Indian villagers reach for food during distribution by a social welfare group at Kumirmari village in the Sunderbans, some 170 kms south of Kolkata in June 2009. Climate change threatens to bring food and water shortages to 1.6 billion people in South Asia, with the region's poorest likely to be worst hit, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said here Wednesday. (Photo:AFP)

Indian villagers reach for food during distribution by a social welfare group at Kumirmari village in the Sunderbans, some 170 kms south of Kolkata in June 2009. Climate change threatens to bring food and water shortages to 1.6 billion people in South Asia, with the region's poorest likely to be worst hit, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said here Wednesday. (Photo:AFP)

Climate change threatens to bring food and water shortages to 1.6 billion people in South Asia, with the region’s poorest likely to be worst hit, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said here Wednesday.

New research commissioned by the ADB shows that if current climate trends persist until 2050, maize yields in South Asia will fall by 17 percent, wheat by 12 percent and rice by 10 percent.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal are “particularly vulnerable to falling crop yields caused by glacier retreat, floods, droughts, erratic rainfall and other climate change impacts,” the bank said in a statement.

Kunio Senga, director general of the ADB’s South Asia department, said the projected food shortages would result in “five million additional malnourished children in South Asia.”

“South Asia’s vulnerability to climate change has extremely serious implications for agriculture,” he told journalists in Kathmandu, adding that “the poor stand to suffer most as a result of unchecked climate change.”

Almost half the world’s poorest people live in South Asia, where they tend to depend on agriculture and live in areas highly exposed to changes in the climate, the ADB said.

Senga was in Nepal for a conference of South Asian nations that ended Tuesday with a call for international assistance for poor communities most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

The ADB’s research was carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute and will be published in full at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bangkok later this month.