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Thrivikramji K. P.


Sankar Lane

Sasthamangalam, Trivandrum 695010

(Formerly Professor of Geology, University of Kerala)


Among the Indian states, Kerala occupies a relatively high rank in respect of the benefits accruing from the Kerala Model (KM) of Development, and large content of remittances by expatriates. Kerala, one of the smaller states (area= 38,854.97 km2, pop. density =819/km2) of the Union of India, traditionally stood ahead in respect of public welfare initiatives, health care and educational opportunities at all levels. The unique physical setting, location in the west coast of India (i.e., in the tropical monsoon belt) and numerous small and some medium west flowing rivers are special endowments to the state’s agricultural economy and its population. Such natural, climatic, geographic and cultural advantages are reflected in the lifestyle and quality of life or the index of human development the people (Table 1).

Table 1 Kerala: Salient features

Area: 38,836 km2 ; Population: 31.8 million (Census, 2001)

Size of side of support square: 34 m; Population density: 798/km

Highland, elevation >75.0m; area: 18,696 km2, (48.14%)

Midland, elevation 7.5-75.0m; area: 16218 km2 ,(41.76%)

Coastal land, elevation 2, (10.10%)

Low coastal land: 2992 km2; 76.29%

High coastal land: 930 km2; 23.71%

Though massive industrialization is yet to catch up like certain other Indian states, Kerala enjoys certain firsts or near firsts in the production of agricultural commodities like, natural rubber, coconut, areca nut, tapioca, coffee, cardamom and tea. In India, the state is renowned as the largest exporter of produces like cashew, ginger and turmeric. In other words the agricultural economy is principally a perennial crop based one. In fact, the single most important contributor for the success of the KM of development is the state’s policies on the one hand and its agricultural economy on the other. Fundamentally, the fuel for the success of farming in the state is the 120–140 rainy days per year contributed by the wet and maritime tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons or spells.


The manifestations of climate change (CC) projected in the rise of average temperatures to the tune of 4 deg. C by 2050, in terms of modification of patterns, chiefly like duration, intensity, seasons, and consequently the number of wet and dry days enjoyed in the state. Yield of various crops (both seasonal and perennial) in terms of production per unit area, is intensely and intimately subject to either the number of dry or wet days which in turn would affect the content of soil moisture, soil temperature, air temperature, depth to water table, moisture in the lower air column and above all the cloud cover and hence the level of insolation.

Such CC shall modify the temperature and moisture content near then ground which can be attributed to lower level of soil erosion or soil loss and hence of natural nutrients borne by them. An added advantage will be the associated lower incidence of pests. Thus, the CC will have far reaching influences on the agricultural economy and consequently both on the incomes of farmer and the farmhand and weeds that consume a large chunk of money going into the cultural practices.

This will be reflected on the life style and quality of life, quantum of disposable income and desire to pay taxes and repay loans to the banks or other lending institutions and ultimately lowering the SGDP, which would force modification of states monetary policy as well as well as other public policies in the areas of health, education and welfare

Table 2 Potential Impacts of CC on Kerala

High land


Coastal land

Natural forest:

Decrease in plant species diversity-consequent fall in animal species diversity- increasing dryness – higher wind and water erosion soil loss

Agro-biodiversity: harmed due to drier soil and drier air- decreasing latex yield in rubber plantations- decreasing homestead farm production – decline in livestock farming and milk production – decrease in food crop farming and out put –

Severe erosion of beaches in LCL- shoreline migrates eastward – beach front property and homes damaged- civic facilities like coastal roads, water supply lines, waste water disposal and sanitation facilities damaged- power standards and supply system uprooted

Soil and nutrients:

Loss of soil moisture due to extended days of drought and severe showery days – loss of soil and soil nutrients due to intense rain water erosion

Soil and nutrients:

Decrease in nutrients and increase in area under eroded soils- extreme wet and dry spells tend to erode top soil and nutrients

Salinity rise in soil moisture – Water table rise damages foundation of public buildings and homes – domestic shaft well water turns brackish – quality of public water supply sources decline.


Exposure of cardamom, tea, coffee, rubber and others to long warmer spells and heavy rainy spells – both adverse for these crops.


Decrease in yield from rubber, coconut, arecanut farms – decrease in soil moisture and air moisture- soil microbes change due to physical changes in soil

Salinity intrusion into aquifers- inlets and coastal wetlands – wetland ecosystems including paddy fields in LCL affected- plant and machinery in the manufacturing units ruin by salinity intrusions

Pests and vectors:

A jump in intensity of invasion- but durations may decline

Pests & vectors:

Density will jump but duration of activity may decline

Wetland fauna and flora go into environmental stress – due to disruptions unable to migrate or re-establish.


Bleak outlook- span of wet days decline and so is base flow days- decline of days reservoir staying at or near FRL – higher power demand due to rising demand for air-conditioning for extended periods; for pumping water from wells, irrigation and drinking water supply schemes.

Surface & ground water:

Decline in the duration of base flow in streams- aquifers get deeper- increase in kwh per /m3 of water lifted for use in farms, industry and homes. Dissolved ion content in water may go up due to decreasing dilution and higher evaporation loss of soil moisture.

Water in wetlands (kayals) , river channels, intra-costal water ways all suffer by higher salinity- aquatic animal and plant life under duress – many may become extinct – water supply system and sources suffer- disruptions in civic life and stress due to higher temperatures may make citizens prone to anger and violence- increasing violence and anarchy in the society.

Sizable decline of number of work days and gainful employment of working age population of the society both directly and indirectly in the agricultural and support sectors could lead to lower household incomes. This may manifest in the form of social unrest, rise in the petty crimes like thefts and even felonies. The warmer days and possibly nights and scarcity of drinking water may change the behavior of members of the community and could lead to altercations, street fights etc resulting in rise in law and order problems. Water scarcity can also result in the rise of water borne diseases and fights for drinking water especially by the women folk. The”God’s own country” may change to “The Devil’s own land”.


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