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Adaptations to Climate Change - Challenges in Water-sanitation. Dr. Seetharam M R FANSA SVYM, India. Freshwater Action Network Strong networks in Africa, South Asia, Central America; growing networks in South America, Mexico Freshwater Action Network, South Asia

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Adaptations to Climate Change - Challenges in Water-sanitation

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Adaptations to Climate Change - Challenges in Water-sanitation

Dr. Seetharam M R


SVYM, India

  • Freshwater Action Network

    • Strong networks in Africa, South Asia, Central America; growing networks in South America, Mexico

  • Freshwater Action Network, South Asia

    • 5 countries; 12 states in India;

  • Network of CSOs

  • Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement

Recent floods and rain in N Karnataka

Recent floods and rain in N Karnataka

  • Altered rainfall pattern

    • Sept-Oct 2009

    • Usual rainfall

      • In the region – 35 mm; Actual rainfall: 251mm

      • In Bijapur District – 34 mm vs 334 mm

  • Issues of Reservoir management

  • Predictability, Preparedness

  • Weakness of the infrastructure to cope with such situations

  • Associated challenges – HEALTH, SANITATION

Changing disease patterns….

  • The epidemic of Dengue and chickungunya


  • Altered rain patterns

  • Poor sanitation – cesspools etc

  • Altered vector patterns

  • To be viewed in the socio cultural setting of the community

  • Groundwater table in HDKote

    • Water – so near, yet so deep!!

  • Impact of tsunami

  • The struggles in Bangladesh and Nepal……

Some basic truths….

  • Climate change is happening…

  • Water - the main mechanism of impact of climate change on people as well as eco system..

  • Water and thereby sanitation are the main mechanisms for impacting human health..

  • Achieving wat-san MDGs are key to achieving other MDGs, but currently, sanitation is way off track…..

  • Costs of impacts enormous….

The policies and practices in water management can have short and long term

effects on climate change, and therefore potentially magnify all the other deleterious effects.

  • Climate Change exerts its impacts mainly thro water.

  • Other impacts are mediated thro the primary impact on water

Food, energy, livelihood, environment….

  • An already-stressed, finite resource is further jeopardized by the direct and indirect impacts of climate change.

  • Optimal management of this resource is key to achieving all the MDGs – indeed to the very health of the ecosystem

Hence the imperative attention to WATER as the central focus of adaptation to CC

Climate change impact on water cycle

  • Amount, intensity and distribution of precipitation

  • Alterations in run-offs

    • Ground water levels

    • Coastal zones

      • Tsunami; Erosion; salinity

    • Water quality

      • Concentration effect; floods-droughts leading to contamination

    • Water Storage-management – Reservoirs

      • Silt

    • River basins

      • Food security

        Serious Impacts on water for drinking and domestic consumption


Climate change impact on water cycle

Climate Change Impacts on sanitation and Health

  • Diseases caused as Direct impacts

    • Heat strokes etc

  • Diseases due to Climate-induced impacts on environment (Floods-drought etc)

    • Diarrhoeal diseases; vector borne diseases; Starvation-malnutrition; allergic disorders

  • Health consequences due to economic, social and other changes

    • Migration; Nutrition; mental illnesses

The key areas of concern….

  • ACCESS - Serious crisis of availability of safe and adequate drinking water

  • HEALTH -Public Health considerations to get adequate priority

  • EQUITY – in the face competing demands to ensure inclusivity and proper prioritization – sector (drinking, agri, industrial etc), geographic, social.

  • COMMUNITY-CENTRICITY - community-centric planning rather than Technology- or funds-driven planning

The key areas of concern….

Adaptation is not merely infrastructural, but is a complex interplay of many institutional mechanisms, including policy, finance and governance.

Adopting the right Adaptation approach…

  • Source: Dessai and Hulme, 2004.

Approaches to drinking water access……

  • Diversification of water sources

    • Avoiding Single source dependence

    • Rain water harvesting

  • Resilient, sustainable water supply systems

  • Surface water management

  • Reservoir management

    • Requirements vs flood run offs; safety issues;

  • Ensuring adequate groundwater recharge

    • High intensity precipitation with rapid evaporation rates

Approaches to reduce health impacts

Policy-planning guidelines thru UNFCCC

  • Convergence at the level of planning – mainstreaming of ‘adaptation’ into current schemes, of development initiatives in general, and water management in particular

  • To Ensure Water Access

    • IWRM approach

    • Ensuring priority for drinking water over other competing water needs

    • Priority for water in adaptation interventions

  • Focus on Public Health in Adaptation Plans

    • 2009 preparatory documents – only 4 out of 49 speak of health as a concern (McMicheal et al,

Policy-planning guidelines thru UNFCCC

  • Enhancing accountability thro support to participatory and democratic processes

  • Support for resolution of contentious issues like trans boundary water

  • Regional balance – equitable distribution of funds, functions and functionaries

  • Special focus on vulnerable groups

  • Balanced move towards ‘privatisation’ and pricing, with a recognition of Human Rights

    • Willingness to pay vs Ability to pay.

  • Guidelines for habitations – urbanisation/ rehabilitation/ migration

Policy-planning guidelines thro UNFCCC

  • Support for Community involvement, awareness;

    • The River users groups in Tamil Nadu

    • Decentralisation of planning and decision making.

  • Promotion of, and building on, Relevant traditional practices

    • The lakes in South India; the open well system

  • Economic development to be ‘clean’ and eco-sensitive

    • Avoiding ‘developmental disasters ‘– resulting in large scale displacement

  • Mitigation and Adaptation mechanisms themselves to be safe and holistic

Climate proofing

  • Mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment to determine the impact of the project on the environment

  • Need for reverse impact assessment – assess the impact of the environment on the project

    • Defining existing conditions/components;

    • Projecting and estimating likely future changes for each component;

    • Recording extent of interactions and identifying the variabilities

    • Determining critical thresholds when risk of a climate change impact becomes dangerous; and

    • Determining value of these impacts economically as financial loss and biologically.

  • The ifs and buts of the River Linking Project…..

Costs of adaptation

  • Significant variations in the projections.

  • Agriculture, water, health, ecosytems, coastal areas, infrastructure

  • Projections have been analysed and critiqued .

  • Martin Parry et al;

Cost of adaptation – water sector

  • Expenses to be considered

    • Cost of explicit measures

    • Transactional costs

    • Costs of residual impacts

  • Estimate – 9-11b $ per year by 2030

  • Likely to be higher due to:

    • Does not include other measures like managing flood risk, water quality etc

    • Does not include the costs of residual impacts

    • Represents only the additional investment

Cost of adaptation – Health sector

  • Expenses to be considered

    • Cost of improving/modifying health protection systems – eg surveillance, training

    • Cost of modifications of hospitals, staff safety etc

    • Disease burden prevention costs

    • Research

    • Meeting newer standards of pollution control

  • Estimated to be 5-12 b $

  • Likely to be higher due to:

    • Disease burden not fully considered; decline in rates assumed

    • Cost escalations over time

    • Residual impacts in the form of failure of prevention

In conclusion

  • Climate change impacts are inevitable, and hence the imperative to ‘adapt’

  • Water, the main mechanism of impact, and hence of adaptation as well

  • Access, Health, Equity and Community-centricity – the main challenges to be addressed

Climate Change adaptation without focus on water, is a watered down effort.

Focus on Water for Climate Change Adaptation


nurtures the Change in all sectors for



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