On their way to prosperity and development, one major hurdle that all developing economies face is that of pollution and climate change. India too is no different. While there is no denial of the fact that we are growing at a commendable pace, we can also not deny that our pollution levels have done damage to the environment.
Why the Change?
With the Paris climate deal to come into effect from 2020, all the nations of the world, including India have to adopt measures to keep the carbon emissions and other pollutants in check. And all of us would agree that we need to adopt a more holistic approach towards development. We should aim for advancements without destroying the environment. Another major aspect that should be considered is that all sections of the society should be benefitted with the changes, particularly the deprived sections.
The ministry of rural development has proposed to use the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which is the world’s largest wage-based social protection program to achieve India’s third climate target under the 2016 Paris climate change agreement.
India Plans to fight Climate change
India is working to achieve 3 key climate targets:
• Achieving 40% of installed electric power without the use of fossil fuels
• Reduce the emission intensity to 33% of its GDP from 35% in 2005.
• Creation of carbon sinks of about 2.5 to 3 billion tons.
What is a carbon sink?
A carbon sink is a reservoir which can be built artificially. The sink accumulates and contains some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period of time. The process by which carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is known as carbon sequestration.
Where India Stands:
While India is on track for the first 2 goals, the third goal is lagging behind. Climate-oriented activities like drought proofing and creation of fruit orchards can contribute significantly towards achieving the goal. IISc is analyzing the scope to utilize the workers employed under the MGNREGA scheme to carry out these activities. This provides better immunity against weather changes and improved soil fertility. Better soil yields better crops with lesser resources.
A pilot project is being worked upon in 103 blocks of 3 districts of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. In 2017-18, MGNREGA may have helped in isolation of about 61.96 million tons of CO2 equivalent.
“Drought-proofing will increase the resilience of community by helping them to cope with droughts, and with tree planting there will be an improvement in soil fertility over time which in turn could help retain more soil moisture and better yields,” said Indu K Murthy, IISc scientist who is coordinating the project with Prof NH Ravindranath.
Drought-proofing had the highest potential, followed by land development, the revival of traditional water bodies and water harvesting, amongst others.
Indian authors of IPCC report Joyashree Roy said that their team has been making aware different parties about climate science and its impacts economically. “A 1.5 degree C rise in global warming climate result into poverty which will simply make more people poorer and poorer. Climate changes severely impact for urban areas and thus most of them are projected for Urban areas. Climate change will negatively affect childhood under-nutrition and stunting through reduced food availability.”
The ministry is also planning to engage private sectors to restore the forest cover in the nation. Better forest covers mean lower carbon levels, resulting in a decrease in overall global warming. This is certainly a win-win situation since it guarantees employment and improves the climate.