Skip to main content


India is a very large country, covering 3.28 million square kilometers, or 2.4 per cent of the world’s land surface area (MEF, 2004). It has the second largest population in the world, being home to approximately 1.17 billion people in 2010, or 15 per cent of the world’s population.  About 29 per cent of this population lives in urban areas (USDS, 2010).  Although India’s economy has diversified substantially over the past several decades, approximately 64 per cent of the country’s population remains dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods (MEF, 2004).  Agriculture generated 18 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008, superseded by its services (54 per cent of GDP) and industrial (29 percent) sectors (USDS, 2010). 


India has reasons to be concerned about the impacts of climate change. Its large population depends on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture and forestry for livelihoods. Any adverse impact on water availability due to recession of glaciers, decrease in rainfall and increased flooding in certain pockets would threaten food security, cause die back of natural ecosystems including species that sustain the livelihoods of rural households, and adversely impact the coastal system due to sea level rise and increased frequency of extreme events. In addition to these impacts, achievement of vital national development goals related to other systems such as habitats, health, energy demand, and infrastructure investments would be adversely affected. India’s land surface may be classified as (a) the Great Mountain Wall of the North; (b) the Northern Plains; (c) the Great Southern Peninsular Plateau; (d) the Coastal Plains; and (e) the Islands. India’s unique geography produces a spectrum of climates yielding a wealth of biological and cultural diversity. Land areas in the north have a continental climate with high summer temperatures with cold winters when temperatures may go below freezing.

In contrast are the coastal regions of the country where the temperature is more even throughout the year and rains are more frequent. There is large variation in the amounts of rainfall received in different parts of the country. Average annual rainfall is less than 13 cm in the Thar desert, while at Cherrapunji in the North- East it is as high as 1080 cm. The different climate regimes of the country vary from humid in the North- East (about 180 days rainfall in a year) to arid in Rajasthan (20 days rainfall in a year). A semi-arid belt in the peninsular region extends in the area between the humid west coast and the central and eastern parts of the country. The most important feature of India’s climate is the season of concentrated rain called the “monsoon”. The Southwest (SW) monsoon (May - September) is the most important feature of the Indian climate.

India is a land with many rivers. The twelve major rivers spread over a catchment area of 252.8 million hectares (Mha) cover more than 75 per cent of the total area of the country. Rivers in India are classified as Himalayan, Peninsular, Coastal, and Inlanddrainage basin rivers. The land use pattern is influenced by diverse factors such as population density, urbanization, industry, agriculture, animal husbandry, irrigation demands, and natural calamities like floods and droughts. Despite stresses, the area under forests has increased in recent years due to proactive reforestation and afforestation programmes of the Government of India. Presently 23 per cent of the total land area is under forest and tree cover, while 44 per cent is net sown area. The remaining one-third is roughly equally distributed between fallow land, non-agricultural land, and barren land. The following section is found in the Meister Consultants Group study: *Floating Houses and Mosquito Nets: Emerging Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Around the World*.

Strategy and Actors

India was an early adopter of the climate change adaptation and awareness strategies. It has also fostered the debate on global warming in international politics. For instance, during the conference of the signatory states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Delhi in 2002, India pushed for a joint declaration on the significance of global warming. The Indian report to the UNFCCC also emphasizes the need to assess vulnerabilities and to plan adaptation measures. In June 2008, India’s prime minister published the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), which encompasses both climate protection and adaptation.191 The plan defines eight priorities as National Missions: solar energy; energy efficiency; sustainable housing; water; preservation of ecosystem in the Himalayas; reforestation; sustainable agriculture; and strategic knowledge management. The responsible ministries are currently working on detailed implementation plans for these eight sectors. Adaptation measures are an important part of this integrated climate strategy. The first two areas (solar energy and energy efficiency) are mainly focused on climate protection, while the others include adaptation components, especially in the cases of agriculture and of knowledge management. What follows is a summary of the adaptation goals. This summary shows that the Indian government has already set strategic adaptation priorities. However, detailed planning and implementation of the measures is only just beginning. _

Source: Dr. Hans-Peter Meister, I. K., Martina Richwein, Wilson Rickerson, Chad Laurent. Additional contributors: Jeff Snell, Elisa Burchert, Florian Lux. (2009). *Floating Houses and Mosquito Nets: Emerging Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Around the World.* Boston: Meister Consultants Group. p. 71-73.


A. Adaptation Needs and Priorities
India’s geography is highly diverse, comprising the Himalayan mountain range, coastal plains, and the Great  Peninsular Plateau. This diverse topography produces a spectrum of climates over the subcontinent. The northern part of the country experiences a continental climate with extreme summer heat and very cool winters; in contrast, the coastal areas of the country experience year-round warm temperatures and frequent precipitation (MEF, 2004). Rainfall across the country is highly variable, and the country experiences four distinct seasons, described in relation to the monsoon: (a) winter: December to February; (b) pre-monsoon or summer: March to May; (c) southwest monsoon: June to September; and (d) post-monsoon or northeast monsoon: October and November (MEF, 2004). 
The anticipated future impacts of climate change, identified by the Government of India (GOI) in its Initial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) include (GOI, 2004):
  • Decreased snow cover, affecting snow-fed and glacial systems such as the Ganges and Brahmaputra; 70 per cent of the summer flow of the Ganges comes from snowmelt;
  • Erratic monsoons with serious effects on rain-fed agriculture, peninsular rivers, water and power supply;
  • Decline in wheat production by 4-5 million tonnes with as little as a 1ºC rise in temperature;
  • Rising sea levels causing displacement along one of the most densely populated coastlines in the world and threatening freshwater sources and mangrove ecosystems;
  • Increased frequency and intensity of floods; increased vulnerability of people in coastal, arid and semi-arid zones of the country; and
  • Over 50 per cent of India’s forests are likely to experience a shift in forest types, adversely impacting associated biodiversity and regional climate dynamics, as well as livelihoods based on forest products.
For the more than 800 million Indians who live in rural areas and depend on climate-sensitive sectors for their livelihoods—agriculture, forests and fisheries—the future looks alarming with the prospect of declining crop yields, degraded lands, water shortages and ill health. According to a 2008 report commissioned by the European Parliament, “[t]he majority of the vulnerable population of India is poorly equipped to cope effectively with the adversities of climate change due to low capabilities, weak institutional mechanisms and lack of access to adequate resources” (Kumar, 2008).
B. National Level Policies and Strategic Documents
India has been an active and influential global player in the climate change arena from the beginning of the debate. However, domestically, India  only started to commission concrete actions on climate change very recently. It completed its Initial National Communication in 2004 and is presently working on its Second National Communication. It formed the high-level Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change in June 2007, which was immediately directed to: (a) prepare a coordinated response to issues relating to climate change (mitigation and adaptation) at the national level; (b) provide oversight for formulation of action plans in the area of assessment, adaptation and mitigation of climate change; and (c) periodically monitor key policy decisions. An Expert Committee on the 
Impact of Climate Change has also been set up. It will assess climate change impacts and provide advice on the research activities needed to strengthen efforts to address climate change.
On June 30, 2008, India launched its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), which outlines existing and future policies and programs addressing climate mitigation and adaptation. Emphasizing the overriding priority of maintaining high economic growth rates to raise living standards, the plan “identifies measures that promote our development objectives while also yielding co-benefits for addressing climate change effectively.” The Action  Plan identifies eight core “national missions” running through to 2017: Solar Energy; Enhanced Energy Efficiency; Sustainable Habitat; Water; Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system; Green India; Sustainable Agriculture; and Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change. Most of these missions have strong adaptation imperatives.
Ministries with lead responsibility for each of the missions have been directed to develop objectives, implementation strategies, timelines, and monitoring and evaluation criteria that will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. The Council will also be responsible for periodically reviewing and reporting on each mission’s progress. To be able to quantify progress, appropriate indicators and methodologies will be developed to assess both avoided emissions and adaptation benefits. In addition, the Central Government has recently requested the State Governments to prepare State level Adaptation Action Plans on Climate Change consistent with the objectives of NAPCC.
Based on India’s National Communication, NAPCC and available literature, India’s most vulnerable sectors to the effects of climate change are water, agriculture, forests, natural ecosystems, coastal zones, health, and energy and infrastructure.
C. Current Adaptation Action
India’s new generation of climate change adaptation projects as per the NAPCC directives and missions are mostly in development at the moment. However, a number of adaptation focused projects have been launched recently with donor-support or concessional loans. Donors of these projects include the Asian Development Bank, Global Environment Facility (GEF), Rockefeller Foundation,  Swiss Development Corporation (SDC),  Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), World Bank, World Wildlife Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID),  and Australia’s Centre for International Agricultural 
Research. The majority of these projects are focused on policy formulation and integration, water, and agriculture, with a smaller number focused on coastal zones, forestry, land and nature. The areas of meteorology, gender, infrastructure, health, and energy only have one ongoing adaptation action. 
Additional adaptation projects may be financed through the Climate and Development Fund, which  was established by the  United Kingdom  to provide a flexible source of funding (US$0.66 million) to support shared priorities of  the United Kingdom and India between 2008 and 2013. While new plans and programs for adaptation are being developed, many completed or on-going programs (especially water, coastal, agriculture, forests and disaster management sector programs) have strong adaptation components.  In 2007, for instance, there were 22 programs in crop management, 19 in drought proofing, 19 in health, six in risk finance, six in disease control,12 in forestry and 30-odd in poverty alleviation in India—all supported by the central and/or state governments. The Government therefore has claimed that India is already spending over two per cent of its GDP on various programs that also support adaptation.
D. Proposed Adaptation Action
Of the various adaptation initiatives that are being developed in India, two have been presented to the SCCF for funding. It also notes programs being developed by SDC.


Islam, Faisal; Hove, Hilary; Parry, Jo-Ellen. (2011) . Adaptation Patnership/International Institute for Sustainable Development, pp. 86-107.

Additional References


Government of India [GOI] (2008). India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change. 
Kumar, R. (2008). Climate Change and India: Impacts, policy responses and a framework for EU-India cooperation. European Parliament report no. IP/A/CLIM/NT/2007-10, PE 400.991.
Mehra, M. (2009). India Starts to Take on Climate Change. State of the World 2009. Washington DC: Worldwatch Institute.
Ministry of Environment and Forests [MEF] (2004). Initial National Communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
United States Department of State [USDS] (2010). Background Notes: India. Last updated July 14, 2010.