Saving Tigers To Building Solar Plants, MP’s Climate Change Policy Is Getting It Right

Posted on August 21, 2016 in Environment, Society

By Shaan Suhas Kumar:

The geographical diversity of India makes it one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. With a number of glaciers in the north and water on the other three sides, millions will be affected with the sea-level-rise and melting, or drying of glaciers. In India, change in monsoon patterns, and increase in maximum and minimum temperatures have already been observed over the past decade with 2014, 2015 and 2016 being the hottest in the past 150 years, according to the recorded observations.

However, landlocked areas will also be severely affected and the repercussions are already being felt. One such landlocked area is the state of Madhya Pradesh, right at the centre of the country – a majority of this state, like the rest of the country, relies on natural resources for their livelihood – through agriculture, fishery, forestry, horticulture and similar fields and the expected impacts of climate change can create irreversible changes to the resources these systems heavily rely on.

Knowledge, Creation And Management For Guiding Policy Decisions

According to observations made by IITM-Pune for the Government of Madhya Pradesh, the state could see an average increase of 1.8-2.0 degrees, and an increase of 2.0 to 2.4 degrees Celsius in daily minimum temperature by mid-century. At the end of the century, temperatures can go up to an alarming 3.4 to 4.4 degree Celsius on average. Rainfall predictions state that monsoon precipitation would rise by 25% with a decrease in winter precipitation. The number of droughts, floods, and extreme-weather-days in different regions of the state is also on the verge of rising, impacting different sectors in the state adversely. More numbers of forest fires, disturbed composition of forests, shift in crop patterns, reduced rainfall, disturbed river ecosystems and hike in incidences of insect-borne disease are some of the implications of these changes in the weather pattern.

The Government of Madhya Pradesh established its first ever climate change cell in Environmental Planning and Coordination Organization (EPCO) in early 2007. With the help of UNDPs financial support in 2009, it worked to strengthen its initiative by creating a cell to work towards adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. Soon they developed the cell into State Knowledge Management Centre on Climate Change (SKMCCC) and prepared the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC). Madhya Pradesh is the only state in India which has its own Climate Change Knowledge Management Centre to collate and create resources that guide policy makers to take up projects based on concrete data and assessment of various parameters or different regions in the state.

The creation of such a unit has also inspired other states to form their own State Action Plan on Climate Change which has proven to be an important first step towards creating goals for the coming years that include projects focused on coping with and combating climate change. With the state divided into 11 agro climatic zones, projects around water rejuvenation, reduced electricity consumption, and solar power generation have been taken up. The extensive research and systematic approach for understanding all the aspects relating to carrying out these projects in Madhya Pradesh has helped them receive funding from National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change, Climate Change Action Funding Program, the Green Climate Fund, and others. With the majority of the population in the villages highly reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods and weather changes severely affecting their practice, the state has taken up training projects with farmers on water on natural resource management and afforestation.

With the help and support from Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change the Centre has completed the vulnerability assessment of all 51 districts. This includes baseline – mid century – end century accounting based on forestry, health, water and agriculture as well as GHG accounting and cost accounting. With the help of this development projects in both urban local bodies as well as at the rural-block level have been taken up to create climate smart cities and villages.

Tiger Conservation For Battling Climate Change

The protection of tigers has been on the radar for India since the 1970s with the introduction of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and Project Tiger (1973). Since the country houses 70% of the world population of tigers in the wild much focus has been given to the magnificent predator as their status as an umbrella species and their importance in protecting forest ecosystems has been recognized.

A major step in the strategy towards maintaining and increasing this population is the protection and expansion of protected areas. Over the past few years, the government along with NGOs have got down to working relentlessly to expand and create more protected areas for the tigers. Madhya Pradesh is home to 6 such designated Tiger Reserves. Creating habitat connecting the corridors to join these different areas is an important step of the plan as it will ensure the well being of this long-ranging species and increase the chances of successful breeding by being able to find an unrelated mate. Creating these corridors would mean expanding the protected area and afforestation which would indirectly contribute to increasing the capacity of forests to absorb more carbon and combating climate change.  Additionally, Protected Areas will help to mitigate climate change by the prevention of the loss of carbon, already stored in soil and vegetation, restricting invasion of fire-prone areas and providing increased water flow.

Ramping Up Renewable Energy Capacity

Making a shift towards renewable energy, Madhya Pradesh is in the process to launch a solar power plant with the proposed capacity being 750 MW. The plant is to be set up on 1,550 hectares of land in Rewa which will bring the states, solar energy capacity to a total of 2750 MW. The state’s wind energy capacity has also grown to 2165 MW in the past few years with many projects still in development with an aim to reach over 6000 MW capacity.

The steps Madhya Pradesh is taking as a state are towards making is holistic, by helping vulnerable areas more secure, by training people to cope with the effects of climate change so it doesn’t harm people and their livelihoods that are highly dependent on natural resource and by taking on projects that are not only helping the state to cope with the effects of climate change, but also combating it by making the geographic region more sustainable, working on projects involving renewable energy, educating its citizens to cut down on energy consumption as well as efforts in reforesting through the expansion and protection of its forest areas. With the depth of research, guided projects, and training, Madhya Pradesh is putting in all efforts to ensure that temperatures do not cross the globally accepted 1.5 degrees range and has become an example and inspiration for the other states in the country.