Editorial✍ Financial Express Prelims cum Mains

Climate change is exacerbating India’s nutrition and health insecurity

Global warming and Climate Change:

  • The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 2018 report shared that human activities have led to a 1°C rise in temperatures (global warming) above pre-industrial levels.
  • This will reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052, if it continues to increase at the current rate.
  • The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) have risen to 410 parts per million (ppm) from about 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that approximately 250,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050 could be due to climate.

Climate change affects nutritional security:

  • Studies showed that environmental changes reduce yields of starchy staple crops and alter nutrient composition of fruits, vegetables and legumes.
  • Further, the increasing level of carbon dioxide is also implicated in “dilution effect” resulting in lesser vitamins and minerals per unit of yield.
  • About 65% of India’s cropped area is rain-fed. As a result, Indian agriculture is highly sensitive to monsoon variability and remains vulnerable to climate change.

 

People suffering undernutrition most vulnerable to climate change:

  • The poorest people, already suffering from the highest rates of undernutrition, will be the most vulnerable to climate change.
  • Undernutrition can be exacerbated (increased nutrient demands and reduced nutrient absorption) by the effects of climate change at all stages of the food value chain.
  • Onset of risk factors for NCDs (non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular problems etc.) is faster and earlier in people with nutrient deficiencies than those consuming a healthy diet.

India with high malnutrition must remain guarded:

  • With its huge and increasing population and rapid urbanisation, India may experience much bigger levels of multiple health and nutrition threats owing to climate change.
  • India already is one of the top rankers in multiple forms of malnutrition globally.
  • With the ensuing climate change, the access to safe and nutritious food, and affordability could also be more severely impacted.
  • All this could lead to plummeting of the public health nutrition (PHN) indices.

 

 

Specific actions needed to help curb adverse impacts of climate change on public health nutrition (PHN):

  • Policy coherence:
    • The cross-sectoral nature of nutrition, adverse impact of climate change, and the potential interaction between these two domains calls for increased policy coherence and institutional collaboration at regional, national and international levels.
  • Climate resilient infrastructure in agriculture:
    • Funding needs to be earmarked for designing and rolling out modern climate change-resistant infrastructure and technology.
    • We need to find more sustainable, resilient and efficient ways of producing and trading diversified agricultural food products.
    • Efforts must be put in to devise food storage and processing practices that help to preserve the nutritional value of foods.
    • To reduce nutrition risks along the entire value chain, early warning systems are needed for farmers and agri-traders.
  • Capacity building in public health:
    • There is a need to strengthen capacity of public health professionals for prevention and management of climate change-related health issues.
    • Increasing the number of healthcare facilities/staff can improve access to healthcare for vulnerable populations, especially the rural poor.
  • Interdisciplinary workforce:
    • Integrated curricula drawing upon best practices from agriculture, public health, nutrition can be designed to prepare qualified interdisciplinary workforce.
  • Measures to reduce malnutrition:
    • Interventions aimed at reducing undernutrition have a greater and rapid impact on poverty than economic growth on its own.
  • Disaster management:
    • Make disaster management robust and capable of preventing, managing and restoring normalcy as soon as possible.

 

These problems have been recognized internationally:

  • Experts and leaders on global health, sustainable agriculture, nutrition and environment have recognized the problem.
  • In fact, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain commitments in this regard:
    • Goal 2 – To end hunger and ensure access by all people to safe and nutritious food all year round
    • Goal 13 – To take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

 

India addressing through National Nutrition Mission:

  • India has recently launched National Nutrition Mission or the POSHAN Abhiyaan to tackle the issue of nutrition.
  • It envisions to integrate and strengthen action around all three pillars of nutrition—nutrition specific, nutrition sensitive and the enabling environment—to attain SDGs.
  • This integrated platform is an ideal way to start advocating for PHN in an environment-friendly manner.
  • However, state and central alignment of priorities and coordination will play a key role in smooth roll-out of envisaged activities.

 

Conclusion:

  • The solutions for the looming complex threat of food and nutrition insecurity, intertwined with poor health and environmental outcomes, will require coming together of forces at various levels and across various sectors.
  • This area requires urgent prioritisation, strong political will and dedicated resources to yield sustainable and public health friendly measures.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Social Issues

 

Related question:

“The poorest people, suffering from highest rates of undernutrition, are most vulnerable to climate change.” Comment. Suggest strategies to help curb adverse impacts of climate change on public health nutrition.

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