As climate change kicks in, mountain residents are severely impacted by environmental changes, such as fluctuations in crop cycles. Women, who already struggle under the burden of unequal power relations, are much more vulnerable to climate impacts than men. Local researchers have now investigated how climate change acts as stressor in the lives of women and girls in Assam, and how it increases existing gender inequalities.
Impacts of climate change are being felt across the globe. One region that is particularly hard-hit is the Eastern Himalayan range in the Northeast of India, ecologically an extremely fragile region.
Assam is a case-in point as it has been severely impacted by climate change: Temperature and rainfall data from the Indian Meteorological Department from between 1951 and 2010 indicate that the mean temperature in Assam has increased by nearly 0.6°C. Furthermore, the annual rainfall has decreased by 2.96 mm per year during the same period. According to the State Action Plan on Climate Change of Assam, the mean average temperature is likely to rise by 1.7-2.2°C by the mid-century.
The adverse impacts of climate change affect traditional livelihood means like agriculture, fishery and sericulture, activities which are predominantly carried out by women. Consequently, women in rural areas are disproportionally impacted by the environmental transformations caused by climate change.
The Centre for Environment, Social and Policy Research, in collaboration with the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change, has undertaken a study (‘Impacts of Climate Change on Marginalized Women in Assam’) to identify the burdens women bear as climate change kicks in.
In Assam, over 86 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture, and a majority of this populace is from rural areas. Climate change has affected thousands of farmers across the state, and their income has progressively declined over the last decades.
Things will get worse as global warming increases. The findings of this study should be a cause of concern for policy makers in Assam and in the entire Northeast of India, a region characterized by similar degrees of ecological fragility, population patterns and livelihood means. Threatened agriculture and the steady rise in the trafficking of young girls are major causes of worry and need to be addressed, as the declining conditions of rural women in India’s North East could trigger social unrest in the region in the days to come.