High resolution satellite data in integration with other earth science data has the potential to predict disasters and evolve methodologies for preparedness. Terrestrial factors, such as plate movements as well as extraterrestrial changes of the Sun and Earth’s environment are responsible for global changes (Mukherjee, 2006). Satellite based observations show that periodic monitoring from space may be useful to monitor anthropogenic, terrestrial as well as extraterrestrial changes. A few case studies enumerated below testify that natural disaster research needs a predictive model with inputs from spatial platforms.


Kedarnath Disaster

Climate change manifestations can be seen in the 2013 disaster in Kedarnath. Influence of the sun along with anthropogenic activities may be responsible for the catastrophe. Steep rise in solar proton flux for 12 days (May 15-26, 2013) had been recorded by Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite (Mukherjee, 2014). In the space-weather between the sun and the earth the heat transfer took 20 days and 6 hours to initiate the cloudburst in Kedarnath. During the same period the cosmic ray intensity was recorded at an all time high in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to cloudburst in the Kedarnath area, the abnormal rise of the atmospheric temperature heated the upper part of the atmosphere in the proximity of Uttarakhand. Consequently, an anomalous rise in cosmic rays was recorded. Changes in ionisation affected the abundant aerosols present in the atmosphere that served as the nuclei for cloud formation. Rise in cosmic rays were instrumental in cloud condensation leading to the cloudburst over Kedarnath. Cloudbursts represent one of the strongest and most destructive disasters which, beside considerable losses, lead to many casualties.


A solar storm occurs when protons are emitted by the Sun during a solar flare. Unusual proton flux has shown the potential to excite the magnetic field and preferred alignment of protons along that line, exhibiting a geospatially aligned heating on Earth. I propose a hypothesis, being postulated for the first time, on the mechanism of heat transfer from a charged proton to the upper and lower atmosphere of the earth, based on its possible magnetic alignment over the Kedarnath area. Large reduction of solar proton induced heat radiation at the Earth’s surface lowers atmospheric warming, increases atmospheric stability and slows down hydrological cycle and reduces rainfall during monsoon, while increased solar proton can reverse the mechanism. Near the Uttarakhand China border the SO rich aerosol presence before the cloudburst further proves this hypothesis (Mukherjee, 2014).


The hypothesis provides new insights into the influence of the Sun and anthropogenic activities on cloudburst as the manifestation of climate change. The model is a radical departure from previous thought, but is consistent with existing observations and warrants testing in future studies.



Earthquakes Precursors

Various types of earthquake lights have been reported before, during and after severe earthquakes. Earthquake lights have been reported before Matsushiro swarms (central Japan) during 1965 67. Also, during the Pattan earthquake (Pakistan) of December 1974, forest officers and doctors far away from the earthquake epicenter observed earthquake lights in the sky (Enomoto et al., 2017; Mukherjee, 2009). Before the occurrence of Jabalpur earthquake (India), 1997, a light was also seen in the sky (Jain et al., 1997). Experiments have been conducted at the University of Western Ontario, London (Canada) to understand the possible mechanism of earthquake lights where it was suggested that adsorption of water could be thought of as a source of energy (Mukherjee, 2009). However, this theory proved to be inadequate to explain the occurrence of light from the sky.


Occurrence of lights during earthquakes may be explained by the sunspot activities during solar maximum. The Earth has a magnetic field with north and south poles. The magnetosphere prevents most of the particles from the sun, carried in solar wind from hitting the earth. Some particles from the solar wind, however, can enter the magnetosphere and are forced by the magnetic field to move around the earth. Several times a day, the magnetosphere undergoes a disturbance called a sub storm. As the sub storm grows, most of the solar wind energy is dissipated within the magnetosphere, ionosphere and upper atmosphere producing auroras. The waves ad currents often result in problems with communications, power supplies and spacecraft electronics.


Before the occurrence of catastrophic Kutch earthquake in January 26, 2001, IMAGE spacecraft captured an invisible magnetic tail over Gujarat (Mukherjee, 2008). This is a major precursor of an earthquake. A sudden rise in electron flux was observed and recorded 36 hours before the earthquake. This phenomenon has been observed in various parts of the Earth 36 to 24 hours before earthquake occurrence. In fact a total of 65 earthquakes reportedly occurred on January 26, 2001 (the National Earthquake Information Centre of the United States Geological Survey records that globally, on an average, about 55 earthquakes occur daily). Earth directed coronal mass ejection produced a suspected invisible tail of electrified gas. IMAGE spacecraft spotted the tail, which streams from Earth towards the Sun (Beasley and Steigerwald, 2001). It may be interesting to observe the relationship between earthquakes globally, estimated planetary K (Kp) indices, election and X-ray flux.


Air Pollution and Solar Eclipse

The effects of a total solar eclipse were observed in China on July 23, 2009–which was recorded by the SOHO satellite–showing a direct correlation between cosmic ray intensity, heliphysical and atmospheric variation during a solar eclipse.


Atmospheric parameters such as cloud cover, SO2 and NO2 and aerosol concentration in the air of China and its surrounding areas showed the formation of condensation centers and a change in transparency and temperature of the atmosphere too. A gradual increase in the concentration of aerosol, cloud cover and cloud density was recorded from July 20-23, especially in the regions over Guangzhou, Hong Kong and North Korea. During the same period, a slow rise in NO2 was recorded.


Thus, the observational data suggests that episodic change in the Sun may influence terrestrial climate. Direct correlation of cosmic ray intensity and electron flux in Sun-Earth environment has been done with the aerosol, cloud cover, NO2 and SO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. It will be essential to monitor the global cosmic ray intensity in different locations of the earth along with the variation of electron flux on regular basis to correlate the aerosol, cloud cover, NO2 and SO2 concentration to comprehensively understand atmospheric changes and pollution over space and time.



There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest that solar storm events, during which an unusually high number of protons are emitted by the Sun, are likely to result in (temporary) changes in the magnetic field of the earth. Using satellite data to study solar activity may therefore prove effective in predicting disasters such as earthquakes, cloudbursts and more. However, research on solar irradiance, solar flares or periods of solar inactivity remains a niche area, in need of further probing.








Soils are a complex mixture of minerals, water, air, organic matter and countless organisms that lie on the surface and as such is the ‘skin of the earth’ providing a natural medium for the growth of plants (Soil Science Society of America, 2005). The properties of soil depend on the parent material, topography, climate, time and the organisms present. There can thus be hundreds of different kinds of soil. Since soil is one of the most important natural resources and is vital for the functioning of ecosystem, the problems associated with it, particularly erosion should be addressed with utmost care and on top priority. Water, wind, moving ice and more are the primary agents responsible for soil erosion and depletion of soil fertility. Heavy rainfall, nature of the soil (loose, lighter and sandy soil is more susceptible for soil erosion) and steep slope are some of the natural factors responsible for soil erosion–broadly classified into:


  • Sheet erosion-removal of top soil in the form of sheet (thin layers), widespread particularly in areas having smooth and gentle slope;
  • Rill erosion-removal of top soil in f1nger-like narrow grooves on uneven slopes; and
  • Gully erosion-where rills join to form wider and deeper channels called gullies.


Although soil erosion is a natural phenomenon, its pace has increased manifold in the latter half of the 20th century and first two decades of the let century due to unsustainable and unplanned developmental activities around the world, especially in the hilly areas. Deforestation, overgrazing, infrastructure development, faulty agricultural practices and forest fires aggravate the problem of soil erosion. Apart from loss of soil fertility, erosion exacerbates the spread of desert, famine, flash flood, siltation, destruction of wild life, climate change and more. Worldwide, soil erosion losses are highest in agro-ecosystems of Asia, Africa and South America, averaging 30 to 40 tonnes/ ha/year (Pimentel, 2006). An estimate shows that the rate of soil erosion in India is 16.35 tonnes/hectare/annum, which is higher than the naturally determined limits of 4.5 to 11.2 tonnes/hectare/annum. Also, the average annual loss of soil nutrients due to soil erosion has been estimated as 5.4-8.4 million tonnes (Fertiliser Association of India, 2008). About 29 per cent eroded soil is washed out into oceans and seas, 10 per cent is deposited in reservoirs and ponds while the remaining 61 per cent is relocated from one place to another (Dhruva and Babu, 1983).


World agriculture accounts for about three-quarters of the soil erosion worldwide (Food and Agriculture Organization, undated). Although methods of soil conservation such as contour ploughing, terrace cultivation, keyline design, windbreak and crop rotation were in practice for centuries, the estimation of soil erosion was barely undertaken as it was a tough task until the recent past. With the advent of modern technologies–remote sensing and geographical information system (GIS), soil erosion risk could be estimated with better precision and ease. GIS is complimentary to remote sensing as it enables data from varied sources to be incorporated, analysed and even modelled by its powerful analytical functionality. Both these tools are very important in identification and solving complex geospatial problems including the risk of soil erosion.


Soil Erosion Risk Assessment

From 1972 onwards satellite data from Landsat, IRS and MODIS and various sensors such as IRS (LISS-III, LISS-IV, WiFS, aWiFS etc., Landsat (MSS, TM, ETM, ETM+, ASTER etc., started throwing up good resolution data making the accurate prediction of soil risk assessment easy. There are standard models which have been developed for this. The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) was the first standard method for assessing soil erosion using remote sensing and GIS techniques which was later enhanced to the Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation (MUSLE) and further to Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE).


The USLE was developed even before the beginning of the Landsat programme by Wischmeier and Smith (1960) for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a multiple soil loss model to estimate annual soil erosion. This model was used extensively in South East Asia too, apart from USA and consequently in several other countries around the world. The USLE model can be expressed as a compound of five factors including rainfall erosivity factor (R), soil erodibility factor (K), spatial distribution of crop management factor (C), spatial distribution of conservation and preservation factor (P) and slope length and slope inclination factor or topographical factor (LS).


In this model, rainfall type determines the erosive (R factor) capabilities-a function of volume, duration and intensity which can be calculated from a single function or a series to identify the cumulative erosivity of a particular time. The erodability of soil (K factor) is related to the resistance of the soil to detachment and transport, with the K values of different soil types matched with Soil Erodability Nomograph (USDA, 1978).The C factor reveals the consequence of soil related activities that depend on plant cover, crop combination sequence and productivity. It can be defined as the ratio of the losses of soil from the cropped land under some specific conditions to the corresponding fallow land. Since a lot of variations are found in spatial and temporal land cover, it is good to Use remote sensing data for the measurement of the C factor. The P factor identifies the result of slope on the loss of soil–its value ranging from 0 to 1. The maximum values are assigned to areas without any management practices and the minimum values are given to built-up area or area under plantation or contour cropping. The length and steepness of the slope (LS factor) is also significant and to generate the LS factor, distribution and consolidation of soil is important. The computation of LS requires steepness of slope and flow accumulation which can be derived from shuttle radar topography mission (SRTM) data available in l-degree tiles, digital elevation model (DEM) provided by USGS server (dds.cr.usgs.gov/srtm/) since 2003. And it can be analysed in ArcGIS Spatial analysis (bit.ly/2NTFfmu) and Arc-hydro tool (bit.ly/2ytVpOy).


This USLE model requires digital data for rainfall, soil property, land use, DEM and soil distribution. Soil loss simulation model using environmental GIS is simple, reasonable and useful for assessment of soil erosion (Bleecker et ul. 1995; Savabi, l995). In order to get the desired result, specific soil loss risk models need to be formulated through a vegetation index calculated from remote sensing data. A risk map of soil erosion can be developed using the soil loss risk ‘ model following which soil loss and the factors of soil erosion can be assessed. On the basis of these estimations some measures for soil conservation may be suggested.


A second model-the MUSLE was proposed by Williams and Berndt in 1974 and later modified in 1977. As outlined earlier, the USLE model tries to identify average annual erosion based on rainfall energy. However, in the MUSLE model the rainfall energy is substituted by surface runoff. This plays a vital role in improving the prediction of sediment yield and makes it possible for the model to be applied to a single storm event (Neitsch et al., 2005). The runoff aspect is computed with the use of calculated values of runoff and peak rate of runoff at the channel of the watershed for M USLE. The measurement of topographic factor (LS) and crop management factor (C) are done with the help of GIS and field survey for land use/land cover. The use of MUSLE at the watershed level is a very elegant data processing procedure which needs expert application of GIS. If the model is applied correctly, accurate soil erosion and risk assessment can be undertaken at the watershed level (Pandey and Chowdary, 2009).


Based on the USLE and MUSLE models, the RUSLE model was developed in early 1990s in the National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory (NSRL) USA. RUSLE can calculate long-term and mean-annual erosion by water for a wide variety of farming, management, mining, construction, and forestry uses. This model gives more accurate estimation of R, K, C, P factors and soil erosion (Van Remortel et al., 2004). Analysis of the database which was not included in USLE model has been included in the RUSLE model in a theoretical framework describing the fundamental hydrologic and erosion process. As the distribution of rainfall is not uniform throughout the year, if rainfall occurs when the land is fallow, the soil is most vulnerable to erosion. Thus in the assessment of erosion the degree of R factor and its seasonal distribution need to be taken into consideration along with the cropping system. One of the major improvements in the RUSLE is the erosivity map. Previously the map was based on very few point data calculations, but in the revised version data from more than 1,000 locations is collected and analysed.


Another change which has been included in RUSLE is related to rock fragments in the soil–which is considered as mulch in the C factor. Since the development of the USLE, a large number of questions have been raised about the L factor. The reason being that the choice of slope length depends on the judgment of the user. RUSLE provides important guidelines to choose slope length values to provide consistent results amongst different users. An assessment of the magnitude of soil erosion and its impact on the land and environment are major challenges in the present day scenario.



Models like USLE, MUSLE and RUSLE facilitate accurate and timely pattern and risk analysis of soil erosion in terms of cost, time and accuracy. USLE is used by soil scientists, water resource experts and preservationists. A few revisions and changes adopted in RUSLE have enhanced its value as an important tool to estimate soil erosion. The mitigation of the problem of soil erosion can begin by proper estimation through remote sensing data and GIS techniques at the local, regional and national level.






Floods have now started occurring everywhere including hills, plains and river valleys, urban agglomerations and even the deserts of Rajasthan. Barely could the subcontinent overcome the shock and grief of the Uttarakhand floods (2013) when a massive flood inundated a large part of the  Chennai metropolis in 2015 killing 470 people and affecting the lives of more than 3.3 million families (PTI, 2016). The latest disaster occurred in Kerala during August 2018 and ravaged the State with a loss of reportedly 3 billion USD (LiveMint, 2018). It goes without saying that floods have emerged as a major concern in developing countries. Flood is a consequence of several interlinked and multivariate systems–geological, hydrological, physiographical, meteorological and anthropogenic–which need to be understood in order to predict and mitigate it. This demands high–powered technologies and scientific acumen.


In this context, GIS technology, comprising of ground based and airborne/satellite borne remote sensing data provides major inputs. The digital computing of map data (points, lines and polygons) on multiple themes and huge volumes has emerged as an unparalleled tool in the mapping, monitoring, modelling and mitigation of natural disasters. The article takes a panoramic view of river floods and the advantages of GIS in tackling them. Once planners and managers see value in it, plans on optimal flood disaster protection and preventive development can be formulated and executed. This has been enumerated in this article taking certain type cases from India and the adjoining countries.


Life History of Rivers

Like humans, rivers too have a life history with a youthful stage in the high order mountains that form the catchment, a mature stage in the plains and an old stage in the coastal regions as seen in Figure 1 (Thornbury, 1985). The well–defined life history of rivers is dominantly controlled by the isostatic and eustatic phenomena of the Earth. While isostasy deals with the elevation of the path of the rivers, the eustatic phenomenon is related to the mean sea level (MSL) or the base level of erosion. When rivers are born in the mountains-much above the MSL, they have a lot of energy. They incise the mountains vertically and reach the foothills as soon as possible as their aim is to attain MSL. Since they have high energy like youngsters, the stage is designated as such (1, Fig. 1). Having reached the plains, the rivers ply only a few hundred meters above MSL–with comparatively less energy, moving in sinuous paths to reach the coasts. This is designated as the mature stage or second stage as shown in Figure 1. Once the rivers reach the coasts, they attain the base level of erosion/MSL and do not have any energy to travel further, nor carry the sediments they brought all along. The rivers then surrender to the waves and tides of the ocean, developing deltas–designating it into an old stage (3, Fig.1). An understanding of a river’s life history thus forms the basis of geotectonic and anthropogenic aggressions that add to the flood phenomena.




Flood in Catchment

Owing to the youthful stage of rivers, hilly regions are inherently the kitchens for floods but, wherever there are topographic features with semicircular escarpments (4, Fig. 2), streams witness massive headward erosion due to the steep slopes causing heavy floods 95, Fig. 2) in the foothills and the adjacent plains. The GIS based analysis of the IRS LISS III FCC imagery of the Kozhikode-Palakkad region of Kerala shows that the massive floods in Kerala in August 2018 were due to this phenomenon, besides others.


Kosi Floods

The recurring flood in the Kosi River has also been worrisome. The study of Kosi region shows branches of the old course of the Kosi in its eastern part (6, Fig. 3) whereas currently the river (7, Fig. 3) is flowing with westerly convexity. This indicates that the Kosi has gradually shifted towards a westerly and southwesterly direction, dumping huge quantities of sediments brought down from the Himalayas at the foothills, forming the ‘Kosi Cone’. Multi dated topographic sheets, satellite data and integrated GIS analyses show that the Kosi cone is spreading, indicating the phenomena of sliding. The post collision tectonic model (Ramasamy, 2006) shows that the northerly-directed compressive force which had originally shifted the Indian Plate towards the north, is still active, but since the Himalaya is obstructing from the north, the compressive force is partly uplifting the Himalayan mountains and partly deforming the Indian Plate. Because of such an uplift and the relative subsidence of the southern plains, the Kosi cone is gradually sliding. This is causing westerly shift of the river (6 to 7, Fig. 3). Due to such a migration, the old courses, (6, Fig. 3) the present course (7, Fig. 3) and the western parts are often flooded. As the Kosi cone is in a continuous process of sliding, the shifting of the river is also continuous, flooding newer areas in the western part of the present course (7, Fig. 3). In fact, the Kosi cone is a typical example of all Himalayan rivers, as at the point of debouch, most rivers behave in a similar way. Thus all outlet points of the Himalayan rivers demand detailed studies of remote sensing and GIS.


Tectonic Subsidence and Floods in the Central Parts of Kerala

Kerala is prone to seismicity, especially in the central parts of the State (Rajendran et al., 2009) During the Thohuku earthquake, 2011, off the Pacific coast of northern Japan, major land subsidence occurred (Imkiire and Koarai, 2012). Similar observations were made in other parts of the world as well. Kerala too exhibits a similar possibility where clusters of maximum seismicity may have caused the central part to subside. Further, while the studies of Ramasamy (2006) indicate tectonic activity along the lineaments of Kerala, observations by Singh and Raghavan (1989) and Raj et a1. (2001) show more episodes of seismicity along north and northwest (NNW), south and southeast (SSE) faults. Since the central part of Kerala is subject to land subsidence as the 618 based spatial analysis carried out between isoseismal maxima and flood inundation shows, it would attract more floodwaters as revealed in the August 2018 floods (9, Fig. 4).


Tectonic Disturbance to rivers and floods in Trichy

Selvakumar and Ramasamy (2014) have inferred that tectonic features significantly control floods in different parts of Tamil Nadu. A GIS study of urban Trichy and adjacent areas of the central Ta mil Nadu shows the influence of tectonic subsidence as well as the triggered aberration between tributaries and the main river. There are two major sub parallel faults in the Trichy region, which extends from Puducherry in the northeast to Kambam valley in the southwest (10, Fig. 5), along which continued land subsidence occurs (Ramasamy and Karthikeyan, 1998). It is because of this that river Cauvery flows sluggishly within the fault-bounded Trichy region. Therefore the Arayar tributary system in the north (11, Fig. 5) and the Koraiyar tributary in the southwest (12, Fig. 5) are not able to deliver their floodwater load into the Cauvery, especially when the river is in full spate. In other words, Cauvery finds it difficult to carry its own floodwaters within the fault-bounded Trichy block, rendering it impossible to accommodate the floodwaters of its tributaries, which consequently leads to the inundation of urban Trichy and adjacent regions (13, Fig. 5).


Floods in Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra is infamous for its annual floods, where a huge quantum of water recurrently debouches onto the plains through a narrow passage in the Himalayas. A GIS based integrated study of flood plains, old courses and the present drainages show that there are older flood plains (14, Fig. 6), younger flood plains marked with the noodles of old courses (15, Fig. 6) and the present river. The study reveals that the river is migrating towards the north. It also shows that under the present conditions of its shifting towards north, the northern bank is more prone to flooding. However, in the event that the northward movement is restricted, the river may flood the older courses. This mandates a holistic remote sensing and GIS based study of the tectonics, migratory history, meteorology, flood dynamics and geochronology of the old courses of the Brahmaputra.


Buried River Courses and the Chennai Flood of 2015

The GIS study of the region shows there is a major river system buried in the west, northwest and north of Chennai, (16, Fig. 7) with a large number of old rivers and streamlets embedded within. Ramasamy et al. (1992) infer that possibly the Cauvery flowed through the Chennai region about 3,000 years ago and left behind traces. The recent GIS study carried out involving a hierarchy of geo-anthropogenic parameters shows that the buried riverlets found within the major buried river system (16, Fig. 7) have acted as conduits for the flood 2015 in the Chennai region (Ramasamy et al., 2018). Once this buried river system was flooded, the inundation reached the other parts of the Chennai city. Such palaeo and present river dynamics must be studied in the context of anthropogenic aggressions, where the use of GIS can present exhaustive vistas.


Compressed Meanders of the Cooum River and the Chennai Flood of 2015

Drainage morphometry, in other words the architecture of the drainages, plays a vital role in river floods. For example, rivers that flow along straight courses will not cause any floods unless otherwise obstructed. Annularly flowing rivers will cause floods along their convex banks whereas when the excess water flows along the compressed meanders that have more sinuosity, it will flood either sides of the rivers. This is because compressed meanders may not be able to hold the high quantum and velocity of floodwaters. The GIS analysis of the compressed meandering pattern derived from IRS LISS III FCC data of the Cooum River in the Chennai region and its integration with 2015 flood data shows that the river has flooded the Egmore region extensively due to such compressed meanders (17, Fig. 8). Settlements thus should not be developed at the convex banks of the annular drainages and in the compressive meander zones. In addition, the existing settlements can be saved by laying straight canals linking the compressed noses of these river segments.


Eyed Drainages and the Cauvery Flood: Mysore

At times, drainages that flow as a single stream may split up into two or three, especially at their intersection points where faults occur. After crossing the faults they will again rejoin to flow as single stream. This has been called as ‘drainage anastomosis’ by Smith et al. (1997). The same has been mapped as eyed drainages in different parts of south India by Ramasamy et al. (2011) who inferred that the eyed drainages indicate tectonic subsidence at the intersection of faults and drainages. In this context the drainages, lineaments and flood plains interpreted from LANDSAT FCC and also IRS L188 111 FCC data were integrated using ArcGIS for the Mysore region. It shows that between NNE-SSW faults (18, Fig. 9) and the eyed drainages (19, Fig. 9), the land is subsiding due to which the Cauvery recurrently floods the region as marked by the colour red (20, Fig. 9) in the satellite data.


Main Channel-Tributary Dynamics and Bharatpur Floods

In mapping floods the interface dynamics between the main river channel and the tributaries is essential. A study of the Bharatpur-Agra region shows that the Yamuna has bundles of old courses (21, Fig. 10) to the west of its present course (22, Fig. 10). Similarly, the river Banganga has old courses (23, Fig. 10) to the north of its present course (24, Fig. 10) in the south. The integration of the data over a common GIS overlay reveals that the Yamuna migrated about 150-200 km towards the east and its tributary the Banganaga migrated about 40-50 km towards the south. This shows that when the main river, the Yamuna, was flowing in the western region in the area north of Bharatpur, the Ban ganga used to meet it there. But when the Yamuna shifted eastwards, its tributary the Ban ganga tried to catch it by taking a number of courses (between 23 and 24, Fig. 10) but could not achieve it and ultimately buried itself near Bharatpur. This is the reason for the waterlogging and marshiness in the Bharatpur region.


Sea Level and Floods

As discussed earlier, when rivers reach coastal zones, they attain MSL, depositing a delta to mark the end of their journey. At times, however, land may show elevations lower than the MSL where rivers stagnate. Such topographic conditions prevail in the Dongting region, China, where vast areas of several thousand square km has elevations lower than MSL. So the Xiang, the Zi and the Yi Yang rivers stagnate on reaching the Dongting region, causing huge hoods and marshiness in the area (25, Fig. l1). Now, China has made artificial pathways to drain the flood out.


In river flood studies, analysing topographic elevations along the path and profile of the rivers are also essential. A GIS analysis based on DEM profiling forms an excellent tool.



Floods in the Indus Delta: Pakistan

When rivers reach MSL they get a landward thrust from waves, tides and creeks which may cause drainage congestion and flooding. The LANDSAT data of Indus delta of Karachi region is one such example (26, Fig. 12). In coastal areas flood dynamics need to be studied involving oceanographic parameters such as waves, tides, creeks, storm surge; riverine parameters and tectonic parameters and more, for which GIS is a credible tool.



The river flood is a complex issue involving a hierarchy of geo, hydro, meteo and anthropogenic parameters. Only technologies that involve multi-spatial parametrics such as GIS and remote sensing, can provide credible solutions to flood related issues.


Kerala, with its magnificent natural landscapes and fertile valleys, is often described as ‘God’s own country’. During June to August 2018, unusually heavy summer monsoon rains caused disastrous floods across the state dashing this idyllic image. These were the worst floods Kerala had witnessed since 1924 resulting in the death of more than 324 people and requiring the relocation of at least a million 9abu, 2018). The places that suffered the most severe damage were Chengannur, Pandanad, Aranmula, Aluva, Chalakudy, Kuttanad and Pandalam while all 14 districts of Kerala were placed on red alert (Varghese, 2018; Rajiv, 2018; BBC News, 2018a; Mathrubhumi News, 2018a). According to the Kerala government, one-sixth of its total population was directly affected by the floods and their related incidents (Press Trust of India, 2018). The Indian government declared this a level three calamity, or a ‘calamity of a severe nature’. In an unprecedented response to the heavy rainfall, floodgates of 35 of Kerala’s 54 dams were opened. At Idukki, for example, all five floodgates of the dam were opened simultaneously for the first time in 26 years. Heavy rains in Wayanad and Idukki caused severe landslides and left the hilly districts isolated (Mathrubhumbi News, 2018b).


Crop damage

Continuous heavy rainfall in Kerala led to extensive flooding of agricultural lands, resulting in crop losses with an estimated value equivalent to INR 150 to 200 billion (Shenoy, 2018). Coffee, rubber, tea and black pepper were amongst the crops most affected. Even so, the extent of damage to coffee, tea, cardamom and rubber plantations is not yet clear. In rural Kerala, many farmers may not be able to harvest at all this season. Also, many lack adequate access to insurance to aid recovery.


Insurers to take a big hit

Insurance claims resulting from the floods have been initially estimated at INR 5,000 million. The situation for insurance companies is not as adverse as adverse as it was in the case of floods in Chennai or Jammu and Kashmir where approximately INR 50,000 million and INR 20,000 million were paid, respectively (Sinha, 2018). The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) of India has instructed the insurance companies to settle all claims expeditiously. Given the magnitude of the tragedy, there is considerable pressure on insurers to provide immediate cash. Health insurance companies could also take a hit due to an increase in waterborne diseases resulting from the floods.


Responding to future disasters

In addition to examining and managing the immediate consequences of the Kerala floods, the obvious question to ask now is what can be done to cope more effectively with future water related disasters, thus reducing damage and loss of life. Described below are ten measures that could contribute to greater resilience as such threats have become more frequent and severe.

Improved flood forecasting: The first step is to take advantage of recent improvements in flood forecasting. One critical limitation in India and other developing countries is the lack of monitoring networks, which prevents near real-time flood prediction. In response, researchers at International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and elsewhere are developing new techniques that use increasingly available satellite sensors to forecast floods based on river discharge. Radar altimetry, for example, accurately estimates water level and river discharge showing much potential for places where there is no river monitoring network (Tarpanelli et al. 2017, 2018). This technique is limited, however, by the low revisit time of the satellite, leading to delays in flood prediction. To overcome this, researchers have used the artificial neural network technique to merge data from multiple sources including different satellite missions and optical sensors as well as radar altimetry. In a study, researchers found this multi-mission approach to e the most reliable tool for estimating river discharge (ibid).


Better insurance products: Flood insurance for crop damage and insurance pooling for extreme flood events is a must. IWMI and the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Center’s (CGIARs) Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) developed the index based flood insurance (IBFI) for Bihar in collaboration with global reinsurer Swiss Re (Amarnath and Sikka, 2018). Scientists first examined past satellite images to identify historic floods and prepare a flood risk map. Villages in three locations were selected for the pilot: one in an area at high risk of flooding, one in a place with medium risk and one with low risk of inundation. The scheme went live in July 2018 with a total insured sum of around INR 5 million (approx. USD 78,000). For the pilot, the Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AICI) agreed to pay out money to farmers based on scientific data indicating the actual depth and the duration of flood waters in the paddy fields. In the initial stage of the pilot, which covered rice crops for the 2017 monsoon season (from early July until the end of October), the insurance product was fully subsidized with the project making premium payments on behalf of the farmers for a total insured value of INR 4,600,000 (Amarnath and Sikka, 2018). Crop insurance has become critical, particularly in view of increased agricultural shocks due to the vagaries of nature and it is not only vital for smallholders’ wellbeing, but also for national food security and stability.


Giving the floodplain back to nature: Much of the damage caused by floods in Kerala and Chennai was a direct consequence of indiscriminate human encroachment on the river and other water bodies. As long as primary economic activity continues on the floodplain, measures such as improved forecasting may be of little help. To fundamentally reduce vulnerability in the face of future disasters, government authorities need to delineate the 100-year floodplain–the area in which there is atleast 1 per cent chance of flooding in any given year–and strictly regulate development in this area.


Climate screening of development projects: To better manage current and future risks in these areas, the government and its development partners can resort to strict use of climate screening tools to clear development projects for implementation, based on the risks they pose in terms of land, water and ecosystems. Projects involving a higher risk level, given increasing climate variability, would require further innovation in order to proceed. There is a clear need for a more holistic approach to agri-food systems that takes into account the impacts and interactions between nature, humans, and agri-food systems that takes into account the impacts and interactions between nature, humans, and agri-food systems. Currently, CGIAR Research Programme on Water, Land and Ecosystem sis conducting studies to understand these systems (ibid).


Healing the ecosystem: Over time, settlements must be shifted out of the floodplain, giving it back to nature. Sound plans need to be implemented for helping to heal the river basin ecosystem. These plans should include measures such as strict regulation of sand mining and other activities that directly affect river flow. Also important are planned flooding of the river downstream, which misses the annual flood cycle to manage fluvial sediment in the river and the reservoir. Encroachment of roads, houses and other structures onto the floodplain as well as various types of land use (such as high-value agriculture) may limit the scope for controlled flooding, although some degree of thigh-flow- restoration should still be possible. Enhanced water releases from dams are something used to dilute downstream discharge of wastewater. In these cases, restoring naturally low levels of flow can be quite difficult, if not impossible, due to human health concerns (Yoon et. al., 2015).


More built infrastructure: Reservoirs constructed at the centre of river basins, based on feasibility studies, are vital to reduce the risk of water-related disasters through increased capacity for storing surface water. Dams provide numerous economic benefits and can mitigate the adverse impacts of water variability and extreme climate events. However, such large-scale water infrastructure has also caused significant social and environmental costs prompting calls for alternative, nature-based solutions. The solution to this dichotomy is not to forego investment in built infrastructure, which remains essential for socio-economic development, but to five greater consideration to the role of nature in planning and operating large, built infrastructure.


Managing difficult tradeoffs: Sediment trapping in reservoirs may modify to a large degree the sediment transport downstream of the dam. This often results in modified channel and floodplain geometry, which in many cases represents a fundamentally different physical habitat to support native ecosystems        . It may prove impossible to maintain some semblance of natural flow and sediment transport including connections between the river and its floodplain. In that case, one must ask whether the ecosystem and species that can be supported through dam re-operation actually justify the social and economic costs.


Dam re-operation: Dam operation contributed at least partly to the flooding in Kerala (BBC, 2018b). Physical constraints posed by dam infrastructure, especially the design of outlet works, can severely limit the rate at which controlled water releases from a dam can be managed, making it difficult or impossible to release water of variable amounts, ranging from low-flow to flood-flow rates (Richter and Thomas, 2007; Mul et al. 2015). In contrast to the large sums of money being invested inner dam construction, financiers and international development organizations have not adequately supported dam re-operation, i.e., the modification of dam operations. Correcting this imbalance is critical to better enable low-income countries to operate dams as an integrated system rather than in isolation (Richter and Thomas, 2007).


A holistic approach: Individual measures aimed at mitigating flood risk and ecosystem impacts should form part of a holistic approach based on an understanding of the various components of the urban water system as well as upstream and downstream relationships. Referred to as integrated urban water management (OIWM), the approach not only relies on flood models and the u se of embankments to divert water, but also encompasses the entire water cycle–water sources and supplies as well as wastewater (e.g., its use for urban cropping) and storm water–viewing urban water in the wider basin context.


Institutional reforms: Better management of disaster risks, with the ultimate aim of achieving water security can be a key driver for sustainable growth. To foster quicker progress toward this aim, responsibility for water management should lie with a single institution which is able to take high-level decisions on water use, implement measures to reduce disparities in water resources and respond to water-related disasters.


Using nature for climate change adaptation in urban areas

In the wake of disasters like the floods in Kerala, the standard response is to boost expenditures on dams and other ‘grey’ or built infrastructure. To achieve water security, however, societies need to invest as well in ‘green’ or natural infrastructure such as wetlands, watersheds and floodplains (Eline et. al, 217). These nature-based solutions have a proven ability to mitigate the impacts of water-related disasters while also delivering other developments such as food production and biodiversity preservation (NesshÖver et. al, 2017).


Nature-based solutions promoting green and blue urban areas have significant potential to decrease the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of cities in light of climatic change. Building on existing evidence and needs for future science and policy agendas when dealing with nature-based solutions are about: (i) producing stronger evidence on nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation and raising awareness by increasing implementation; (ii) adapting for governance challenges in implementing nature-based solutions by using reflexive approaches which implies bringing together new networks of society, nature-based solution ambassadors, and practitioners; and (iii) considering socio-environmental justice and social cohesion when implementing nature-based solutions by suing integrated governance approaches that take into account an integrative and transdisciplinary participation of diverse actors. Taking these needs into account, nature-based solutions can serve as climate mitigation and adaptation tools that produce additional co-benefits for societal well-being, thereby serving as strong investment options of or sustainable urban planning (Kabisch et al. 2016).


The solutions are often implemented in an ad-hoc manner as is the case with conventional built infrastructure. Moreover, while there have been significant advances in the design and testing of nature-based solutions for risk mitigation, they have yet to be fully evaluated and standardized. As a result, some nature-based projects for climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction have been improperly designed, leading to unsatisfactory and unsustainable results.


There can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, given that weather hazards as well as the wider climatic and ecological conditions are variable and often poorly understood. Nonetheless, the conventional engineering sector has a long history of fully developed protocols and standards from which there is much to learn. Such guidance can aid project development and implementation while also helping to achieve a common understanding of the likely effectiveness of such solutions in reducing risks.



The recent incidents of floods across Kerala have shed light on the severe problems induced by flood events. Given the reality of climate change, these flood disasters will escalate until some proactive measures are taken to mitigate them. There are several natural and anthropogenic ways to reduce the impact of these disasters and ensure societal well-being.



Nearly everything that occurs in the public realm occurs in the context of geography. Geographic Information System (GIS) is evolving rapidly and the adoption of geospatial data is already emplaced in most governmental initiatives for service delivery. GeoPortals (web portals with GIS functionalities) enable sharing of spatial data, services and resources within the government. Department involved in agriculture, forestry and ecology, water resources, health care, education, disaster management, natural resources management and climate change have found that their objectives are carried out more effectively and efficiently with the use of geospatial data and services.


Governance, e-Governance and m-Governance

Governance is a broad concept that describes the forms of governing (Hughes, 2012). There are evidences of historical co-evolution of governance and technology (Tunzelmann, 2003), which now stands at the cusp of a new era, thanks to information technology and the Internet. Modern communication technologies offer new channels for contacting officials, discussing issues, accessing information and mobilizing action. This has resulted in bringing people to use technologies as a group instead of individuals (Mossberger et al., 2007). The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) is envisaged to enhance the “delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees” while e-Governance is credited with reducing the cost of government operations and improving transparence and accountability (Panazardi et al., 2002). Mobile governance or m-Governance refers to a collection of services where strategic use of government services and applications are made possible using cellular/mobile telephones, laptop computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and wireless internet infrastructure. m-Governance is a sub-domain of e-Governance which ensures the availability of services to people via mobile technology. Mobile phones are also considered to be an effective tool in strengthening democracy through better citizen-government interaction, thus influencing the political decision making governments accountable for their activities.


e-Governance in India

The launch of National Informatics Centre Network (NICNET) which is a satellite based computer network and the formulation of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006 paved the foundation for e-Governance in India (Zoughbi, 2017) says that “The NeGP was conceptualized to focus on e-Governance initiatives at the national level with an aim to make all government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man”.


Augmentation of m-Governance started on December 23, 2013 under the guidance of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) to develop it as the core infrastructure for enabling public services through mobile devices. The m-Governance portal and the m-App store can be accessed at mgov.gov.in for services oriented statistics. Time series data for m-Governance shows marked improvement in delivery of government services to the citizens through mobile technology.


g-Governance and its practice in India

Geospatial tools and technologies have tow characteristics–the first is that they are multipurpose power-tools that quickly and accurately provide information about locations, distances, directions, routes, travel time and cost and the characteristics of places and second that geospatial tools and technologies contain a powerful set of functions that are built into smartphones that allow for the identification of the location of the device and hence the location of the user/vehicle (Downs, 2014).


The current Earth observation (EO) system in India is capable of serving the evolving needs and fundamental priorities of the Indian government. Over the past decades, EO data, integrated with in-situ observations and tools, have been supporting a host of applications in the areas of land and water, ocean and atmosphere, environment and ecosystems and urban and rural applications including disaster risk reduction (Jaiswal and Bhatawdekar, 2017).


Geospatial technologies enable us to understand problems better as they encompass the data in the form of maps and coordinates, helping in administration, planning, monitoring, management and decision support. The technology provides an edge over conventional methods with location-based knowledge and hence it can help promote both good governance and decentralized governance.


Space-based applications, derived through the synergetic use of EO, meteorological, communication or hybrid navigation satellites, complemented with ground-based observations, play a key role in harnessing the benefits of space technology for socio-economic security (like food, shelter infrastructure and etc.), sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and efficient governance.


Geospatial data acts as a backbone for g-Governance. Essentially this component contains base data in the form of high resolution satellite data (complete coverage of the country and temporal updating capability), nation-wide digital elevation model (DEM), thematic data and various ‘points of interest’ (PoI) data. The current EO system in India is capable of serving the evolving needs and fundamental priorities of the government. Over the past decades, EO data, integrated with in-situ observations and tools, has been supporting a host of applications in all possible sectors (Jaiswal and Bhatawdekar, 2017) Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has launched three categories of EO satellites:


  • Land and water resources observing systems–Resourcesat and RISAT series
  • Cartography (Cartosast series), and
  • Oceanographic atmosphere and weather series (Oceansat and INSAT)


A series of satellites are catering to the data need for addressing the multiple aspects of resource inventory. Some of the major applications carried out are land use/land cover mapping at various scales, forest cover mapping, biodiversity characterization, snow and glaciers inventory, wetland inventory, wasteland monitoring and many other applications at state and regional levels. Cartosat series of satellites are high-resolution imaging sensors and are primarily intended for application in the areas of cartography and large-scale mapping. Image processing technologies like multi-sensor fusion combines relevant information from two or more sensor data to form a single image. Fusing the imagery from resourcesat and Cartosat preserves both the high spatial resolution information as well as the spectral information.


Cartosat 2S (E) was launched by ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C38), along with 30 co-passenger satellites on June 23, 2017 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. Cartosat-2S (E), referred to as Cartosat-2 Series is sixth in the series of India’s EO satellites for cartographic applications.


This satellite is capable of providing high resolution imagery with a high degree of agility. Cartosat-2S (E) provides panchromatic imagery with a spatial resolution of .65 m and multispectral imagery in four spectral bands with a spatial resolution of 0.65 m and multispectral imagery in four spectral bands with a spatial resolution better than 2 m, with a nominal swath around 9.6 km. Cartosat-2S (E) data will meet the increasing user demands for cartographic applications at cadastral level, agriculture applications that require precision information (like crop insurance), disasters and planning studies at micro level and more. Figure 1 shows Cartosat 2S (E) data acquired over a rural area. National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) is responsible for acquisition, processing and disseminating aerial and satellite remote sensing data.


Another part of the g-Governance backbone is the collection of geoportals that empowers the services using web enabled GIS (WebGIS) concepts. A geoportal is a type of web portal used to find and access geographic information and associated geographic services (display, editing, analysis, etc.) via the Internet (Karabegovic and Ponjavic, 2012). Geoortals are important for effective use of GIS and act as key elements for spatial data infrastructure (SDI). ISRO’s Bhuvan (bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in, 2018) is a national geoportal, which is being widely used by the government, public, NGOs and the academia. Bhuvan was developed to provide satellite images and theme-oriented services that help planning, monitoring and evaluation of stakeholder’s activities in governance and development. Open Government Data (2015) specifies that Bhuvan platform provides nationwide seamless ortho-corrected image base, thematic datasets for natural resources, digital surface model (DSM), hydrologic base (from basin to watershed), millions of POI data, customized application tools for governmental data collaboration enabling g-Governance. It also renders near real-time data and information support towards management of natural disasters (like floods, landslides, forest fires and cyclones) in the country (Evangelidis et al., 2014; PIB 2016).


Applications developed on Bhuvan can be categorized as information, decision support, inventory, early warning and disaster support, inventory, early warning and disaster management and online mapping systems (Mehta and Sharma, 2015). The online/offline asset mapping applications built in juxtaposition with Android based mobile apps facilitate integration of crowd sourced data or field data (Bhuvan, 2018) into the platform and results in boosting citizen participation.


Currently, Bhuvan platform accumulates data pertaining to banks, health establishments, emergency services and more. This institutional authoritative data along high-resolution satellite data, thematic maps, visualization techniques, backend spatial analysis functions and mobile based field collection apps lead to the successful implementation of government-to-citizen, government-to-business, government-to-education and government-to-government applications that would integrate all levels and enable open access, citizen collaboration and transparency.


GIS, remote sensing, global positioning system (GPS), satellite and mobile communication systems and web technologies fall under geo-ICT. Many Indian scientific organizations are dealing to improve the technical competence in the area of geo-ICT along with industry participation. National Informatics Centre (NIC), Survey of India (SoI), Census of India, Forest Survey of India, Geological Survey of India, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization and India Meteorological Department have taken major initiatives in g-governance (Singh, 2009). NIC provides networking infrastructure and e-Governance support to the government at various administrative levels like federal, state and district, while the SoI is responsible for providing base maps and to psheets at various scales.


The Department of Space in September 2015 started joint action for ‘effective use of space technology’ for national development and good governance (PIB, 2015). Numerous projects emerged for various application areas that support flagship programmes–Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation for smart city development, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (housing for all scheme), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (irrigation and agriculture uplifting programme), National Mission for Clean Ganga, social safety net programmes and Digital India (Aliberti, 2018; Rajagopalan & Prasad, 2018).


Some of the major users of g-Governance are the ministries of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare; Rural development; Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation; Culture; Panchayati Raj; Law and justice; Health and Family Welfare; Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Communication and Information Technology; Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation; Human Resource Development and Home Affairs apart from state forest departments and government departments.



g-Governance has established a framework for India’s vision of a socially inclusive society using ICT. Effective utilization of satellite communication (SATCOM) infrastructure, supplemented by terrestrial system, with high bandwidth for broadcasting and in-situ observations enable efficient governance of societal applications like tele-education, tele-medicine and disaster risk reduction,. Geospatial technology has identified and ensured access to social services for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families, including those in remote areas, ethnic minorities and currently helping in monitoring, evaluation of the frameworks, programme implementation, regular reporting, clear and concise accountability mechanisms. With appropriate combinational use of ICT and geospatial tools along with an efficient strategy, India’s g-Governance is bound to ensure all the elements of good governance.






Humans are dependent on natural resources to fulfill their basic needs–food, clothes and shelter. However, there has been decline in these resources over last few decades with unprecedented population growth. Resources like water, arable land and fossil fuels have become scarce due to over-consumption. With world population expected to increase to 8.3 billion by 2030, food demand too is expected to increase by 50 per cent (Bruinsma, 2009) and demand for energy from hydropower and other renewable energy resources by 60 per cent (UNESCO, 2009). In the recent years, several countries have been facing severe water shortage. According to the United Nations (2012), water is unavailable to 40 per cent of eh population of sub-Saharan Africa while 783 million people do not have access to drinking water. Almost 850 million people are undernourished in the region running the risk of starvation and 1.5 billion people do not have access to energy (Schillebeeckx et al, 2012). In India, most cities are expected to run dry by the year 2020. According to Jain (2014), over the last 60 years, per capita availability of water in India has fallen by 70 per cent making India a water stressed nation. All these issues exist both globally and in India and are indicators of the non-sustainable use of natural resources. Continuous monitoring, therefore is much required to identify the pattern of depletion for timely intervention.


Monitoring of natural resources can be carried out at multiple scales. While investigations at the local level can be done by field ecologists, such as water resource experts and wildlife scientists to name a few, the continuous monitoring of landscape at a large scale and at a regular interval can be possible only by using geospatial technologies.


Geospatial technology is an amalgamation of state-of-the-art remote sensing, GISc/GIS and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology for the mapping of the Earth’s resources. While remote sensing has the capability of providing a synoptic view at a consistent temporal interval with scores of earth observing satellites, integration with GISc is what makes multi-scale and multi-dimensional data analysis feasible. With further integration with GNSS technology, it is possible to get precise location to calibrate and validate the geospatial information received from remote sensing, seamlessly integrating multi-scale information.


The longest remotely sensed time series data available from 1981 onwards is through the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) multi-spectral sensor on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES) onboard at daily temporal resolution. The preprocessed vegetation indicator product (normalized difference vegetation index–NDVI) is available for analysis at weekly and biweekly scale. This makes the continuous seasonal and long term monitoring of vegetation for a large area feasible. There are more recent data sets at a finer grain size available since 2000 such as Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and sensor on Aqua and Terra platform that have made mapping and monitoring of vegetation and water resources feasible (Sanchez et al., 2016). However, for better resolution at local scales the Landsat series could be useful–available from the early 1980s to the present. Similarly, gridded rainfall data is available from 1900 onwards (CRU 0.5ox0.5o monthly data, GPCC 1ox1o daily data), collected from different sources. The satellite based rainfall observations are available from 1960s onwards and hybrid product at a relatively finer resolution (CHIRPS at 0.05ox0.05o). Similarly soil moisture product is observed through microwave sensors (AMSR-E, ASCAT). With advancement in technology, NASA launched SMAP in 2015 that allows direct measurement of soil moisture.


In India, mapping and monitoring of natural resources using geospatial technology mostly comes under the purview of Department of Space (DoS) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Over the years, ISRO has launched several Earth observing satellites making continuous monitoring of different resources possible. The first Indian remote sensing satellite was launched in 1988 and since then ISRO has launched several satellites in continuation of the IRS SERIES (1B, 1C, 1D, P2, P3, P4, P6) and others such as Cartosat-1, and -2, -2A, -2B and Resourcesat-1 and -2, and RISAT (ISRO, undated) ISRO is also collaborating with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to launch the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission with the objective of acquisition of global images of ecosystem changes (Press Information Bureau, 2015). This will enable the understanding of disturbances, degradation and biomass variability.


Additionally, several theme specific national level organization such as Forest Survey of India (FSI) are engaged in specialized activities. There are several universities such as Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), School of Advanced Studies and non-profit organizations such as Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) who have been entrusted with responsibilities in developing and advancing geospatial technology for mapping and monitoring various natural resources. While there have been several studies focused on assessing the status of various resources and how it is changing over time, rarely has complete attribution at pixel level been carried out, except for qualitative assessment (Reddy et al., 2017).


The process of continuous monitoring of any natural resource using geospatial technology can be followed in six steps. The first step involves perceiving any change in resource. For example, noticing any change in forest cover. The second step involves quantification that implies assigning numbers to the change like answering: how much forest cover has been cleared? In the third step, attempts are made to understand if those changes are transformatory or just short-term variabilities in the status of natural resource. For example, seasonal change in vegetation cover may not be so important as compared to long term deforestation. Assessment of real change is an important step, but it is equally important to ascertain the factors responsible that could be proximal or distal. One such example is the forest fire in Uttarakhand that scientists have attributed to a combination of local anthropogenic fires enhanced by prevailing climatic conditions namely, strong E1 Nino phase (Kale et al., 2017). The comprehensive understanding along with associated drivers responsible can help future projections for all renewable and non-renewable resources. This can further help in formulating policy interventions to stop or slow down the depletion of natural resources. The continuous process of the six step cycle also needs to be followed up with successive monitoring activities.


In India, geospatial technology has been used for mapping various natural resources–one example being the long-term trend in vegetation and ground water in Maharashtra. The first study represents the change in vegetation condition over the years for different land covers. The 2005 map of land use/land cover has been developed by ISRO (Roy et al., 2015). The graphs are shown for cropland, built up and natural forest and the output of time series analysis of monthly MODIS NDVI product–form 2001 to 2016. The NDVI value ranges between -1 and 1 with positive values representing vegetation. The higher the value, healthier is the vegetation. We can see that there is substantial decline in vegetation in built up area. At eh same time, there is an increase in value of NDVI for cropland for all months suggesting a change in the cropping pattern or crop intensification, while the third graph describes forest seasonality over the years. A shift in green uptime can also be seen (40 per cent green uptime in later half of June has moved to later half of July between 2001 and 2016). Similarly green downtime has also shifted by almost 15 days (early to late December). These changes mandate further probing.


The second example relates to groundwater conditions in Maharashtra. The groundwater depth for different well locations across states are available through WRIS portal, developed as a joint venture between Central Water Commission (CWC), DoS and Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India. These point locations are commonly used to understand the spatial structure of the availability of water resource through the use of geospatial technology. The point observations are converted to represent a surface using spatial interpolation because of the inherent characteristic of spatial continuity of groundwater. The map shows statistically significant change (z score) in groundwater depth in the month of August between 2001 and 2015 across Maharashtra. The large negative values represent increase in groundwater table whereas the large positive values are areas where there is substantial decline in groundwater table.



Over the years, scientists have worked on bringing together datasets available at different scales from various satellites to gain complementary information. With the multi-senor integration and the narrowing gap between geospatial technology and artificial intelligence web based technologies, it is now possible to seek information at a very fine scale. This will help build a resounding understanding to help provide interventions at local scales and provide guidance to policy makers.



Remote sensing and GIS are promising tools for handling spatial and temporal data and help in integrating them for successful planning of natural resources. Remote sensing is the science of measuring the Earth using sensors mounted on high-flying aircrafts or satellites. These sensors collect data in the form of images and provide insights for manipulating analyzing, and visualizing those images.


In a natural resource-rich country like India, management, especially of land and water, is crucial for sustainable development. Management of natural resources calls for scientific tools for timely and accurate dissemination of information. Since natural resources are not uniformly distributed and are spatially varied, it is challenging to capture the correct picture. Any kind of improvement thus requires spatial information. In natural resource management, remote sensing and GIS are mainly used in the mapping process. These technologies can be used to develop a variety of maps for vegetation, soil, street and more. However, before such maps are developed, there is a variety of data that needs to be collected and analyzed. A wide range of remote sensing applications is presented in Table 1 and it gives details of the required spectral range.


Major Applications

Land management: In India, the agriculture sector alone sustains the livelihood of around 50 per cent of the population (Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, 2016), therefore, increase in crop productivity has been the main concern. Since, the scope for increasing area under agriculture is rather limited, advanced crop production forecasting is required for better policy making. Even though globally there have been large experiments related to agriculture assessment, in India it was first attempted by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The experiment–Agricultural Resource Inventory and Survey Experiment (ARISE) used aerial colour photographs to estimate crop acreage in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh and in Patiala district of Punjab. The other major uses of remote sensing and GIS in agriculture include crop identification, stress detection, identification of planting and harvest dates, crop yield modeling, estimation of pest and disease infestation, soil moisture estimation, irrigation monitoring, soil mapping, drought monitoring, land covering, land degradation mapping and more.


Soil management: GIS is a powerful tool that is especially relevant for soil management–information which could help prioritise development actions. GIS, RS and GPS have much to offer for preparing soil fertility maps. It is widely recognized that satellite remote sensing can provide an inexpensive, rapid and effective method of data collection and production of various kinds of thematic maps. Once the soil fertility maps are created, it is possible to transform the information from Soil Test Crop Response (STCR) models into spatial fertilizer recommendation maps. Such maps provide site-specific recommendation without testing the soil. The recommendations can be obtained by an extension agent/farmer simply by locating his farm on the map. Remote sensing has evolved into an important (supplement to ground observations in the study; of terrestrial vegetation and soil.


Watershed management: A watershed is a natural hydrological unit and its management v involves the holistic linking of upstream and downstream areas. Scientists now recognize that the best way to protect natural resources is to understand and manage them on a watershed basis. Everything that is done in a watershed affects the watershed’s system (Yongsheng, 2004). Watershed management provides a way for sustainability, integrating natural resource management with communities and their livelihood. They are important as ecological units from the perspective of conservation of rainfed marginal areas enabling a sustainable living. Availability of clean water is currently being regarded as a great challenge, especially in India. With the help of satellite data and GIS: water bodies such as rivers, lakes, dams and reservoirs can be mapped in 3D formats and the data can be used in the planning of sustainable management of water bodies. Watersheds are hydrologic units that are often used as biophysical and socio-economic or political units for the planning and management of natural resources.


Urban land management: Urbanisation is important and inevitable for development, but its proper planning and management is crucial to sustenance. One of the features of GIS is multilayered mapping, which is significant for urban planning. Urban management requires layered data on a single map wherein use of remote sensing and GIS applications comes handy. This data helps municipal corporations/ town planning boards to build cities that are better organised (Patkar, 2010; Rai and Kumra, 2011).


Geographical information of a location can be managed, correlated, foreseen and disseminated through GIS. In recent times, agencies, both central and state, have recognised the utility of GIS in problem solving through reducing cost and time. It is being actively used by municipal corporations, real estate firms, community developers and public works departments to deal with aspects like health infrastructure, disaster management, security, education, culture, transport, telecommunications and electricity etc. The information systems with socio-economic data overlaid upon satellite data makes urban planning cost effective and accurate. India used to be dependent on photogrammetry for obtaining information regarding urban planning. But since March 17, 1988 with the launch of its first satellite (IRS-1A) equipped with LISS-I sensor, which could acquire data at a spatial resolution of 72.5 megapixels, the application of remotely sensed data (from various sensors) in urban and regional planning processes has gained a momentum. First-time national level, high-resolution satellite data utilisation for preparation of large scale (1:10,000) urban geospatial database under the National Urban Infrastructure (NUIS) programme is being done by ISRO for 152 towns (covering ~50,000 sq km) using high-resolution satellite data (Cartosat-IPAN and Resourcesat LISS-IV).


Forest and ecosystem: Forest cover of the world is declining at an alarming rate, but since it is a renewable resource, it can be regenerated through sustainable management. Remote sensing and GIS data can generate information with regard to forest cover and types of forest present within an area. This information is critical in the development of forest management plans and in the process of decision making to ensure that effective polices have been put in place to control and govern the manner in which forest resources are to be utilized. One of the important missions in this regard was the first national level remote sensing based mapping of the forest cover undertaken in 1983 following which the Forest Survey of India continues to publish bi-annual updates and reports.


Coastal zone management: Coastal ecosystems have high ecological significance. GIS and remote sensing data is used to study coastal ecosystem and marine living resources which include coastal habitats like mangroves, coral reefs and more. Apart from this, suspended shoreline dynamics can be studied and climatic changes leading to cyclone and sea level rise may be of special interest too.


Geology/mineral resource management: Remote sensing in mineral exploration can help miners find and evaluate deposits without having to undertake massive exploration operations. Such images are used in two key operations. Such images are used in two key ways–through mapping the geology, faults and fractures of an ore deposit and by recognizing hydrothermally altered rocks by their spectral signature.


Images are gathered either through optical sensors or through synthetic aperture sensors. Optical sensors measure the spectral data of sunlight reflected from the Earth’s surface. Synthetic aperture sensors are able to sense electromagnetic data by transmitting microwaves and receiving the back scatter waves from the Earth’s surface. Remote sensing is a valuable tool in the discovery of high-value commodities such as diamonds and gold, which are becoming more difficult to locate. While it may not show exactly where major deposits are, data gathered through sensors can be used to narrow down field surveys to smaller areas.


Expensive operations like drilling and fieldwork can be undertaken after relevant satellite based information is gathered (Kay, 2018). The greatest advancement in mineral exploration has been the ability to synthesize various forms of data. Known drill results can be integrated with topographic maps, air photos, structural maps and ore grade data. Data synthesis can greatly increase the accuracy and effectiveness of an exploration programme.



Remote sensing and GIS be used to manage the limited natural resources in an effective and efficient manner. Geospatial data is effective in the analysis and determination of factors that affect the utilisation of these resources. The technologies provide a platform through which we can generate information that can be used to make sound decisions for sustainable development of the natural resources of India.



THE 1.5oC IPCC report released in Incheon, South Korea has come with a dire prognosis; a 2oC warmer world will have devastating effects on communities, economies and ecosystems. The goal of climate change therefore, must be firmly fixed to 1.5oC to have a fighting chance to avoid the worst impacts.


But limiting warming to 1.5oC will be difficult, if not impossible. The IPCC report makes it clear that the Paris Agreement cannot limit warming to even 2oC. In order to limit warming to 1.5oC, CO2 emissions will have to be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach net-zero by 2050. This means maximum effort needs to be made by 2030. This will be a herculean task considering the obstructionist behaviour of the US–historically the world’s biggest polluter.


In Incheon, the American delegation tried its level best to dilute the findings of the 1.5oC report. This is a continuation of the Trump administration’s policy to destroy global climate negotiations and promote fossil fuels. How the rest of the world handles the climate rogue behaviour of the US will decide whether we can meet the 1.5oC goal.


The world urgently needs a “Plan B”, as Plan A-the Paris Agreement-is inadequate. The first component of Plan B should be to quickly achieve a global consensus to make 15°C the new target. There will be an inclination among the countries to reject 1.5°C as impractical and keep the target at 2°C. This would be disastrous for poor and developing countries. If we keep the target at 2°C, we will probably overshoot it. But if we agree to keep the warming within 1.5°C, we will probably contain it well within 2°C. Plan B requires the building of a new coalition that keeps the US in climate negotiations but marginalizes its overwhelming influence. This will mean a Paris Agreement Plus approach that creates more forums for sector-specific and regional alliances on reducing emissions.


One area where I disagree with the 1.5°C report is with resin-ct to the phasing out of fossil fuels. The report emphasizes the need to reduce coal, though it allows the use of natural gas with carbon capture and storage. This differentiation among fossil fuels is more politics than science. All studies show that gas is equally climate damaging if methane leakages are included. We will have to act on all fossil fuels simultaneously.


We will succeed with Plan B if the burden of this transition is shared equitably and fairly among countries. As the IPCC report points out, “social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 15°C”. The world, however, requires a new formulation of equity in which every country must act now and actively raise its level of ambition. Developed countries and rich developing countries must take the lead by decarburizing their economies and reducing consumption. Poor developing countries should pursue low-carbon pathways and limit addition of fossil fuel assets.


Limiting warming to 1.5oC will require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in everything we do. This is the right time to do this. We have the scientific understanding and technology. Limiting warming to 1.5oC requires investing an additional US $2.4 trillion annually in the energy sector between now and 2035. This is about 2.5 per cent of the global GDP. In comparison, military spending in 2017 amounted to 2.2 per cent of the GDP. The question is: are we smart enough to switch spending from killing to living?





Mask the sun

THE IPCC Special Report on 1.5oC says there is a high agreement that injection of chemicals into the upper atmosphere could help limit global warming. The technique, Stratospheric Aerosol Injection, essentially involves spraying a bunch of aerosols in the stratosphere, so that the reflective particles block and reflect the sun’s rays, ultimately cooling the planet. Proposals range from shooting particles form artillery guns, using shooting particles from artillery guns, using large hoses to reach the sky, to emptying particles form the back of aircraft.


Some scientists claim that a controlled and targeted release of certain aerosols, such as sulphur, will roughly offset the effect of several thousand kilograms of carbon dioxide. But a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution in January 2018 uses models to predict that such climate cooling techniques, if abruptly stopped, would speed up the warming of the planet at a much more accelerated rate, leading to a huge loss of species.


Let’s pull out the carbon

THE IDEA has been bouncing around climate change policy circles for well over a decade, but it’s only been in the past few years that the technology–direct air carbon dioxide capture and storage–has been tested in the real world. The technology involves chemical scrubbing processes that capture CO2 and bury it well below the ground in geological structures. Swiss startup Clime works AG has a facility in Iceland that can capture 50 tonnes of CO2 a year and bury it in underground basalt formations.


Silicate can do magic

CERTAIN ROCKS, especially silicates, are prone to absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, this rate of absorption is limited by the surface area of exposed silicates, and so is naturally quite slow. Researchers are now looking for ways to speed up this process of silicate weathering, also referred to as enhanced weathering (EW). The concept is still in its infancy. But typical EW scheme involves the distribution of large amounts of crushed silicate materials over tracts of open land.


On a thin cloud

CIRRUS CLOUDS do not reflect ample solar radiation back into space. But since they form in high altitudes, they trap long, wave radiation and have a climate impact similar to greenhouse gases. Scientists plan to inject dust ice nuclei into strata where they form to reduce their optic depth. This would allow more heat to escape into space.




A silver lining

THE MARINE Cloud Brightening Project is based on the premise that spraying a fine mist of sea water into clouds can make them whiter, reflecting more sunlight back into space. University of Washington researchers are developing a nozzle that turns saltwater into tiny particles that could be sprayed into the marine cloud layer.


How about CO2 for fuel

TAKING A step ahead, Canadian-based clean energy company Carbon Engineering has constructed a prototype plant, installed large fans, and has been extracting around one tonne of pure CO2 every day. It has recently begun synthesizing a mixture of petrol and diesel, using the captured CO2 and hydrogen split from water with clean electricity–a process they call Air to Fuels (A2F). This could revolutionize the transport industry, a major polluter.


Employ trees, crops

UN CLIMATE body IPCC has over and again been suggesting the carbon-removal technology, bioenergy with geologic carbon capture and storage (BECCS), as a silver bullet for global warming. The concept is drawn from the integration of trees and crops, which extract CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, the use of biomass in power stations or biofuel refineries, and the application of carbon capture and storage via CO2 injection into geological formations. BECCS proponents claim the technology could remove 10 billion tonnes of CO2 global CO2 emissions.



India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change has been slow to start and its sectoral missions are not aligned with the scheme s the government has announced to tackle climate change


IN THE middle of an erratic monsoon, in June 2008, India announced its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). When it happened, we were just on e of the 10-odd countries in the world to have a consolidated policy instrument to tackle climate change.

Ten years later, and with the monsoon being even more erratic, there is no clarity on how NAPCC has fared. Official are unwilling to divulge information and the budget heads and schemes through which the plan is being implemented have changed enough times to make tracking its performance difficult, if not impossible.


It is also equally true that India is now more vulnerable to climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index of 2018, published by German Watch, a non-profit working on North-South equity and preservation of livelihoods, India is the 12th most vulnerable country to climate change impacts. Every year, it witnesses an average of 3,570 deaths attributable to climate-related events, and the cost of climate change impact it will pay is projected to run into trillions of dollars in the near future.


For a country that has already been suffering from climate change impacts, the formulation of a policy to tackle the problem should have come in natural course. But NAPCC was more an exercise to secure international standing than anything else. The first decade of the 21st century was a period of great churning in terms of the political and economic discussions around climate change. Though there was no institutional pressure, developed countries were badgering developing countries to reduce their emissions. In 2007, China released its national plan to address climate change issues, leaving India as the only big developing country without such an instrument. As a result, the government wanted a policy instrument before the G8 Summit at Tokyo in 2008 and the Conference of Parties at Copenhagen in 2009.


To this end, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government constituted the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change (PMCCC) in mid-2007. The 26-member council included ministers, independent experts and retired government experts. Over three high-powered sessions, between July 13, 2007 and June 2, 2008, the government managed to announce NAPCC a month before the G8 summit to be held in July 2008. The plan, which has eight sectoral missions, was to be overseen by six Union ministries. However, overall 10 ministries, including finance and external affairs, too, were involved in its implementation.

                         ‘Water budgeting will help’


WE HAVE developed a model template for the preparation of State Specific Action Plans (SSAP) with a dedicated component on water budgeting which will be useful for any future planning. SSAPs are plans made by states for the National Water Bengal and Chhattisgarh are almost final. We expect the final drafts by December. States are becoming sensitized to the impacts of climate change. Though baseline studies have been conducted in only six states so far we are confident that an expansion is imminent and several workshops are being conducted to facilitate the same.


The rushed manner in which NAPCC was formulated ensured that the document merely provided broad objectives and did not address strategy. While PMCCC had representation of diverse sectors on paper, the document’s content was primarily shaped by a three-member group from within the council-the principal scientific advisor, former secretary to the then Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the director general of Delhi-based nonprofit The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The final draft was prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office, further limiting the significance of inputs from the council.


Following the hurried announcement of NAPCC in 2008, the ministries concerned took six more years to approve the missions. By then, the new National Democratic Alliance (NBA) government had formed in 2014. Under the new dispensation, PMCCC has met, reportedly, just once in 2105. Though the government has announced new schemes to meet the climate change objectives, it has not aligned or integrated them with NAPCC. Due to this, the missions have lost homogeneity and functionality.


There are several other challenges that the missions face. One, the monitoring system is either absent or ineffective. Two, the budgetary support by the government is very limited. Considering the scant domestic and international channels for finance, the government needs to mobilize funds from different sources. Three, states have to frame their mm action plans, or State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC), in line with NAPCC. But SAPCCS framed by almost all the states are vague.


Politically, the most significant part of NAPCC is the introduction of co-benefits “measures that promote our development objectives while also yielding co-benefits for addressing climate change effectively”, as per PMCCC. But 10 years after it was announced, are we closer to realizing the targets NAPCC sought to meet? A look at how the missions have performed: The mission covers the entire sweep of water management to fight climate change impacts: from water conservation to increasing water use efficiency. Initially, in 2007, the government proposed an allocation of `20,000 crore under the 11th Five Year Plan. This was slashed to `15,000 crore in the 12th Plan (2012-2017). During 2012-2015, the Union budgets altogether allocated a paltry `350 crore to the mission. But only `2.16 crore was spent till 2015.


The failure to covert allocations into actions prompted the Lok Sabha in August 2018, the government earmarked just `60 crore in 2015-2018. Of this, a mere `12.36 crore was spent. In the 2018-19 Union Budget, the mission head was removed, and tracking the mission expenditure or activities became difficult.


Effectively, the mission has not taken off. Though goals have been set, the strategy to achieve them has not been prepared. States are supposed to formulate State Specific Action Plans (SSAPS) to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. SSAPS are action plans made by states for this mission only. But no state has prepared SSAP for this mission. According to an August 2018 reply given by the Union minister of state for water resources, so far `2.8 crore has been spent on preparation of these SSAPS in 16 states. In late 2017, only a model template for SSAP was adopted by all the states. The states were also supposed to create a baseline data set on water resources to better forecast a situation in face of changing climate. But so far only 26 such baseline projects in six states have been undertaken.


Creation of assets, such as irrigation canals and water treatment plants, has also crawled at a snail’s pace. In the last 10 years, just 1,237 water bodies have been rejuvenated as against a target of 10,000 for which nearly `265 crore was sanctioned. Similarly just 24 additional forecasting stations and 36 additional water quality monitoring stations have been set up till 2017, compared to targets of 100 and 113 respectively.


The only bright spot has been the creation of 702 hydrological observation stations against a target of 800. Still while these are supposed to improve flood forecasting and warning systems, no such improvement is evident in the management of recent floods in the country.


                                      ‘Must focus on rainfed areas’


A STATE is too large a geographical area to have an effective water budget. It is better to budget on a smaller scale, like budgets for water sheds and aquifers. The National Water Mission focuses too much on irrigation and disregards development of rainfed agriculture, which is how the majority of farmers in the country practice farming. The format of State Specific Action Plans is comprehensive, but complicated and long. The integration of works by departments and implementation agencies is poor.

information; build scientific and technical capacity; and produce new channels of collaboration between scientists, policy makers and law-makers to ensure that climate action is based on sound knowledge and science. Since inception of the missions, that operate under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the most noticeable achievement has been the creation of networks of specialized knowledge and information centres. Under NMSII E, institutes and civil society organizations working on the Himalayan ecology have been mapped for ease of coordination between governmental and non-governmental agencies. State climate change cells, although still scarcely staffed, have been set up in seven Himalayan states. The massive interdisciplinary burden of research has been split between six themes, each of which is headed by a separate research institute.


Similarly under NMSKCC, six Global Technology Watch Groups have been created to six environmentally sensitive economic sectors-agriculture, water, sustainable habitat, manufacturing, energy efficiency and forestry-40 keep track of latest developments. Most of the research and development has been pushed through four “Centres of Excellence” and through specialized research projects that have been conducted in nearly 200 institutions.


The two missions have been instrumental in expanding body of Indian scientific literature on climate change. Since 2011, a total of 850 publications have come out of these missions. The number of annual publications from projects funded by the DST’s climate change programmes has increased nearly 15 times between 2011 and 2018. Currently, there are about 150 projects or programmes that have been launched under the two missions, up from close to 50 in 2016.

                                      ‘NMSHE, NMSKCC doing well’


National mission on Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) and the National Mission on Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change (NMSKCC) under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) were both started from scratch since climate change-related programmes before these missions did not fall under the purview of DST. Considering that, the missions have done very well. We have produced a large volume of scientific research in the last seven years and the next step is to consolidate all this research. We have planned a Strategic Knowledge report so that we can convert this research into policy. We are currently in the process of compiling this document which will help us gain insights and be better prepared during all negotiations on climate change, including being able to counter particular Western narratives regarding contributions of developing countries like India. The two missions have been critical in the setting up of climate change cells in 22 states. One of the major successes has been the 55,000 trainings that we have conducted for government staff under the two missions.


But despite the jump in research publications and the creation of networks, research largely remains disparate and unconnected. Almost none of the research has translated into any policy action. In fact, the apparent overlap in the objectives of the two missions is not by design. These have remained woefully neglected and nearly nothing has moved on the ground.


Both missions suffer from budgetary and workforce constraints. And funding remains unclear because both the missions have been lumped together in a broad Research and Development head in the budget. What’s worse, no money has been earmarked as capital expenditure for NMSHE, which explains why no adaptation or sustainability project has been taken up by DST under the mission. In addition, the activities undertaken under NMSHE overlap considerably with the separate National Mission on Himalayan Studies started by the NDA government in 2015-16 and does not form a part of India’s official NAPCC.


It seems that while the government has found some success as far as NMSKCC is concerned, it has not translated into any policy action. But as far as NMSHE is concerned, DST has not achieved any of the objectives. Renewable have become synonymous with climate change mitigation and India is successfully adopting these sources of energy. In the past four years, there has been a clear shift towards renewable, especially solar energy.

                                         ‘Solar has performed well’


National solar Mission is the best performing mission. The government has taken a keen interest in it and has even revised its target (because the previous target was met before the deadline). Storage in terms of renewable is a problem, globally. But the situation will improve in the coming years. The biggest problem with renewable is of intermittency. We are putting in research and technology to reduce it.



India’s push for solar energy began in 2010 when the government announced the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) under NAPCC. The mission has a target of 20 GW installed solar capacity by 2022. In 2015, the Government of India revised its target for JNNSM to 100,000 MW (or 100 GW) by 2022. Which includes 40 GW through rooftop solar and 60 GW through large- and medium-scale grid connected solar power projects. As of July 31, 2018, the country has total installed capacity of 21.8 GW and the target for 2022 has already been met. The budget for the mission has also gone up, from `350 crore in 2017-18.


However, if one analyses the new target set in 2015 and performances, the picture that emerges is a little different. A report, submitted by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of New and Rene-wale Energy in March, says that to achieve 100 GW of solar energy target by 2022, India should have had an installed capacity of 32,000 MW by 2017-18. But as of January 31, 2018, the country only had a capacity of 18,455 MW. As per the standing committee, the ministry has to install the remaining 81,545 MW in just four years this is over 20,000 MW a year. But the renewable ministry has achieved less than this. The committee said that the target of 100 GW will be very hard to achieve.


Another target was to set up solar parks of about 500 MW, but the Centre told the committee that the states were not showing interest in its plan. The Centre has received proposal only for 21,000 MW against the target of 40,000 MW. To deal with the challenge, the ministry has decided to reduce the size of solar parks to up to 50 MW and in special cases even up to 20 MW.


The weakest part of campaign for going solar is the generation from rooftop sources. To achieve its target of 40 GW installed capacity by 2022, India should have an installed capacity of 10,000 MW by 2017-18. However, only 1,222 MW of rooftop capacity has been installed till July 31, 2018. Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) is the most important initiative under the mission. Rolling out an energy efficient economy is a key feature of India’s strategy to deal with climate change and PAT seeks to address this issue. PAT is being implemented in four cycles. In Cycle-I (2012-15), eight energy intensive sectors were included: thermal power plants, iron and steel, cement, fertilizer, aluminum, textile, pulp and paper, and chlor-alkali. In Cycle-I, energy savings have been 30 per cent more, at 8.67 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) than the target set in the first phase, said R K Singh, Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Power, on September 24. According to a 2018 status report prepared by the implementing body, Bureau of Energy Efficiency, about 400 large industries participated in the first cycle and took steps to improve energy efficiency. As a result, energy worth `9,500 crore was saved annually.


In Cycle-II (2016-2019), three more sectors have been added to the existing eight sectors: discoms, railways and refineries. The total energy reduction target for this cycle is 8.869 mtoe. In this cycle, 621 industries from 11 sectors have been given specific energy consumption (sec) targets, with energy saving of 8.869 mtoe by the assessment year 2018-19. Results of this cycle would be assessed in 2019-20.


Going by the success of Cycle-I, the government seems sure about meeting the targets in the next three cycles as well. However, a 2018 report by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) highlights Niti Aayog’s concern related to the fulfillment of the mission’s goal and its poor inter-sectoral linkages. The CSE report says that energy efficiency programmes require close coordination between energy-supplying and energy consuming sectors, as well as coordination with technology development, management apparatus and finance streams. The mission lacks these links.


Urban areas are the fountainheads of emissions that cause climate change. Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for over 70 per cent of the global CO2 emissions, says a 2011 estimate of the World Bank. The average per capita CO2e emissions from Delhi, Greater Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Greater Bengalum, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad is 2.7 tonne while India’s national average is 1.5 tonne, says a 2014 report by the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bengaluru.


The mission focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction opportunities by increasing energy efficiency in buildings, improving municipal solid waste management and encouraging people to use public transport. Some of the specific initiatives to achieve these objectives are: adaptation of the existing Energy Conservation Building Code, strengthening the enforcement of automotive fuel economy standards, promoting investments in development of high capacity public transport system.


But even eight years after its launch, NMSH has no specific funds. In fact, it did not seek any such any such support from ministries concerned. The Union government lists its four flagship programme–Atal Mission on Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), Smart Cities Mission and Urban Transport Programme–as means to implement the mission. However, these flagship programmes are not explicitly driven by or linked to NMSH objectives. “Since the government never estimated the cost of implementing NMSH, it is not possible to say if the budgetary allocation to associate programmes completely covers the cost of the mission,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, at CSE.


It is safe to say that NMSH has been reduced to an umbrella term for other urban development programmes. Many of its objectives have been incorporated into other missions (for example, effective waste management is covered under Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) and development of public transport under AMRUT), but its main purpose to tackle cities as a climate agenda stands defunct.




Agriculture, which is source of livelihood for more than 50 per cent of India’s population, well be the worst impacted by climate change. India’s challenge here is two-fold: it must adapt to the impacts of climate change and also reduce emissions from agriculture. The mission, however, has lagged behind its target in implementation of planned schemes. There has been a continuous gap between expenditure and allocation of budget for increasing adaptive capacity. Between 2003-04 and 2014-15, only 13 per cent of total budget allocated under climate change programmes was spent by the agricultures ministries of the states.


There are four components in NMSA: Soil Health Management (SHM); Rainfed Area Development (RAD); Sub-Mission on Agro-Forestry (SMAF) to promote plantation along with crops; and Climate Changed and Sustainable Agriculture: Monitoring, Modeling and Networking (CCSAMMN) for creating models on adaptation and dissemination of information on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

SHM aims at promoting nutrient management through judicious use of chemical fertilizers for improving soil health and productivity. Under the scheme, the government aimed at testing 140 million soil samples by 2017. But only 32 million samples have been tested till August 2018. The scheme is nothing more than a renamed version of the UPA governments’ National Project on Management of Soil Health & Fertility scheme. Launched in 2008-09, the scheme had a budget of `430 crore during the 11th plan period (2007-12).


The government has not been able to spend the budget for SHM. In February 2015, the government allocated `568 crore to be spent in the next two years, but it has been able to send only `208 crore till August 2018, as per data on the agriculture ministry website. Similar is the case with RAD. About 86 million hectare of net sown land in India (or 68 per cent of the country’s farmland) is rainfed. Of this, only 1.7 million hectare have been developed or brought under integrated farming system in the last six years.  In 2011-12, the government allocated `180 crore for development of these areas, but the budget was reduced to `111 crore in 2018-19, which shows that the scheme is low on the government’s priority list.


SMAF is yet another component of the mission that has not shown any progress. Under this, the government aims to increase tree cover to enhance carbon sequestration, enrich soil organic matter, increase availability of good planting material, improve livelihood opportunities, enhance productivity of crops and cropping systems, among others. Lunched in 2016-17 with outlay of `935 crore for a period of four years, only `80 crore has been spent in the first three years.




The Green India Mission (GIM) has been plagued with problems from its inception. It was supposed to be launched in 2011-12 but since the ministries delayed in approving funds, it was launched in 2014.


The total cost of the mission–whose objectives include everything from improving forest cover to increasing the number of communities dependent on forests–was estimated at `46,000 crore was released and was supposed to be utilized in the next five years.


However, the budgetary allocation for the mission has been shrinking over the years. The allocations for the years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 were `72 crore, `42.01 crore and `47.80 crore respectively. In terms of targets, the data available for the year 2015-16 and 2016-17 shows that the mission has missed its targets by a long shot.


In 2015-16, the plantations undertaken were 34 per cent short of the targets. The following years the shortfall was more than 40 per cent. The shortfall was more than 40 per cent. The mission has also lagged in providing alternative fuel technology to households to reduce emissions from burning of fuelwood and other similar fuels. In 2015-16, only 25 per cent of the target was matched while the data for 2016-17 is not available yet.



NAPCC was an incomplete task for a country with 15 agro-climatic zones and varying vulnerabilities. So in 2009, states and Union territories were asked to assess their own vulnerability and devise action plans to factor in climate change into their policy-making, budgeting implementation and monitoring processes at different levels of governance. The exercise was dubbed as one of the largest sub-national action plans in the world.

So far, 32 have submitted their plans, referred to as State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC), to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF&CC). These documents were expected to build on the existing policies of the state governments by taking into consideration ongoing developmental programmes and schemes being implemented at the state level as well as NAPCC. In general, states and Union Territories have tried to stay as close to the eight missions identified under NAPCC as possible, with only a few going beyond to achieve the required focus on health and urban development. There has also been an effort to adopt the co-benefit approach-promoting development objectives while yielding additional benefits for climate change.


However, an analysis of these plan documents, available on the website of the ministry, suggests they are flawed at various levels and may not help the states become climate resilient.


Consider this. The common framework document for SAPCCS circulated by MOEF&-CC requires states to assess “the physical and economic impact of and vulnerable groups”. This knowledge is crucial for planning adaptation and mitigation strategies at the regional or local level. But an analysis by CE shows that the SAPCCS submitted by most states lack detailed vulnerability assessments. Some are so broad and general that they risk overlooking specific local issues, while others like Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu have assessed their vulnerability based on a few projects.


SAPCCS of Mizoram and Uttarakhand do not even mention vulnerability assessment. This is when officials with the Uttarakhand State Climate Change Centre admit that there is a visible increase in the number of disasters in the state. “It’s a big fight to alter the direction of development taking climate change into account, especially in a scenario where the departments do not have scientific temperament. During budget allocation climate adaptation is usually ignored,” says an official with the department. Though this is true for other places even in other countries, it hurts Uttarakhand because of its high vulnerability to climate change. People have started migrating from places where water has become scarce. The timber line has started moving up because of climate change and it is also affecting the diversity of many plants, he says.


While Uttarakhand conducted several consultations with various government line department, experts, members of civil society and academics to gauge the impact of climate variabilities on the state, the effort is missing in the SAPCC of most other states. For example, climate-vulnerable communities were not involved when Punjab conducted stakeholder consultation for preparing its SAPCC. Mizoram neither held consultations with civil society nor vulnerable communities.


Global climate models have their limitation to simulate the finer regional features and changes in the climate arising over sub-seasonal and smaller spatial scales. This is more relevant in the case of India whose unique climate system is dominated by the monsoon. The common framework of SAPCC thus requires states to conduct possible climate change projections for present and future scenarios and plan adaptation and mitigation strategies accordingly. However, states like Mizoram and Odisha lack climate projections in their SAPCCS, while others, including Gujarat, rely on climate models used by the UK and those used to prepare the Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change report way back in 2007. Madhya Pradesh made midcentury and end-century projections based on secondary data collected from various sources. CSE researchers say states are depending on secondary sources due to lack of domestic climate models. The outcomes of such projections based on flawed models have a degree of uncertainty as climate change impact is highly local in nature.

                                         ‘Mizoram has a ninth mission’


WE HAVE initiated the revision process of the State Action Plan on Climate Change in Mizoram. In addition to the eight national-level missions for climate change, Mizoram has a ninth mission on health. The state government is of the Opinion that health is one of the major climate change impacts and hence has included it as an additional mission. The National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) is funding a project to augment livelihood of rural communities by building resilience in agriculture. The project is being implemented by the state agriculture department and is currently in its third year.



Besides, it seems the states had no clarity about who is going to finance the plans. The states were probably under the impression that the Central government or international climate change finance will provide money for implementation of the projects under SAPCC, say CSE researchers. This is evident from the fact that the activities proposed in SAPCCS were not always cent ml to climate change impacts, but were sometimes means to obtain money from the Centre. For example, Madhya Pradesh demanded `4,700 crore, while Tamil Nadu demanded more than `400,000 crorc, even though the later has slightly less population.


With no proper understanding of their problems and needs to cope with climate impacts, the states have not been able to financially plan for their sectors in SAPCCS. For example, Gujarat in its total budgetary allocations of `25,000 crore, has allocated close to 80 per cent to the water sector alone. Agriculture, which provides livelihood to more than half of Gujarat’s workforce and contributes 18.3 per cent of the state’s gross domestic product, has obtained a measly 2 per cent of the estimated allocations. Similarly, despite its long coast line, only 0.4 per cent of the budget is allocated to coastal management activities.


In the case of SAPCC of Mizoram, despite being a part of the vulnerable Himalayan region, the state has an estimated allocation of only 4 per cent of its estimated budgetary allocations of `3,675 crore to the Sustainable Himalayan Mission. Odisha, despite a state vulnerable to cyclones and natural disaster with along coastline of 480 km, has allocated just 8 per cent of its `17,032 crore budget to coasts and disasters, while maximum 38 per cent allocation is for energy, followed by forests at 21 per cent. Uttar Pradesh, with around 70 per cent population of dependent on agriculture and the farming community bearing the maximum brunt of climate change impacts, has allocated only a measly 0.2 per cent of the budget to agriculture. The state has instead chosen to focus on the water sector.


Small wonder, the SAPCCS of most states do not depict the true picture of their vulnerability and the required steps that need to be taken to enhance their adaptive capacity and reduce their vulnerability to climate change extremes. Most SAPCC documents have lofty and broad objectives and some experts have referred to them as copy-pasted documents. In the absence of effective monitoring and evaluation institutions, progress, which is few and far between, is difficult to track.


There is recognition among state departments about the inadequacy of SAPCCs in meeting adaptation and climate objectives and, therefore, few states such as Kerela and Uttarakhand, are in the process of revising their SAPCCS to meet their domestic and international objectives. However, the pressing question that needs consideration is whether we need the idea of a separate climate action plans or there could be a better approach to replace the concept Mama


The Uttarakhand official says there is also a wide gap between the scientific community and the public which has been difficult to bridge. The media does not help either. Public communication should be at the forefront of climate change plans. People should be given information in ways that they understand how grim the situation is, both globally and locally.


                ‘Ready for climate planning’


WE ARE updating the State Action Plan on Climate Change and have also done vulnerability and risk analysis up to the block level in Uttarakhand. We now have a good scientific base for climate resilience planning in the state. We also have pilot projects on adaptation underway in the state on water, disaster, energy, agriculture and horticulture. We have made certain guidelines on the above priority areas.


We are trying to integrate them into the development planning of the state. With the money allocated to us we are doing the best we can.