To see what climate change looks like on the ground, come to Bundelkhand. Here all that is not already dry is drying fast—the wells, the ponds, the streams, the trees, and bodies of men and animals. While arid Marathwada has been in news for similar reasons, this region between the Gangetic plains and the Vindhyas has caused nary a blip in the national media.
Bundelkhand has seen first-hand what climate change does to people and nature. A rain-shadow zone, average rainfall was never much to speak of. What has plummeted in the past few years is the capacity of the region to cope with it. Any drop in rainfall now turns chronic crisis into acute disaster. Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan called last year’s drought “the proverbial last straw” (The Footsteps of a Famine, February 8).
How did this happen? Ecologists point to depletion of forests, neglect of ponds and rampant stone-quarrying. Villagers say they are used to waiting for the rains in vain, but it is only in recent years that so many reservoirs have gone dry. Without water, there is no sowing and the vegetation is dying. So are the cattle and, with them, all farm-related livelihood. With more and more people leaving the villages in search of work, there are more households with no young men than ever before. Indeed, the climate is killing Bundelkhand, but will we look at what ails the climate?