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Climate change affecting Northeasterners
Published on 15 Nov. 2009 12:44 AM IST
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She may not be able to define climate change, but Ethel Sumi of Nagaland knows it delayed the monsoons in her region this year, which in turn affected the paddy crop drastically. Boasting of perfect weather and rich flora and fauna, the eight states in India’s northeast are often said to be cradled in the lap of nature. But climate change, with all its manifestations in the form of delayed monsoons, unprecedented drought and floods, is making its presence felt in the region. Sumi said there have been erratic changes in the monsoon pattern over the last few years. “This year there was hardly any rain in the months of June-July, which is crucial for a good harvest. The result was that the paddy crop flowered, but there was no seed inside,” Sumi told IANS. Rice is the staple food in the northeast and is one of the most important crops in the region. The otherwise dependable rainfall pattern in the region makes it a suitable place for rice cultivation. “For the farmers in our region paddy cultivation is the main practice. But this time in our field itself, instead of getting about 100 bags of grain after harvest, we got just 30 percent of it. This has affected our family income drastically,” Sumi said. Vaikulam Mathei of Manipur similarly said that the paddy cultivation in her state has been affected by erratic monsoons this year. “Instead of June-July, the rains came properly only by September, but by then the harm to the paddy was already done. There were flowers, but no seeds. Even then, the rice that we harvested was not of very good quality but the prices have shot up in the market,” Mathei told IANS. According to Mathei, the prices of some varieties of rice like Moirang have increased from Rs.15 per kilogram last year to Rs.25 per kg now. “The middleman buys the rice from us but doesn’t give us good price, saying that the quality is bad. But he goes and sells the same thing in the market at a much higher price. Either way, we are the losers,” she said. While changes in the climatic pattern is affecting a cross section of the population, rural women whose livelihoods depend on natural resources and agriculture are the worst hit. Sandhya Venkateswaran of the NGO Wada Na Todo Abhiyan said: “If a pond disappears, it’s the women who have to walk longer for water. They are the ones looking for firewood. Whatever be the calamity it’s the women who bear the brunt because they are the ones who have to run the kitchen on a limited economy.”

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