India—The Jal Kranti Abhiyan (Water Movement Initiative)
Drought is nothing new in India. However, with changing climatic conditions, both the frequency and impact of it is increasing. The monsoon season that provides 80 per cent of the rainfall in the country, is witnessing a disturbing change, according to a 2014 study by the Stanford Woods Institute of Economics. According to this study, there is substantial variability within the monsoon season, including fluctuations between periods of heavy rainfall (wet spells) and low rainfall (dry spells). “These fluctuations can cause extreme wet and dry regional conditions that adversely impact agricultural yields and water resources. Sixty per cent of the population depends on agriculture, and monsoons script people’s lives.” Tapping the rainfall during the monsoon days is therefore the most resilient effort that Indian farmers, most of whom have small farms, can do to adapt to climate change.
The western region of Odisha State has been a resource-rich region and also a region with a long history of good and sustainable practices to manage these resources. One can easily find that one of the prime reasons for increasing frequency of drought is the neglect of the region’s traditional water-harvesting structures.
An initiative launched about a decade and half ago by Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), a leading network of voluntary organizations, farmers and concerned citizens, is helping thousands of villagers restore their traditional water bodies in an ecologically sustainable approach. The initiative revives traditional rainwater harvesting structures and systems that are helping farmers in many villages to successfully fight drought. Hence, they are building resilience against climate change induced drought.
About 95% of the world’s farms are small-scale and two billion people depend on small farms for their livelihood. Small farmers of the world are always under tremendous pressure. They have taken to themselves a daunting task of feeding the world despite being poor themselves. Small land holding does not make them count as sufficient units to get necessary support from their respective governments, and nature’s vagaries affect them the most. To fight climate change, therefore, building resilience of the small farmers is most important. This initiative in Odisha is exactly doing that.
The Government of India has taken up several initiatives to fight drought and build climate resilience through promotion of water security in the villages. One such effort is Jal Kranti Abhiyan (Water Movement Initiative) that is helping to scale up initiatives being promoted by WIO and other civil society groups. Jal Kranti was launched by the Ministry of Water Resources in 2015. This initiative aims at converting one water scarce village in each district of the country into a water surplus village through a holistic and integrated approach that adopts conservation techniques. Activities proposed under this include rainwater harvesting, recycling of wastewater, micro irrigation for using water efficiently and a mass-awareness program. The goal is to build resilience through revival of traditional rainwater harvesting systems and ecological approaches related to them.
India’s INDC sets a goal of 175 gigawatts (GW) of generating renewable power capacity by 2022. The goal is to increase its share of non-fossil-based power capacity from 15% today to about 40% by 2030. This commits India to reduce its emissions intensity per unit of GDP by 33% to 35% below 2005 by 2030, and to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through additional tree cover. It also prioritizes several efforts to build resilience to climate change impacts. The above efforts will contribute to the adaptation efforts through rainwater harvesting and help create carbon sinks through enhanced green cover. Most important, its components are replicable in the entire central highlands and hence it has the potential to contribute greatly to meeting India’s INDC pledges.
The Key to a Food-Secure World : Small Farmers and Traditional Sustainable Practices, by Ranjan K Panda, TerraGreen Delhi, February 1, 2015.
How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area, by Nick C. Davidson, Marine and Freshwater Research, CSIRO PUBLISHING 2014.
Kharamal – A Green Spot in a Brown Belt, by Ranjan K Panda, Yojana, July 2010.
Simple solutions to big water problems in Balangir; Ranjan K Panda, ‘InfochangeIndia’, November 2009.
Traditional Water Harvesting, the answer to western Orissa’s perennial drought woes; Ranjan K Panda, ‘The World Prout Assembly’, 2006
The Myth of Kalahandi, Richard Mahapatra and Ranjan Panda, ‘Down to Earth’, 30th March 2001.