Cost of climate change adaptation in semi-arid regions – estimates from central India

Arjuna Srinidhi

Climate change is a major threat to sustained economic growth, ecosystems as well as natural resources. The need to therefore cope with or ‘adapt’ to climate change is widely accepted. Of particular need for scaling up or replicating successful projects is to understand the costs involved.
Costs will of course, depend on the eco-system of the area, the extent of the streams, slope of land etc. But what we wish to discuss are the broad range of bottom-up costs from semi-arid regions of central India that can certainly help with adaptation planning in other parts of South Asia and Africa.
While estimates do exist for costs of adaptation at a global level – $280 billion to $500 billion per year by 2050 – these are top-down estimates based on global climate models and extrapolation of sector and country estimates. There are very few studies that provide bottom-up costs of adaptation, which are essential for project planning, replication and scaling up.
This study seeks to establish a range of bottom-up adaptation costs in semi-arid regions of India. It is also an attempt to break up the broad and subjective definitions of adaptation into specific activities that build resilience or confront climate change.
The study is based on results from a climate change adaptation (CCA) project implemented from 2010-14 in the state of Maharashtra in India. A total of 25 villages, covering a total of about 19,000 ha and 24,000 people were covered under CCA.
We used a community-engaging vulnerability assessment tool (CoDriVE-PD) to evaluate the climate risks and vulnerabilities of socially differentiated groups in each village. And then, no/low regret interventions were proposed to address developmental gaps, build adaptive capacities, manage extreme events or confront directly the impacts of climate change.
As with most adaptation projects, there was a wide range of activities from those that address vulnerability reduction – soil and water conservation activities – to those that are responses to changing climatic conditions – adaptive sustainable agriculture, locale and crop specific agro-meteorological advisories etc.
The costs ranged from Rs 12,000 (US$200) per ha in the lower lying downstream villages to Rs 28,000 (US$ 450) in the upstream villages with more challenging hilly terrain. A rough estimate showed that between 22-30% of the costs were closer to the adaptation end of the spectrum of activities than the more traditional development oriented activities.
• The range of costs per ha will be very significant in planning and scaling up adaptation activities across semi-arid regions of South Asia and Africa
• An extrapolation of the costs show that they could be as high as US$300 million for South Asia and US$280 million for Africa by 2050. These are slightly higher to the UNEP estimates in Adaptation Gap Report
• The expenditures and benefits accrued point to the fact that adaptation requires repeated efforts from the people and all other contributing agencies and is not just a one-time investment