How climate change helped spread a disease that killed more than 1.5 lakh cows in India


Last year, more than 50 lakh cattle in Rajasthan were infected with lumpy skin disease. More than 75,000 of them died. Across the country, the disease killed more than 1.5 lakh cattle. The outbreak had a devastating impact on families that relied on the animals for an income. 

In Bikaner district, for instance, Pushpa Devi’s household’s milk production plummeted from 40 litres a day to 15 litres. “See, agriculture gives income twice a year,” Devi’s husband Bishna Ram said. “For the rest of the year, daily expenditure needs, like school fees or shopping for necessities, is supported by selling milk.”

But the story isn't merely one about the outbreak of a deadly viral disease. 

As Vaishnavi Rathore found reporting from Bikaner district, doctors and locals all spoke of how the outbreak had been exacerbated by an unpredictable, shifting climate. One doctor noted that while the disease typically dies down in the summer, last year, the increased moisture in the region accelerated its spread – an observation supported by scientific studies and government statements.

For Common Ground, Rathore mapped out the intricate ways in which climate change, as well as land use patterns, are adding pressures to the region’s agricultural economy. “There were only a few scientific studies that made clear connections between climate change and lumpy skin disease in the Indian context, as well as between climate change and fodder, and livestock,” Rathore said. “But when I went on ground and spoke to people impacted and local vets, a lot of micro-level information, and experiences of locals began to emerge, which formed a clear pattern.”

She added, “It was a good reminder to give people’s common experiences a space in writing. After all, as one colleague observed, who would better know how the relationship between fodder and cattle was changing than those who deal with it everyday, like livestock rearers."

You can read the story here. And to support more such in-depth and investigative reportage, do consider becoming a member of Scroll.

Ajay Krishnan
Senior Editor


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