Maharashtra suffered the most deaths due to extreme weather events in 2021 – says a state-wise analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment in its State of India’s Environment 2022 report.
Of the over 1,700 people who lost their lives to extreme weather events (lightning and thunderstorms, cyclones, floods, heavy rains and landslides) in India in 2021, 350 were from Maharashtra. Odisha followed with 223 casualties; and in Madhya Pradesh, 191 lives were lost.
This is among the stark findings arising from extreme weather events during 2021, according to a state-wise analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) contained in its State of India’s Environment 2022: In Figures report.
These figures are part of the statistical compendium published every year by CSE. The report gives statistical evidence of events that point to a dark future that is most evident from the rising mercury levels, increasing heatwaves, devastating extreme weather events and melting glaciers.
The year had many more warning signs of the calamity that is confronting the nation, the report says. Primarily, the rising mercury levels recorded point to the past decade (2011-2020/2012-2021) being India’s warmest decade on record. Eleven out of the 15 warmest years were in the last 15 years (2007-21).
India recorded its fifth warmest year in 2021 when the average temperature remained 0.44°C above normal (1981-2010 average). The country was 0.71°C warmer than normal in 2016, India’s warmest ever year. In 2021, the country also had its third hottest March ever, and in 2022, March temperatures beat all previous records.
According to the report, ust five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana – accounted for 54 per cent of the heatwave days in the country.
Similarly, melting glaciers have contributed to 25 glacial lake and waterbodies across India, China and Nepal that have recorded more than 40 per cent increase in their water spread areas since 2009. These pose a grave threat to seven Indian states and Union Territories and need to be monitored closely, says the report.
But most worrisome has been the dipping expenditures on natural calamities. The report speaks of an almost 30 per cent reduction in India’s expenditure on natural calamities in 2021-22, compared to 2020-21. In six states and UTs, the cut-down has been over 50 per cent, while it has been over 70 per cent in another five.
Data for decisions
Commenting on what the report is trying to do, Richard Mahapatra, managing editor, Down To Earth, said, “Data re-generates debates and discussions. The State of India’s Environment 2022: In Figures reiterates this every year. It brings to you the state of India’s environment, quantified.”
“This year marks a milestone both for India and the planet. India is celebrating its 75th year of Independence and we have a promise of a ‘New India’ with quantified development goals to meet. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm conference, the UN’s first meeting on human environment,” Mahapatra says.
“This report tries to do justice to both: by making an assessment of whether the promised ‘New India’ will come to pass (in the case of the former). And by documenting and analysing (in the case of the latter) how the planet’s environment has been in the last 50 years.”
Image: Oxfam India