होम SCI. AND TECH. New Study Reveals Devastating Impact of Climate Change on Women and Children...

New Study Reveals Devastating Impact of Climate Change on Women and Children in India


A study conducted by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation reveals significant impacts of climate hazards on women and children in various Indian states. The research shows that children exposed to climate hazards are more likely to experience stunting, underweight conditions, and early pregnancies.

Key Findings

Vulnerable States

Women and children in Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Telangana are particularly vulnerable to climate change-related disasters. The study, commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, identifies these states as hotspots for climate and health risks.

Health and Climate Hotspots

The study, titled “How does climate change impact women and children across agro-ecological zones in India – A scoping study,” highlights the impact of floods, cyclones, and droughts on the health of women and children. Conducted by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), the research reveals that up to 70% of Indian districts are at high risk of these climate hazards.

Specific Impacts on Health

Undernutrition and Domestic Violence

The study found stark indicators of undernutrition, teenage pregnancy, and domestic violence in areas prone to climate hazards. Soumya Swaminathan, chairperson of MSSRF, emphasized the overlooked impact of climate change on women and children, noting that many districts face high risks of floods, droughts, and cyclones.

Geographic Hotspots

Northern Bihar and Gujarat are identified as regions where drought, flood, and cyclone exposure coincide with high rates of stunting and underweight children. Similarly, northern parts of Maharashtra and southern Madhya Pradesh show significant underweight children rates. Children exposed to drought are 6% more likely to be stunted and 24% more likely to be underweight.

Regional Differences

Southern India and Coastal Areas

Despite high exposure to hydro-meteorological hazards, southern India and coastal Odisha show better performance in child health indicators like stunting and underweight. This highlights the role of stronger health systems in mitigating the impact of climate hazards.

Women’s Health and Climate Change

Vulnerable Groups

The study identifies northern Bihar, parts of Uttar Pradesh, southern West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, parts of Telangana, eastern Maharashtra, northern Madhya Pradesh, and southern Uttar Pradesh as major hotspots. Drought exposure increases the likelihood of underweight women by 35%, child marriage by 37%, teenage pregnancy by 17%, and intimate partner violence by up to 50%.

Data and Methodology

Analysis Techniques

The study used spatio-temporal analysis of 50 years of data on floods, cyclones, and droughts, combined with district-level climate vulnerability scores from 2021 by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). Health indicators were mapped using data from the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5).

Challenges and Recommendations

The study acknowledges limitations due to reliance on secondary data and calls for more empirical research on women’s health impacts. It also highlights the need for detailed, district-wise monthly temperature data to identify heatwave hotspots and their health impacts.

Policy Recommendations

Heat Action Plans

Dr. Swaminathan stressed the importance of state and city heat action plans to tackle heatwave effects, emphasizing multi-sectoral efforts, such as enforcing labor laws to provide breaks for construction workers during peak heat hours.

Comprehensive Data Collection

The study recommends collecting national-level data on climate vulnerability across all hazards, including floods, cyclones, droughts, rainfall variability, heatwaves, air pollution, and cold waves. Understanding the exposure of women and children at individual, household, and community levels is crucial for effective policy-making.

By highlighting these findings and recommendations, the study aims to inform and influence policies to better protect vulnerable populations from the adverse effects of climate change.

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