Many Indians, especially in rural areas, face the adverse impacts of climate change amid the country's efforts to reduce their carbon emissions and switch to renewable energy sources. This is compounded by high levels of man-made pollution, rapid industrialization and environmental damage. While students from all over the world meet in search of better policies to fight against climate change, this author spoke with Indian peasants, experts, youth groups and social entrepreneurs who are developing innovative ideas to face climate change.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (GIECC) published in 2018 warns of the disastrous consequences that would arise if current trends in global warming are not reversed, with serious repercussions for the nations of South Asia, including India and Pakistan, which are already facing the loss of forest cover, rising temperatures, heat waves that have claimed thousands of lives and rising sea levels. India, which has a long coastline, is particularly vulnerable, since millions of people depend on the sea for their livelihoods and live near coastal areas.
India is under pressure to mitigate climate change by controlling lethal emissions. But it must also adapt to the growing shortage of water, droughts, floods, cyclones and other natural disasters to prevent premature deaths, according to the United Nations report. The report entitled World Environment Outlook describes a growing chasm between rich and poor countries regarding hunger, disease and pollution.
Impact on farmers
Sunil Patil, a 44-year-old Indian farmer, says that climate change is a serious problem that has destroyed his crops with rains, hailstorms and pollution. Patil, who owns 22 acres (8.9 hectares) in the state of Maharashtra, in western India, says that climate change has reduced his income, has affected the environment and impoverished him, while fighting for his children They can study. I talked with Patil, a second generation peasant:
I've completely stopped producing sugarcane as it is water-dependent and we have droughts in Nashik (region) and agriculture is akin to playing gamble with nature and has led to losses for many farmers. We keep looking for solutions but they are temporary and the government needs to educate us first on how to tackle increasing temperatures or avoid using too many chemicals.
I have stopped producing sugarcane altogether, since it depends a lot on water and in the Nashik region we have droughts; and agriculture is like betting on nature and has caused losses to many farmers. We are still looking for solutions, but they are temporary and the Government must first educate us on how to cope with rising temperatures or how to avoid excessive use of chemicals.
When social entrepreneur Akansha Singh went to the small village of Jhabua, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, she witnessed social and economic inequalities in the interior of India. Farmers, already affected by climate change, used higher concentrations of pesticides and fertilizers in the hope of improving production yield. His actions had an undue impact on the ground in the area.
In a dialogue with this author, Singh said he observed how villagers used beef manure cakes for cooking and, therefore, inhaled toxic gases and polluted the environment. To break this cycle, he founded Swayambhu, a social company that builds biogas plants with the aim of offering cheaper fuel and bioelectricity, biofertilizers and biopesticides to reverse ecological damage. Singh expressed:
India is rich in feedstock but lags in producing biogas but imports natural gas and other polluting fuels. At every stage, we created awareness amongst villagers trying to reduce their carbon footprint, bring down levels of methane gas and offer them cleaner sources of electricity, fuel.
India is rich in raw material but is behind in the production of biogas, however, it imports natural gas and other polluting fuels. At each stage, we raise awareness among farmers with the intention of reducing their carbon footprint, lowering methane gas levels and offering them cleaner sources of electricity and fuels.
Singh argues that the use of biofertilizers helped these farmers to have a better harvest and, at the same time, to gradually reverse the pH levels of the soil.
P. Sainath, founder of People's Archives of Rural India (PARI), said:
Indian farmers are seriously affected by climate change across multiple geographies. The situation is pretty serious and there has been an extreme increase in weather episodes in the last fifteen years. We can't blame nature as what humans have done to the soil, groundwater, forests is having a damaging impact.
Indian farmers are severely affected by climate change in several geographical regions. The situation is quite serious and there has been a large increase in weather events in the last 15 years. We cannot blame nature, since the actions of human beings on the ground, groundwater and forests have caused harmful consequences.
Increase in youth networks
India, with 1300 million inhabitants, has a large proportion of young people, but lack of employment, knowledge about climate change and late government initiatives are damaging the environment. This has caused a vacuum that youth networks try to fill.
To raise awareness about climate change, the NGO Youth For Climate Change (IYCN), based in New Delhi, organizes workshops and campaigns and is currently trying to mobilize regional teams, as the problems associated with climate change intensify in the interior of India and affect peasants, tribal populations and urban centers alike. Manish Gautam of IYCN commented:
In our workshops, we try to include basic climate science jargons, explain COP (Conference of the Parties) negotiations and involve more youngsters. In 2014, we had conducted nine workshops on climate change and youth survey as well.
In our workshops we try to include fundamental concepts on climatology, explain the negotiations that take place at the Conference of the Parties (COP) and involve more young people. In 2014, we conducted nine workshops on climate change and also a youth survey.
We are planning more initiatives, workshops and collaborating with many organizations. But, youth participation in India needs to be more and on a larger scale as our problems are much more complex.
We are planning more initiatives, workshops and collaborations with many organizations. However, youth participation in India needs to be more and on a larger scale, since our problems are much more complex.
Innovative solutions on a large scale
India, a developing economy with fewer resources and a large population, needs to invest a billion dollars to meet its climate change goals, according to the report. While this colossal figure is an indicator of the problem, other emerging companies are using new technologies to turn the nightmare of the toxic fog problem in New Delhi, the Indian capital, into an innovative solution.
Chakr Innovation, a New Delhi-based startup, is turning that fog and air pollutants into ink and has used the smoke that machines throw to capture up to 90% of harmful pollutants.
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Selco India, another Indian company, has expanded the country's current solar power capacity with offers of flashlights, lights, microgrids and solar cookers to citizens of rural areas to create sustainable energy sources that reduce pollution.
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Millions of Indians do not have access to cleaner energy sources or financial support to make the transition, said Sarah Alexander, senior advisor to the Selco Foundation.
We're hoping to increase the resilience of people to tackle climate change and also offering efficient sources of energy. This will impact their overall well-being.
We hope to increase people's resilience to face climate change and we also offer efficient sources of energy. This will impact your overall well-being.
Another startup, Let's Recycle, uses an innovative program to identify the pattern of generation and collection of waste in the state of Gujarat, western India, and has incorporated hundreds of garbage pickers into the formal economy, while Highlights recycling. Sandip Patel, general manager of Nepra and Let's Recycle, said:
We use technology to map waste generation pattern across Ahmedabad and are focusing on recycling efficiently. With this, we hope to tackle climate change and expand across India.
We use technology to trace the pattern of waste generation in Ahmedabad and focus on recycling efficiently. Thus, we hope to face climate change and expand throughout India.
Although the task of addressing climate change and educating citizens about its impact is enormous for India, these emerging groups and companies are developing innovative contributions to address crucial issues.