Indira Paryavaran Bhavan, New Delhi
11 December 2015 to 15 December 2015
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India
G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED)
Centre for Environment Education
Across the Indian Himalayan region, communities are experiencing myriad social, economic, and disaster-related impacts due to global and regional effects of climate change. Over millennia, the ancestors of these resilient communities, like their counterparts around the world, have adapted to environmental change through cultural responsiveness and individual creativity. What is new in the present era is that the pace of change outstrips many communities’ capacity to successfully adapt. Larger societal responses are called for to inform effective adaptive and ameliorative responses to climate change. These include making the full breadth of our evolving knowledge – both scientific and cultural – more accessible to individuals and communities at every level. The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), covers three biogeographic zones – the Trans Himalaya, the Himalaya, and Northeast India about 3,000 km in length and between 220 and 300 km in width. It is spread over the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, part of Assam, and one district of West Bengal.
“Climate + Change – Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future” initiative is an innovative, open-ended initiative to foster Climate Smart Communities throughout the Indian Himalayan region. Becoming Climate Smart requires increased capacity for individual communities to respond constructively to the present rate of change in the environment, as well as awareness of what is occurring and innovative ways to respond.
To that end, the initiative will travel to mountain villages and state capitals, seeking out and documenting the changes people perceive around them and the ways some have already begun to respond to them. It will document stories of successful development programmes, sharing knowledge of what has worked in the past as well as failures that the community at large can learn from. The initiative will take the form of an evolving exhibition that is co-created with the communities it travels to. It will also share basic information about the mechanisms and ramifications of global and regional climate change, tailored to the needs communities express in the project’s initial phase, and continually adapted as practice suggests.
This synthesis of knowledge— from local to global, traditional to scientific—will provide a broad basis for action to improve the lives of families and communities across the region. With the objective of stimulating action on the ground, Climate + Change – Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future, will be more than an exhibition of stories and diverse knowledge. The initiative is envisioned as a catalyst for building a cross-cutting knowledge community around climate-related adaptation and mitigation. By assembling an accumulating wealth of knowledge and storytelling resources from community to community, the new Climate Smart Community that results from the initiative will cut across local, linguistic, sectorial, and regional boundaries. By carrying rural stories to urban state capitals and ultimately to the nation’s capital, it will cut across upstream/downstream boundaries and link the mountains to the plains. In the first four months of 2016, a pilot programme will travel to multiple sites in the Himalayan states to prototype the project’s methodology and develop the initial materials for a planned roll-out at scale in autumn of that year. Teams will then travel, building on Landscape Yatra methodology for approximately ten months to states in the Indian Himalayan region. They will recruit community members to travel to other districts as programme facilitators for a period of two months, adding direct human links to a growing knowledge network and piloting what could become a full-fledged fellow programme by year three.
The material co created by teams will be brought to the state capitals during the summer months, where it will be used to convene government officials, industry, scientists, community members, and students. At the same time, the teams will continue to solicit and document the stories of migrant residents of the cities, whose histories reflect the pervasive effects of climate and social change on mountain communities. These activities and the urban exhibition programme will also highlight the upstream/downstream relationship that cities have with rural mountain communities and their dependence on the natural resources of mountain ecologies.
The first two years will culminate in an extended series of happenings across New Delhi in December of 2017. This series of happenings will include an interactive exhibition co-created by a large number of people from across the Himalayas, including communities, students, and representatives from community based organizations and government agencies. This will also provide a platform to showcase the Climate+Change fellows and their work.
The presentation of the first phase of the initiative may be backed up by a policy platform in the presence of the Honourable Prime Minister of India and other dignitaries. At the end of these first two years, Climate+Change Indian Himalayan Region: Our Mountains, Our Future will have begun to build a web of Climate Smart Communities in the Himalayan states and a network of community based change agents This network will help to improve linkages that connect people to information, resources, and other people across this knowledge community. This will allow individuals and their communities to leverage an increasing accumulation of options to tackle the issues before them and even to thrive in an era of rapid climate change. To make that network sustainable, the initiative will continue to evolve in subsequent years. One key evolution may be the creation of a network of Fellows, based on the initial programme of recruitment of individual community members to travel with the initiative to other communities. The Fellows programme could offer educational opportunities, community grants, microfinancing, knowledge resources, mentoring, and other modes of support to individuals who show initiative and interest in improving their communities’ ability to respond to a changing climate.
The programme can also begin to work more deeply with communities to provide a bridge to NGOs that could assist in piloting innovative development programmes and informing state and national action plans, including State Action Plans on Climate Change. It could provide longer-term documentation of the effectiveness of development programmes, mitigation efforts, and adaptive strategies while also facilitating the continued dissemination of information and sharing of successful innovation. Over time, the goal of the programme is to significantly augment the resilience of diverse communities by strengthening their own capacities through a self-sustaining network of knowledge and action. It will simultaneously build an expert community of Climate-Smart practitioners and a body of best-practice experience and knowledge that can be shared within and beyond the Himalayan states.
The initial user base for the exhibition will be people living in rural communities throughout India’s Himalayan states. These people will also be the program’s co-creators. Its educational outreach will extend to schoolchildren beginning at age six. For the youngest children, the activities will shape a basic understanding of change in the world around them. Older children will learn about earth science and the fundamentals of climate change. A framework for engaging youth will be developed, with youth programs focusing on action plans co-developed with students that are directed toward making positive change.
The initiative is also intended to facilitate dialogue between communities and government officials—and among officials at all levels. By facilitating such discourse, it can assist state and local officials in forming policy priorities that align with community needs, as well as inform communities of the options available and remove barriers to communities’ understanding of the difficult choices officials must make among competing priorities.
The urban public will discover through the program new insight into the numerous ways they are already connected to the mountains and their rural stewards—whether or not they have actually travelled there. It will provide guidance for action that mitigates as well as providing a bridge to other kinds of individual and collective action. By illuminating the stories of mountain communities and individuals, it will also bridge cultural gaps and foster empathy across boundaries of wealth, caste, and geography.
Climate + Change – Our Mountains Our Future