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New Index Shows Western Indian Himalayan Region More Prone to Climate Change Risks

A pioneering climate risk index developed by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), reveals that the Western Indian Himalayan Region faces greater vulnerability to climate change compared to the Eastern Himalayan ranges. Utilizing the latest framework from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the index integrates both physical and socio-economic indicators to assess climate risk in the Himalayas comprehensively.

The Himalayas, often referred to as the “third pole” due to their vast ice and water reserves, are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. While the region is experiencing warming temperatures and declining snow cover and glacier mass, few studies have attempted to map climate risks at a district level. The new study by IIT-M fills this gap by employing an updated methodology and publicly available data to identify the Western region as more prone to climate change risks.

The assessment, conducted at the district level, encompasses three key components: hazard, vulnerability, and exposure. By analyzing various hazards such as earthquakes, extreme weather events, and population density, the study provides a comprehensive understanding of climate risks in the Himalayan districts. Factors such as adaptive capacity and socio-economic indicators were also considered to assess vulnerability and exposure.

Using the TOPSIS method, the study produces separate indices for each risk component and an overall risk index. Results indicate that Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh is the most hazard-prone, while Dhalai district in Tripura emerges as the most vulnerable due to poor adaptive capacity indicators. Imphal West in Manipur is identified as the most exposed district, primarily due to high population density and built-up area.

Darjeeling district in West Bengal is deemed the most “risk-prone” overall, reflecting the combined hazards, vulnerabilities, and exposures in the region. On a broader scale, the Western Himalayan Region exhibits greater risk compared to the Eastern Himalayan Region.

While vulnerability indices like these are instrumental in informing climate action plans at the local level, ongoing monitoring and dynamic assessments are crucial for effective policymaking. Continuous evaluation of changing risk landscapes will be essential for guiding adaptive strategies and building resilience against climate change impacts in the Himalayan region and beyond.

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