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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Collaborative adaptation pathways for agricultural water management in the Bhavani Basin, India (Co-Adapt)

PI: Vellingiri Geethalakshmi (, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
U.S. Partner: Sridhar Venkataramana, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Project dates: December 2019 - November 2020

Project Overview:

Agricultural development in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is constrained by water availability due to recurring droughts, which are increasingly being attributed to climate change and variability. This research study is designed to recommend adaptation strategies that will help manage the risks due to climate change in the agricultural sector of the Bhavani River basin in Tamil Nadu. The study will use a bottom-up approach to identify the vulnerability of the system to climate change, based on which suitable interventions will be proposed. The study will employ CRIDA (Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis), a new approach that implements decision scaling and bottom-up vulnerability approaches through collaborative stepwise planning procedures and adaptation pathways. Using CRIDA, the PI Dr. Geethalakshmi and her team will identify the “breaking point” of the agricultural system (when the system fails), the magnitude of climate change that will cause the system to cross that threshold, and the plausibility of reaching that state in the future. Several adaptation options will be proposed to address the range of plausible future climate scenarios. A key aspect of this study is the stakeholder consultation process to be included throughout the course of the project. The project will also develop a set of adaptation pathways that will inform policy makers on when to act. Both short- and long-term adaptation plans will be recommended. These can be translated to preferred policies and strategies while formulating sectoral policies and investment planning in agriculture and water resources sectors.

This study is intended to deliver results that will have positive impacts on food security. By giving inputs to adaptation actions suited to the needs of the farmers and other stakeholders, in consultation with them, this project increases the likelihood of those actions to be taken up for implementation. Such evidence-based policies in agriculture and water related sectors should promote increased agricultural productivity and improve the livelihoods of the population directly and indirectly dependent on agriculture. Because the adaptation options developed will be robust, they will work for a range of plausible climate scenarios, thereby ensuring that the system will continue to provide benefits even when the conditions change in terms of climate and other stressors. Increasing the resilience of agriculture to climate change would imply that food production will not be compromised, thereby ensuring food and nutrition security in the study area. The approach that will be used in this study has the potential to be replicated at other river basins and sectors, which will compound the positive impacts. It will also add to the efforts towards the target of “Doubling the Farmers’ Income by 2022,” proposed by the Government of India in its 2016-17 budget.

Summary of Recent Activities:

During January through March 2020, Dr. Vellingiri and her colleagues collected data to analyze climate risks, including relevant meteorological, hydrological, and other geospatial data gathered from various government agencies. By the end of the quarter, they had completed future climate projections for the Bhavani river basin, using 23 RCMs under the CORDEX South Asia domain, from which 10 were selected for downscaling and projection of climate variables. The researchers have also developed a SWAT model set up for the Bhavani basin. The basin is delineated into 26 sub-basins and 2,137 homogeneous Hydrologic Response Units. The PI and her colleagues are still working to calibrate their SWAT model.

In addition to their data collection and analysis work, the PEER team also conducted stakeholder meetings with officials from government agencies such as the Public Works Department, Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, and the Agriculture Department. The meetings helped to clarify water resources issues in the basin and better define performance metrics and their thresholds.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a delay in project activities. The stakeholder initially planned for April 15-16, 2020, will be conducted as soon as the public health situation eases and the Government of India’s restrictions on holding such meetings are lifted. Although 70% of the data collection was complete by April, the remaining data collection, which mainly involves a survey questionnaire, will be carried out in the coming months, as soon as the virus situation allows. The questionnaire is designed to collect first-hand information from farmers on their perceptions on climate change, their autonomous adaptation actions, and other inputs necessary for building a system model. Other research work planned for the coming months to achieve the project objectives include developing the water resources system model, conducting a vulnerability assessment, testing the adaptation actions, and developing adaptation pathways.

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