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Climate change vulnerability of rural households in flood-prone areas of Himalayan foothills, West Bengal, India

Manoranjan Ghosh () and Somnath Ghosal ()
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Manoranjan Ghosh: Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur
Somnath Ghosal: Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur

Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, 2021, vol. 23, issue 2, No 65, 2570-2595

Abstract: Abstract The Himalayan foothills of West Bengal are a part of the great Eastern Himalaya, which is by locational virtue a recognized flood-prone area. The area is also well known for frequent and heavy rain storms and climate-induced catastrophic events, such as flash floods due to the unprecedented rains in the Bhutan Himalaya. Therefore, climate-induced disasters like floods have been the prime reasons for rural vulnerabilities. Therefore, the primary aim of the present study is to find out whether there are any differences between levels of vulnerability amidst agriculture-dependent villages and forest resource-dependent villages in the same flood-prone area or not. In addition, the study will also examine how the agriculture-dependent villages are different from forest resource-dependent villages in terms of climate vulnerability and vice versa. The climate change vulnerability index has been applied, and a total of 100 households have been surveyed covering seven dimensions of vulnerability. The exposure score was found to be the highest in Raja Bhatkhawa (0.41) followed by Nathuar Char (0.30) and Bhelakoba (0.27). No significant differences were found in terms of climatic exposure except in Mendabari. Further, it has been observed that the resilience factors in households like education, workforce opportunities, health, and institutional accessibility are highly uneven, which has been creating hinders to the adaptive capacity. In the villages where overall vulnerability to climate change was found to be high, the adaptive capacity was found to be low. Simultaneously, in those villages, the sensitivity was found to be high. It has been found that the location of the villages plays an important role when it comes to vulnerability because the forest villages are relatively more vulnerable than the agricultural villages. However, the riverside location of Nathuar Char has made this village highly vulnerable; and the people of Nathuar Char have been living with floods, and they are trying to adapt with climate-induced floods. Finally, it has been observed that vulnerability is context dependent (i.e. based on land resources, accessibility to basic infrastructure, water and sanitation facilities, and awareness to disasters) and varies from household to household.

Keywords: Climate change vulnerability; Himalayan foothills; Livelihood strategy; Environmental profile; Livelihoods insecurity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s10668-020-00687-0

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