coordinator, Eddy Moors. “The involvement of stakeholders at different levels, ranging from individual farm level to national government, makes the outcomes of the selected adaptation options of great value.”
Major findings of the project include a gradual wide-spread warming over northern India, an increase in high intensity precipitation events in the Ganges basin, a continuation of glacier shrinkage in most part of the Himalayan mountain ranges and exacerbated drought conditions by 2050. In addition, yields of both rice and wheat are projected to decline, and temperatures across the Ganges basin are predicted to increase. Adaptation measures to prevent flood damage in upstream regions are considered high priority.
As a result of the findings, various recommendations have come about such as the need for more research on benchmark glaciers so as to better understand their dynamics, glacier lake monitoring and the installation of early warning systems and a better understanding of regional and global mechanisms driving the Indian Monsoon.
HighNoon leaves a clear legacy of datasets that will be made available to the entire research community in both India and Europe. These datasets include an up-to-date inventory of the state of Himalayan glaciers, and regional climate projections at an unprecedented resolution.
Moreover, HighNoon has created a European-Indian-Japanese group of knowledgeable and experienced researchers working at the interface between the physical sciences of climatology, glaciology, and hydrology with the social sciences. These scientists together with the participants of the HighNoon Spring Schools will go on to influence international research projects for years to come.