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World Environment Day 2023: Green growth strategies can ensure climate-resilience in rural India
Investments in infrastructure, such as water management systems, irrigation facilities and early warning systems, can help communities cope with climate-related disasters
Rising global temperatures and erratic weather patterns have made India highly vulnerable to climate change. As over 75 per cent of the country’s districts are identified as hotspots for extreme climate events, there is an undeniable and urgent need to actively address the issue.
When it comes to climate change, not all are impacted equally. Factors such as socioeconomic status, cultural norms and geographic location contribute to the uneven impact experienced by different communities.
Rural communities often lack the necessary resources and adaptive capacities to effectively deal with the impacts of climate change. Limited access to technology, financial resources, information, and education impedes their ability to adopt climate-resilient practices and diversify livelihood options, thereby increasing vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change.
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The agricultural sector, heavily reliant on reliable weather and rainfall patterns, suffers greatly from the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Droughts, floods and storms disrupt agricultural activities, leading to crop failures, loss of livelihoods and food insecurity, leaving farmers exposed to decreased productivity and income instability.
Additionally, in countries like India, climate change also widens gender-based disparities. In many rural areas, women shoulder the burden of fetching water, collecting fuel and working on family farms, making their daily lives increasingly challenging as climate change exacerbates these difficulties.
Hindered well-being and development opportunities for women and children, due to reduced mobility and decision-making, in the face of increasing challenges further perpetuates the inequity.
Capacity building critical
Climate information services play a critical role in enhancing society’s resilience, providing essential data on climate risks and available strategies for adaptation and mitigation. By promoting access to climate information, India can empower its citizens to build resilience, make informed choices, and contribute to a sustainable and climate-resilient future.
There should be a focus on enhancing adaptive capacity through climate-resilient agriculture practices, diversification of livelihoods and access to credit and insurance for farmers. Investments in infrastructure, such as water management systems, irrigation facilities and early warning systems, can help communities cope with climate-related disasters.
Education and awareness programmes that highlight climate change impacts and adaptation strategies should be promoted at the community level. Demonstrating techniques and creating community leadership to tackle climate issues can further help sensitise the larger community.
Interventions around water management that bring clean potable water to the rural doorstep or sustainable fuel alternatives can directly target environmental indicators and some of the gender disparities associated with climate change.
Building climate resilience in rural India while incorporating a gendered perspective into interventional frameworks can have additional outsized positive impacts on outcomes. Empowering women through gender-responsive policies, and improving their access to education, healthcare and income-generating opportunities, is vital for building their resilience.
Women, children and other vulnerable groups should take on leadership roles, as they are disproportionately reliant on natural resources to support their day-to-day lives. Such resources are more heavily impacted by climate change.
Green growth — a crucial step
Green growth entails balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability, as opposed to pursuing short-term economic development without considering its long-term cost to the planet.
In rural areas, where communities heavily rely on agriculture and natural resources, embracing green growth principles can lead to multiple benefits. Implementing climate-smart agricultural techniques, adopting renewable energy solutions and promoting sustainable land and water management practices can reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as enhance rural livelihoods and resilience.
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Embracing green growth strategies can allow rural India to pave the way for a more sustainable and climate-resilient future, benefiting both the environment and its communities.
Philanthropic initiatives play a vital role in building climate-resilient communities. India currently heavily relies on government expenditure (93 per cent in 2020) for social sector funding, the focus for which is largely on achieving UN-mandated sustainable development goals by 2030.
However, for climate finance, private capital has been essential. As of 2019-2020, the private sector contributed over 57 per cent of climate finance in India, amounting to Rs 1,75,000 crore.
The negative effects of climate change demand philanthropic investments as a high priority, safeguarding vulnerable stakeholders and expediting the transition to a net-zero future. Philanthropic action has already played a pivotal role in advancing climate action in India.
Still, domestic and global resources in this area remain inadequate compared to the magnitude of the problem. Given the limited time window to stabilise the climate, the outcomes of philanthropic efforts are highly significant for the future of humanity.
Fostering collaboration and partnerships among various stakeholders, including government agencies, civil society organisations, research institutions and private sector entities, can promote knowledge exchange, sharing of best practices, and joint efforts to build climate resilience in rural India. By working together, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for all.
The author is the chairperson and founder of The Hans Foundation, a non-profit focussing on sustainable development.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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