• Issues Analysis 360o

Climate change in Himachal Pradesh

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Climate is the long-term average weather. The typical weather (e.g. temperature, rain and snowfall, wind) on any given day tends to be most controlled by the cycle of the seasons from spring through summer, autumn and winter. Other factors, with longer time scales, can cause systematic changes to the climate. Climate Change has undoubtedly emerged as an issue of global concern.
Climate Change has a potential to completely and adversely affect the way of human life. The terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. 'Global warming' is the gradual increase of the earth's average surface temperature due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, whereas the 'climate change' is a broader term. It refers to long-term changes in climate, including changes in average temperature and rainfall due to global warming. It is a phenomenon which is much more complex is the result of activities that alters the composition of atmosphere, due to undesirable and unwanted over exploitation of our natural resources.

change in composition of glacial ice

Himalayan eco-systems are predominantly sensitive to climate changes. Himachal Pradesh although a small Himalayan State, is nevertheless playing a very crucial role in sustaining the livelihoods of downstream areas. The conservation, sustenance of these ecologically fragile regions is a biggest challenge faced being faced at the moment which can get further aggravated due to financial constraints and limited resources.Therefore, it can be safely stated that climate change will manifest most in Himachal Pradesh. The commonly observed events and likely ones in the State are as follows:

  • State is likely to face warming, erratic rainfall and rainfall changes, floods.
  • Change in precipitation pattern.
  • There is likely to be a shift in snow line, agriculture /horticulture line; certain areas may open up with some good livelihood openings.
  • Significant impacts on agriculture production, water resources, forests, natural wetlands.
  • Health risks are likely to increase in the State. Instances as malaria, water borne disease, jaundice etc. may break along river bed predominantly.

       Impacts likely to adversely affect large percentage of population depending on natural resources.The predicted potential impacts of climate change on Himachal Pradesh are both positive and negative. While many of the impacts would be disruptive and potentially very costly, none are likely to be on at par with the worst impacts elsewhere in the Country. Examples of the projected impacts based on scenarios generally within the range predicted in the IPCC  (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change )

Assessment Reports and other research findings broadly include:

  • Changes in precipitation (rain and snow fall) with the average water levels in rivers, lakes less than normal with serious drought like conditions, and in rainy seasons flooding being more frequent, areas currently subject to flooding would suffer flooding of greater severity and for more duration.
  • Areas currently flood-free would suffer from occasional floods and flash floods.
  • Lesser spring, summer rainfall causing regular water shortages, especially in the mid hills would be affecting both people and the ecosystems.
  • There would be less recharge of reservoirs during the summer; water shortages would occur regularly and would be longer than at present.
  • The change in rainfall patterns may further cause regular water deficits, leading to accelerated soil erosion and loss of fertility and biodiversity.
  • Rising river water levels due to rapid glacier melt and more storm events and storm surge, particularly on the Satluj, Beas and Ravi rivers and their tributaries with storms of a greater severity are at risk from rising water levels, including related landslides, erosion, flooding and environmental changes with severe threat to infrastructures.
  • Riverbed areas subject to human industrial development would be at risk, and could suffer loss of infrastructure. Human use of the river bed is quite intensive, and low lying areas of all valleys are highly developed with different key industries (mainly energy), and tourism, residential development along the river are under potential threat. Protective options include abandonment of land, stronger planning controls, and fiscal disincentives for river side development.
  • Short-term increased agricultural production with new crops becoming viable in certain regions and agricultural production costs reduced if prolonged summer droughts do not become a problem. Grass growth could enjoy beneficial effects with a good increase with rainfall.

Impact of climate change on various areas in state :

Agro- Horticulture Sector 

Horticulture SectorErratic and changing weather pattern has affected on the sustainability of marginal agriculture and horticulture in the State where average holding size is 1.07 ha and about 70% of the population depends upon these two sectors for their livelihood. Over 92% of the holdings in the State
are classified as small or marginal and dependence on rain in some areas is very high. Thus, when viewed along with other specificities such as infrastructure, rugged topography, limited land for cultivation, limited livelihood choices, low productivity of land, and vulnerability to natural disaster renders the state to
be highly vulnerable to the phenomena of climate change. Agriculture With increasing temperatures, it is anticipated that there may be an all-round decrease in  production in the region in long-term, and the line of production may shift to higher altitudes. Apple production in the Himachal Pradesh region has decreased between 1982 and 2005 as the increase in maximum temperature has led to a reduction in total chilling hours in the region-a decline of more than 9.1 units per year in last 23 years has taken place.

• Rabi crops more affected due to erratic rainfall.

• Diversion from apple to vegetables especially in the Lower Kullu valley.

• Increase in annual production of vegetables from 25,000 tonne in 3,000 ha area in 1951-52 to 1,269 thousands tonne in 65,000 ha area in 2010-11.

• The rise in temp has affected the apple production especially located on the lower altitude.

• Apple production in cold desert areas has suddenly improved.

• Change in average winter temperature has led to early flowering in Rhododendron.

Glacier Status in Himachal Pradesh

An overall reduction in glacier area from 2,077 sq. km. to 1,628 sq. km. from 1962-2001 in Chenab, Parbati & Baspa Basins, H.P.

• An overall deglaciation of 21% of total area in these basins.

• About 10% deglaciation is observed in Spiti Basin during 2001-2007.

Prominent glaciers as studied by GSI in Himachal Pradesh shows:

• Chota Sigri 6.81 m/y retreat during 1962-95.

• Bara Sigri 29.78 m/y during 1906-1957.

• Trilokinath as 17.86 m/y during 1968-1996.

• Beas Kund as 18.8 m/y during 1963-2003.

• Manimahesh as 29.1 during 1968-2005.



Forests in Himachal Pradesh are an important ecological and natural resource and have been aptly decreasing.Invasion of pine into oak/deodar due to climate change affecting fodder availability for livestock & people’s livelihood.
Himachal Pradesh being a mountain State is rich in floral and faunal biodiversity. The tribal and remote areas of the state have good medicinal and aromatic floral resources which plays a major in their livelihoods.
With the changing climate, many species are either facing the problem of extinction or declining because of rising temperature affecting health, well being and livelihood of the people who rely on such resources.
We are committed to preserve this Himalayan reserve as it provides us with biological resources and basic goods like food, fibre, medicine, timber, fuel wood etc. Forests, Natural Eco-systems & Biodiversity.
It has been projected that the forest vegetation type of the four eco-sensitive regions are vulnerable to projected climate change in the short term, that is, in 2030s, even under a moderate climate change scenario
The impacts vary from region to region. For Himachal Pradesh, of the 98 IBIS grids covering this region, 56% of the grids are projected to undergo change in 2030s shows a high degree of vulnerability of forests
in the State. The dense forest line is expected to undergo more change.

Water Resources

Climate Change induced weather extremes such as unprecedented drought, frequent floods, cloud bursts, erratic and changing pattern of rain and snowfall, higher temperature and milder and late winters have affected the availability of natural resources in general and the water in particular. Over the years, the water availability in all towns of the State hasdeclined and majority of them are facing scarcity situation. The traditional water sources are either on the verge of extinction or have dried. Any change in the behaviour of water resources will have adverse impact on the overall economy of the State.

• Effects of Climate Change on the Water Resources

• Khatris are no more functional.

• Micro – hydel are under threat.

• Decreasing river discharge.

• Affects the riverine ecology.

• Dried traditional sources of water.

• Decreasing snowfall patterns.

• Perennial streams have become seasonal.

Change in setting of seasons

Himachal Pradesh is highly vulnerable to climate change. Himachal Pradesh has a high reliance on agriculture which has a direct bearing from climate variations. Climate change also poses additional challenges as higher temperatures increase the need for water, irrigation and the risk of warm stress on crops. Changing weather patterns and rising temperatures will leave the farmers of the State vulnerable to crop losses on one hand and excessive precipitation also destroy the crops on other hand.


Temperatue Humidity Index (THI) is projected to rise in many parts of State during March–September with a maximum rise during April–July in 2030s with respect to 1970s will lead to discomfort of the livestock productivity and therefore will have negative impact on livestock productivity.

A qualitative assessment indicates that morbidity and mortality of the population in the regions under focus are likely to increase with warming temperatures and variable precipitation as they have direct as well as indirect effects. Direct effects can manifest as heat stress and indirect effects can be in terms of vector borne diseases, water borne diseases and malnutrition etc. A quantitative assessment has been carried out for determining the transmission of malaria in 2030. In Himachal Pradesh which is nestled in the North-Western
Himalayas, projections of malaria transmission windows for 2030s, based on temperature, reveal introduction of new foci and an increase in opening of more transmission months in different districts of the State.


conlusion :

Himachal Pradesh has a large repository of natural resources. It is the most important source of clean water for the people of Northern India. Snow and glacier melt during the summer season provide large inflows to five major river basins and their tributaries the crucial source of water supply for the people inhabiting in these basins. The availability of abundant water resources, fertile soil and suitable climate has led to the development of a highly agricultural based society in this region. In view of significance of agricultural sector and water resources for the State, its sensitivity to the vagaries climate change makes it imperative for the planners and scientists to strategize as in case of any changes in the pattern of climate in the form of shift in the time period, frequency or magnitude, there can be substantial impacts on the overall economy of the state.

Pooja Sharda By - Pooja Sharda
Posted On - 8/12/2018 8:50:17 PM

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