If present trends in global warming continue, there is a strong possibility that Kochi will be partially inundated in the coming decades
By Shevlin Sebastian
M.R. Vishnu Prasad, 27, P. Neena, 23, and C. Shanuga, 22, stand on M.G. Road in Kochi on a Tuesday morning wearing green jackets with the word, ‘Greenpeace’ written in white on them.
They have booklets and green-coloured petitions which contain an appeal to coastal MPs to raise the point of global warming in an upcoming session of Parliament. “If present warming trends continue, there is a strong possibility that Kochi will be partially inundated in 2050,” says Vishnu.
And so they approach pedestrians with a mix of caution and bravado. Most say they don’t want to hear the spiel. Some point at their watches and say they are in a hurry, but Vishnu finally gets two young men, N. Nishant and Sebastian James, both 21, to stop and listen.
With enlarged eyes and forceful gesticulations, Vishnu explains the dangers of global warming and the problems that will befell Kochi. Eventually, the two young men sign the petitions that Vishnu proffers.
Later, Sebastian says, “I agree global warming is doing some damage to the earth, but it is difficult to believe Kochi will go under water.”
Nishant feels the people should take steps to prevent global warming. “But most of the citizens are selfish and not socially involved,” he says.
For the past few weeks, the international NGO, Greenpeace, has launched a campaign in Kochi called Blue Alert. Activists have put up blue hazard signs on Marine Drive, Vasco Da Gama Square in Fort Kochi and on Jews Street in Mattancherry with the words, 'Climate Change Zone Ahead'. On the signs are drawings of people drowning and of cars and buildings being submerged.
Activists also pasted 'Eviction 2050' notices on buildings on Marine Drive. “This is to warn the residents that these buildings will not survive in the year 2050, as the surging sea waters will inundate them,” says Greenpeace city coordinator, Shiju Raj.
Shiju says that more than 200 people participated in the Blue Solidarity March, organised by Greenpeace, on April 12 demanding action. “People responded because they understand that the state of the climate is a personal issue,” he says. “It is about their homes, and their children’s future.”
In fact, MPs like Dr K.S. Manoj and Francis K. George have promised to take up the issue in Parliament. Says George: “We have to show vision and leadership, since the future of our country and the people are at stake.”
At the present rate of global warming, there will be a rise of 4 to 5 degrees centigrade in world temperatures in the next few decades.
“This will lead to the breaking-up of glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and will contribute to the rise in sea levels,” says Somnath Narayan, Climate and Energy campaigner of Greenpeace-India.
According to Sudhir Chella Ranjan of the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, a one metre rise in sea level will result in 6000 sq. km in India being flooded.
At the current rate of global warming, there is a strong possibility of a rise of 3 to 5 metres in sea levels in the next 40 years. “All coastal cities like Kochi, Kolkata and Mumbai are at risk of being inundated by 2050,” he says. “More than 125 million people will be rendered homeless.”
This will result in mass movements of entire villages, towns and cities away from the coast.
“It is likely that large inland cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Pune and Hyderabad will have to be prepared to accommodate enormous numbers of migrants from the coast,” says Sudhir. “Also, coastal cities like Kochi would have lost trillions of dollars in terms of their existing physical and social capital.”
Somnath says that it is not just an environmental, but a humanitarian and an economic crisis, as well.
“Our monsoons are going to be unpredictable, our agriculture will be hit, wheat production could go down by 20 per cent,” he says. “The Himalayan glaciers that feed our river systems in the north are rapidly receding and this could mean that the Ganges could become a seasonal river in the coming decades!”
So, is global warning irreversible? “Yes, it is,” says Somnath. “But we have a window of less than eight years in which to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Sadly, the awareness of the climate crisis is at its infancy in India.”
So, what is the way out? Sudhir says a manageable rise of 2 degrees in centigrade will only lead to the displacement of 5 million people. “However, there has to be a commitment, not only at the State and the national level, but from all countries, industralised and developing, to cut down on their emissions.”
So, is the world listening or will we go blindly into Doomsday 2050?
Only time will tell.
What we can do
Change a bulb: Replace one regular incandescent bulb with a CFL. This can save 70 kgs of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year
Drive less: Walk, cycle, car pool or take public transport. You save 3 kg of CO2 for every kilometre you don’t drive.
Recycle more: You can save a huge amount of CO2 by recycling material.
Check your tyres: Keep your tyres inflated properly. This can improve mileage by more than 3 per cent. Every litre of petrol saved keeps 3 kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Turn off electronic devices: Simply turning off your TV, stereo, DVD player and computer will save thousands of kgs of CO2 every year.
Stop cutting trees and plant more of them: A single tree absorbs over 1 tonne of CO2 over its lifetime.
Copyright: The New Indian Express, Kochi