Environment

The impact of climate change is evident in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, where the lives of betel leaf producers and farmers has been considerably deteriorated during last seven years. Climate change has resulted in a 58 percent decline in agriculture based livelihoods and food grain production.

As noted in the report of WaterAid India,13 the Bundelkhand region, an area of approximately 70,000 square kilometers with 21 million people—nearly the size and population of Sri Lanka—comprising 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh is facing its worst ever drought spell in living memory. Rainfall has been deficient by 40-50 percent for the last five years. Going by the report of an inter-ministerial central team, headed by JS Samra of the National Rain-fed Areas Authority, the region didn’t sow in 40 percent of farms; food grain production was down by around 30 percent. More than 20 lakh livestock, a major source of livelihood for local communities, were abandoned. Around 40 percent of the region’s population migrated out, which was double that of 2003.

Different sectors of society depend on different livelihood systems, which are integrally linked to climatic conditions.

Bundelkhand comprises of 13 contiguous districts, six of which lie in Madhya Pradesh (Chhatarpur, Panna, Tikamgarh, Sagar, Damoh and Datia) and seven in Uttar Pradesh (Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Lalitpur, Banda, Mahoba and Chitrakoot). The once prosperous Bundelkhand is now identified as one of India’s most backward and poor regions. Though many plans have been chalked out and millions spent, the desired result in the form of food, livelihood, health and water security has not been achieved because of low agricultural yield, lack of other sustainable sources of livelihood, depletion of natural resources, government’s apathy and recurring natural calamities in the form of drought due to environmental degradation and global warming.

This region used to contribute 15 percent of the state’s total food grain production, which has now come down to seven percent. A once food secure zone has now become a symbol of insecurity and migration due to climate change. Various livelihoods such as fishing, vegetable production and traditional betel leaf farming are facing one of the worst crises ever. This is not merely due to natural conditions, but also due to irresponsible human behavior and state policies.

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