Abstract

The Indian Sundarbans is considered one of the zones of highest vulnerability in the world in terms of climate change. About 4.43 million people living in the Indian Sundarbans face a lack of freshwater availability due to the erratic behaviour of monsoon rains, frequent cyclonic storms, intrusion of saline water, and other factors, all of which affect the fisheries and agriculture activities of this area. In this study, estimates of freshwater availability through past and predicted future rainfall and evapotranspiration change scenarios in the Sundarbans are presented. Due to the lack of high-quality in-situ data, various sources of gridded rainfall and evapotranspiration data were used. Between 1948 and 2010, half of the 19 administrative blocks showed a decreasing trend of monsoonal rainfall while the rest showed an increasing trend. Freshwater availability showed a decreasing trend during the monsoon season over different blocks of the Sundarbans, which is a matter of great concern for fisheries and agricultural activities. Statistical downscaling was used to generate future rainfall and evapotranspiration scenarios, using coarse resolution Global Climate Models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase five for a smaller area like the Sundarbans. Downscaled Global Climate Models project an increasing trend in future monsoon rainfall in both RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 emission scenarios. The increasing rainfall can trigger excessive run-off and flooding, which would in turn affect aquaculture infrastructure and damage lentic aquaculture productions across the Sundarbans. However, increased rainfall may expand the flood plain area and extend the feeding grounds of fish. Hence, the impact of rainfall change is quite unpredictable. Proper adaptation techniques may be required to harness the positive impacts while preventing negative effects.

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