Friday, 9 November 2012

Rural Migration in India: How Important is Weather Variability?

By Brinda Viswanathan and K.S. Kavi Kumar


Response strategies to global climate change crucially depend on potential impacts due to climate change on several climate sensitive sectors. From developing country perspective, in order to design adaptation strategies, it is important to not only know the overall impacts; but also the factors that could, in principle, play a crucial role in minimizing the impacts of climate change. 

Several studies have shown that climate change could have significantly adverse impacts on Indian agriculture. The available evidence shows significant drops in yields of important cereal crops like rice and wheat under various climate change scenarios. While several planned adaptation strategies could work towards ameliorating the adverse impacts of climate change, there is a considerable likelihood of migration associated with agriculture sector. Thus, for a large majority, migration could be an effective adaptation strategy1

While some studies have analyzed the linkages between weather variability (and climate change) and migration per se in the past (see, McLeman and Smit, 2006; Perch-Nielsen et al., 2008, Bardsley and Hugo, 2010), the linkages through the agriculture channel and rural-urban wage differentials have recently been analyzed by researchers such as, Feng et al. (2010, 2012); Barbieri et al. (2010); Dillon et al. (2011); and Marchiori et al. (2012).

Following the methodology used by Feng et al. (2010), a recent study in India, explored the linkages between weather variability, agricultural performance, and migration, using state level Census data over the period 1981 to 2001 and district level Census data covering the period 1992-2001. The weather data is sourced from grid level meteorological data released recently by the India Meteorological Department. The analysis is carried out separately for the two main cereal crops: wheat and rice.