(MainsGS3:Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.)
- A study on carbon emission and sequestration in the Meenangadi grama panchayat limits has found that the carbon sequestration level is 11,452 tonnes lower than the carbon emission in the grama panchayat.
- If India has to achieve the set of goals enunciated in the ‘Panchamrit’ resolution of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow 2021, it is necessary that panchayati raj institutions, the third tier of government which are closest to the people are involved.
- Although international and national policies have been formulated with large-scale investments, it is necessary to have a suitable local action plan for implementation and enforcement, initiated and coordinated by local governments.
- In the context of greater devolution that has taken place, panchayats, as local governments, can play a pivotal role in tackling many of the causes and effects of climate change.
Decentralizing the process:
- Much of India’s population still lives in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture and other agri-based activities.
- The greater variability in rainfall and temperatures, etc. experienced of late has directly affected the livelihood and well-being of millions of rural households.
- India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change 2008 identifies a range of priority areas for coordinated intervention at the national and State levels.
- However, there would have been better results had panchayati raj institutions been given a greater role.
- Through the ongoing decentralisation process which ensures people’s participation, panchayats can play a crucial and frontline role in coordinating effective responses to climate risks, enabling adaptation and building climate-change resilient communities.
Zero carbon development:
- The climate change discussion also focuses on the emerging and widely accepted concept of ‘carbon neutrality’ which puts forth the notion of zero carbon developments, nature conservation, food, energy and seeds sufficiency, and economic development.
- As human activities are the cause of the current climate crisis, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to growing and extreme weather events are critical.
- Zero carbon development which promotes sustainable living is the effective solution to reducing anthropogenic emissions and improving climate resilience.
Case study of Meenangadi:
- In recent years, many panchayats have come forward with the concept of carbon neutrality, a prominent example being Meenangadi gram panchayat in Kerala’s Wayanad district, which serves as a model to emulate.
- In 2016, the panchayat envisaged a project called ‘Carbon neutral Meenangadi’, the aim being to transform Meenangadi into a state of carbon neutrality.
- Several multi sector schemes were implemented to reduce emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and preserve the ecology and bio-diversity.
- ‘Tree banking’ was one of landmark schemes introduced to aid carbon neutral activities which encouraged the planting of more trees by extending interest-free loans.
- An awareness programme was conducted initially and a greenhouse gases emission inventory was also prepared in which the panchayat was found to be carbon positive.
Localising the SDGs:
- The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has focused its attention on localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a thematic basis.
- ‘Clean and Green Village’ has been identified as the fifth theme where panchayats can take up activities on natural resource management, biodiversity protection, waste management and afforestation activities.
- The Ministry has highlighted the need for the documentation of best practices and for wider dissemination whose net result is that many panchayats are coming forward with their eco plans.
- The integrated Panchayat Development Plan prepared by all panchayats is a stepping stone towards addressing many of the environmental concerns of villages.
- In today’s age of rapid technological advancements and digital transformation, India’s rural local bodies are silently contributing their strength to ensuring the global target of carbon neutrality.