Ghewar Ram and Gauri Devi, who live in the western Rajasthan, own just a one-and-a half bigha plot of land. They used to migrate in search of livelihood every time a drought struck. Not anymore. They have now adopted horti-pasture techniques. The family first planted local species such as ber, goonda, karonda and lemon, created a rain water harvesting tank and a boundary for the farm to prevent stray animals from destroying the crop. Next year, Gauri Devi introduced guvar on her farm as a part of intercropping. By the end of the second year, the farm turned profitable. While her family has to put about two extra hours of work on the farm, inter-cropping has benefitted them immensely in terms of fodder, fruits, vegetables and other produce. Ghewar Ram is jubilant when he says that the income from the plot has increased ten times.
Similar stories of hope and revival have started to emerge across the desert of western Rajasthan. With sustained efforts by the government to strengthen the financial resilience of vulnerable communities, and pro-active role of non-governmental organisations such as Unnati, a gradual but noticeable change has been brought about by strengthening livelihoods in these drought-prone areas.
Working towards substantially reducing disaster risks and losses in livelihoods is entrenched in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), adopted at the third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan in March, 2015.
India is a signatory to this first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda and is thus committed to work towards making those choices for its environment, livelihoods and economic development that make it resilient to disasters.
The pain and suffering of people inhabiting the hostile terrain of western Rajasthan is a part of its folklore. ‘Saatkaal, sattaisjamana, trisathkuriakacha; teen kaal, aisapadela, maapoot
mile napacha’, goes a local saying. It means that out of every 100 years, only 27 years are good. There are seven years of drought, 63 years of severe drought and three years of so much distress that a mother and her children get separated. Traditional survival strategies used to revolve around effective water management, animal husbandry, mixed agriculture and collective will. ‘Das hove chaukhibakriyaan, eksaantaron oont, das hove khejdala, to kaalkaad doo koot’ –
A family can survive a drought if it has ten goats, a camel and ten khejdi trees. (Khejdi is a multipurpose legume with its parts used as food, fodder for the livestock, and raw material for constructing houses).The primary source of livelihood for small and marginal farmers, who constitute about 78 per cent of the farming community and depend on rain for irrigation, is livestock.
They traditionally relied on common community land and resources to maintain them. Common Property Resources (CPRs), particularly the oranand gauchar (community grazing land) and nadi (village pond),
which used to be managed by the community had been declining as bigger farmers moved towards mechanization of agriculture coupled with individualized water supply. This meant growing food and fodder insecurity, poverty and migration for the marginalized population.
With an increase in the frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards, there has been an increase in the incidences of drought post-1961. Almost 80 per cent of agriculture is rain-fed. The Thar desert region receives an average annual rainfall between 100 and 300 mm. Add to that the fact that the highly erodible desert soil is deficient in nutrients, has a high infiltration rate and a low moisture holding capacity.
Fig: Annual rainfall in Thar desert region of Rajasthan
Reviving CPRs thus was of utmost importance for strengthening community resilience against drought. Unnati has been helping small and marginal farmers in western Rajasthan in developing horti-pasture plots and rain water harvesting tanks. It is also helping them in providing veterinary care to reduce animal morbidity and mortality, as well as prevention of malaria.
There was a strong belief that horticulture cannot be promoted in the desert ecology. However, with examples such as Ghewar Ram and Gauri Devi, villagers are now willing to try it out.
The credit goes to experiments and trainings done by Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI) and other Kisan Vikas Kendras. They have provided expertise and training to the farmers on a continuous basis. They also provide an interface to the plot owners so that they can easily seek advice on plant varieties and combinations.
Over the years, many volunteers have been trained for functioning as local resource persons who can support farmers as well as local government functionaries on various aspects of horti-pasture system, grafting and choice of seeds. This has helped the disadvantaged farmers, especially women, in the initial years of switching to farming and livestock rearing techniques that make them resilient to droughts.
Plantation and fencing increases soil fertility providing better yield from inter-cropping. It has led to the regeneration of 21 local grass and shrub varieties that are used as fodder for the livestock. Some are also used as vegetables by people. They also contribute to soil nutrients and prevent soil erosion.
Making rain water harvesting structures, horti-pasture plots, specialized animal care, fodder banks and malaria prevention and cure accessible to small and marginalized farmers has proved to be of great use in building resilience to drought in desert areas of Rajasthan. It improves the adaptation capacity of small and marginal farmers by improving their fodder and livelihood security.
Many village and block level functionaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which aims at enhancing livelihood security of our rural population, now want to include horti-pasture plot development in their annual plans. This is a good example of how the goals of Disaster Risk Reduction can be interwoven with the goals of other social security schemes to result in sustainable and inclusive development.
water harvesting tanks
Works such as green fencing and construction of water harvesting tanks have also been approved under the MGNREGS in Rajasthan. This has helped horti-pasture system gain wider acceptance across the State with more and more small farmers switching to this form of agriculture.
These small but substantial gender and class sensitive measures are a step towards the ‘all-society approach’ as envisaged in the Sendai Framework.
While India is surely inching towards resilience to disasters, there is a long way to go. Since disasters don’t respect national boundaries, there is a greater need to move ahead on the implementation of the Sendai Framework in the Asia-Pacific region.
To realise this, the Government of India is organising the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) 2016 in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The Conference, which will be held from November 3-5, 2016 in New Delhi, will see the participation of Asian nations and disaster management experts to come out with the roadmap to a stronger, safer and disaster-resilient Asia.
* contributed by Shri Binoy Acharya, Director, UNNATI
Dr. Kapil Gupta, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering,Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
In July, 2005 Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, came to a standstill. Heavy rains clogged the city which was not prepared to deal with such a heavy downpour. More than a decade later, in 2015-16, the story was repeated in Chennai, Gurugram (Gurgaon), Bengaluru and Hyderabad. In the past decade, various other cities such as Kolkata, Srinagar and Surat have also witnessed similar situations. The story of urban floods is a global phenomenon. Many cities in Europe, the USA, the UK, Australia, China and other countries have also witnessed severe flooding during the past decade.
Unplanned construction in low-lying areas, solid waste in urban drainage channels, and increased rainfall due to changing climatic patterns are some of the identified common causes of urban flooding the world over.
The Government of India is a signatory to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was adopted at the Third World DRR Conference held in Sendai in Japan last year. It is thus committed to mainstream disaster risk reduction by investing in resilient infrastructure, urban planning, land use, etc. so as to not only reduce the risk of flooding but reduce the losses of lives and livelihoods in case it occurs.
Since risks and disasters go beyond national boundaries, India is willing to extend help and seek cooperation from others in its pursuance of a disaster-resilient world. It is hosting the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR), 2016 from November 3-5, 2016 at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi in collaboration with the the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The Conference will bring together policymakers and experts from 60 participating nations to arrive at a roadmap to safer, stronger, disaster-resilient Asia.
At the thematic session on Risk Sensitive Land Use and Urban Planning at AMCDRR 2016, Urban Flooding may come up for discussion. In this backdrop, Dr. Kapil Gupta, who is a Professor at IIT Bombay and an urban flood management expert, talks on various aspects of urban floods.
What is an urban flood? How is it different from rural flood or any other flood?
Flooding In Long Beach, California
The term urban flood consists of two parts – ‘urban’ and ‘flood’. According to the Census of India, 2011, an urban area is defined as (a) all statutory places with a municipality, a corporation, a cantonment board or a notified town area committee, etc.; or (b) all other places satisfying all three conditions: i) a minimum population of 5,000; ii) at least 75 per cent of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and iii) a density of population of at least 400 per sq. km.
Flood is defined as “an overflow of a large body of water over areas not usually inundated”. Thus, flooding in urban areas is caused by intense and/or prolonged rainfall, which overwhelms the capacity of the drainage system. Our cities are densely populated, and an urban flood affects a large number of people in a very small area. In addition, an urban flood results in inundation and damage to vital infrastructure, and disruption to roads and services, thereby affecting all walks of life. It often leads to major economic losses which have both local and global implications. Outbreak of diseases is yet another hazard after a major urban flood.
The extent of flooding in a rural flood may be quite large and there may be agricultural losses but the number of people affected is much lower in comparison to urban areas. Moreover, the flood peaks in urban areas are about two-eight times and flood volume is about six times when compared with the rural floods.
What causes urban flooding?
Urban flooding is caused by three main factors – meteorological, hydrological and human factors. Meteorological factors include heavy rainfall, cyclonic storms and thunderstorms. Hydrological factors include presence or absence of overbank flow channel networks and occurrence of high tides impeding the drainage in coastal cities. Human factors include land use changes, surface sealing due to urbanization (which increases run-off), occupation of flood plains and obstruction of flood flows, urban heat island effect (which has increased the rainfall in and around urban areas), sudden release of water from dams located upstream of citizen towns and the failure to release water from dams resulting in backwater effect. The indiscriminate disposal of solid waste into urban water drains and channels is a major impediment to water flow during the monsoon season.
There are multiple agencies which claim authority over waste disposal systems. Is there a system in place currently where different agencies work together and mitigate the risk?
In Mumbai, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has designated a Chief Engineer exclusively in charge of solid waste management. The solid waste department ensures that solid waste is collected and transported to the solid waste disposal site. Other cities may think of adopting a similar administrative structure so that their solid waste is swiftly and effectively transferred to the solid waste disposal site.
Which parts of the country are more prone to urban flooding?
All our cities are vulnerable to flooding. Most of them have now reached a saturation point in terms of population growth and accommodation, and the developmental activities have now shifted to low-lying areas and areas next to the riverbanks. Thunderstorms and heavy rainfall can occur anywhere. So, whenever a city experiences a large amount of rainfall within a short time, there are chances it gets flooded. For example, in 2012, Jaipur received 170 mm of rainfall in just two hours; similarly, Chennai was severely affected due to heavy rainfall in December 2015, and in 2016, Gurugram (Gurgaon), Bengaluru and Hyderabad have witnessed severe disruptions.
So, in my opinion, in today’s times, all cities are equally vulnerable to flooding – be it coastal cities, inland cities, hilly cities, cities on the banks of major rivers or near dams/reservoirs.
Talking about infrastructural improvement for mitigating the risk, what are the major infrastructural improvements that should be brought about in urban planning at various levels?
To avoid urban flooding, several infrastructural improvements are required. Firstly, the existing drainage path should be well demarcated. There should be no encroachments on the natural drainage channels of the city. Secondly, a large number of bridges, flyovers and metro projects are being constructed with their supporting columns located in the existing drainage channels. This can be avoided using proper engineering designs, such as cantilever construction. Storage of rainwater in tanks at the rooftop, intermediate, ground or underground levels can reduce the overflows and help in reducing urban flood volumes.
Storage or holding ponds should also be provided at judiciously selected locations to store water during heavy rainfall so that it does not cause downstream flooding. Once the rain subsides, the water can be released gradually.
It has also been observed that roads are surfaced and resurfaced several times, thus increasing their level above the plinth-level. The Indian Roads Congress has recommended that whenever a road is resurfaced, the existing layer be scraped first and then the new layer be laid. This shall ensure that the plinth level and the road level remain where they were prior to the resurfacing. Also, various cities, across the world, have constructed porous pavements. These allow the water to gradually infiltrate into the underlying soil thereby maintaining the pre-development sub-soil water conditions.
Will the instances of urban flooding increase in the future if the current trends continue?
If we take appropriate measures, we can ensure that the flood incidences remain within tolerable limits. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that in future, there could be increase in instances of heavy rainfall in shorter spans of time. This means that our existing drainage systems have to be redesigned to accommodate the increased flow-levels. This can be done either by resizing the drains or by judiciously integrating the best management practices into the drainage infrastructure.
What is that first basic issue that needs to be addressed at the individual, community and authoritative levels?
Each one of us should realize that disasters like floods and earthquakes can happen anytime. Just like we take life insurance and motor vehicle insurance, we should also insure our belongings against natural disasters and be prepared for such an eventuality. Obviously, if we know the flood risk map of our city, then we can avoid living in the low-lying areas. Alternatively, future constructions in low-lying areas should be on stilts.
At the community level, people should spread awareness and be ready to respond to a flood as a community. Schools have a greater role to play – as children need to be sensitized not only about floods but other disasters as well.
At the city level, the authorities should ensure that the building by-laws are followed both in spirit and practice at the ground level. People should also cooperate with municipal authorities.
Talking about the extent of damage, what is the ratio between the investment needed to avoid an urban flood and the actual cost of damage incurred because there was no investment?
The amount of investment is generally a fraction of the total damages. International studies have shown that the investment needed, in terms of following building by-laws, constructing proper infrastructure, establishing and enforcing mitigation measures, is only about seven per cent of the total cost of damage that would have occurred if the above measures were not put in place. In that sense, it is prudent to invest in preventive and mitigation measures rather than incurring huge damages afterwards.
What should affected people do immediately after they receive a flood warning?
Affected people should immediately evacuate to an identified evacuation centre. Or if such a centre does not exist, they should go to their neighbours staying in higher levels. They should take their important things such as documents and valuables in a water-proof bag, which they should have packed beforehand.
What important preparations can people living in risk-prone urban centres make in advance to tackle an urban flood?
People living on ground floors should take simple measures such as installing the gas connection, water heater, and electric panels high above the ground to brace themselves against flooding incidents. They should also put check valves in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drain. They should also seal the walls in their basements to avoid seepage.
What precautions should one take after the flood water recedes?
After the flood water recedes, the threat of epidemics such as malaria, chikungunya and dengue spread by mosquitoes, and leptospirosis caused due to mixing of rat’s urine with water looms large. Water should not be allowed to stagnate to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. People should consume packaged drinking water or boiled water, if possible, to prevent water-borne diseases and gastroenteritis.
Is it possible to forecast an imminent urban flood? Please explain the equipment and methodology involved.
With the currently available instrumentation, technology and information, it is quite easy to forecast an urban flood and issue early warnings over the internet. For example, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has installed 60 automatic weather stations for recording the rainfall every 15 minutes. This information is disseminated through the GMDMA (Greater Mumbai Disaster Management Authority) web portal in real-time during the monsoon. Water level measurements can be made on the receiving river or drain using ultrasonic water level sensors. The methodology is to look at the Indian Meteorological Department’s ‘Nowcasting’ forecasts and simultaneously monitor the satellite maps for movement of weather systems. Looking at the satellite animations, one can estimate when heavy rainfall is likely to take place over the city. Once the rainfall takes place, the automatic weather station records the rainfall and simultaneously, the flow gauges record the water level. From the moment the water falls on the rain gauge to the time it reaches the water body of the affected area, there is a delay of some time. Hence, we have some lead time to inform the people living in the downstream area that the river levels are likely to rise. For example, during one such heavy rainfall event in Mumbai in July 2013, people had 30 minutes warning to evacuate with their belongings.
What response mechanism should be put in place for help to reach affected people on time?
The local community is the first responder in case of most disasters. The second line of responders is the city municipal corporation or the urban local bodies. In Mumbai, the fire and rescue services are within the purview of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and they can reach the affected areas within 15-30 minutes. Other cities can adopt a similar model for help to reach the affected people within a reasonable time.
What is ‘Nowcasting’? How can it be useful in managing urban floods?
It refers to real-time weather updates. Earlier, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) used to issue warnings twice a day, at 8:30 am in the morning and 5:30 pm in the evening. ‘Nowcasting’ is a more frequent issuing of alerts. Currently, IMD is presently issuing nowcasting alerts every three hours for the public and every 30 minutes for the aviation industry. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai issues nowcasting alerts for floods every 15 minutes on its urban flooding website during the rainy season.
India experienced major urban flood in 2005 in Mumbai and then we heard of Srinagar, Kolkata, Surat and most recently, Chennai, Gurugram (Gurgaon), Bengaluru and Hyderabad during 2015-16. What is the major takeaway from these instances?
The major takeaway is that no city is safe from flood disasters. Heavy rainfall can occur in any city any time. City authorities and residents should identify flood prone areas and be prepared to tackle flooding. They should take measures to ensure that when heavy rainfall occurs, adequate drainage systems are in place and these are unclogged so that flooding does not occur in the vulnerable areas. Through proper planning and retrofitting of best management practices, we can make our cities more flood resilient.
Exactly one hundred years ago in June, 1916 a stylish Gujarati barrister mocked at a new visitor in Kathiwari dress to Gujarat Club, Ahmedabad. The barrister kept playing cards with his friends, even as the visitor delivered a lecture to a tiny audience in the lawn. He knew that visitor was none else than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who had set up his Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad recently after returning from South Africa. But the barrister, a successful criminal lawyer, had no interest in Gandhi’s pursuits. But as Gandhi persisted with his visits for talks, the barrister decided to attend once out of sheer curiosity.
The talk sounded like a religious discourse rather than political speech. Yet something changed permanently inside the 41-year old unemotional barrister. Gandhi’s words kept haunting him for days till he became ‘reluctant recruit’ to Satyagraha’s cause. But being a pragmatic individual to the core, he did not openly join it until 1917. That year Gandhi was recognized as India’s political messiah after Champaran Satyagraha. He then became a loyal disciple of Gandhi, and subsequently became his most capable lieutenant. Whatever Gandhi conceptualized, he organized; whatever were Gandhi’s plans, he implemented. He burnt down his European suits and adopted dhoti-kurta made of Khadi. He was Sardar Ballabhbhai Jhaveribhai Patel (1875-1950), the iron man of India.
Patel was born on October 31, 1875 at Nandiad (dist Khera, Gujarat), around 200 kms from Surat. He hailed from the community of Leva Patels, believed to have descended from warrior caste, though traditionally engaged in cultivation. They have a history of bravery and hard labour. Patel hailed from an agriculturist family, and virtually grew up in the fields.
He always introduced himself as a farmer/agriculturist, even at the height of legal or political career. He had three brothers and one sister. Out of them Vithalbhai Jhaveribhai Patel (1873-1933), Bar-at-Law, became the first Indian President (Speaker) of the Central Legislative Assembly.
Patel showed his promise as a popular leader as an elected representative of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (1917-1928). He was able to not only outsmart the British officialdom, but took several constructive initiatives for the townspeople.
While being President of the Corporation (1924-1928) he once presented a unique example of ‘Swachh Bharat’. Patel, along with volunteers, cleaned the streets of Ahmedabad with brooms and dustcart, beginning with Harijan Basti (Dalit quarters). As the Plague broke out in Ahmedabad in 1917, he worked almost round the clock with his volunteers to help the victims and their families. He worked at great personal risk of infection as Lokmanya Tilak had done during Pune Plague, 1896. The strain broke Patel’s robust health, but sealed his reputation as a mass leader.
Though the tax settlements demanded by the peasants at Kheda (Gujarat) were not fully met, it had two important results. First it led to recognition of peasants as stakeholders in determining land taxes, and it brought Gandhi and Patel together.
A decade later Gujarat was ravaged by floods after the torrential rains of July 23, 1927. Patel mounted a Herculean mission to rescue and rehabilitate the flood victims, which brought him to nationwide focus. The Bombay government (Gujarat was then part of Bombay Presidency) recommended him for an award, which Patel politely declined.
This humility was the hallmark of Patel even after his great victory at Bardoli (1928). He was reluctant to stand up at Calcutta Congress in December, 1928. After repeated persuasion he stood up in the audience amongst delegates from Gujarat, and had to be physically forced to come to the dais. Bardoli (Dist. Surat) was Patel’s Kurukshetra. He gave extraordinary leadership to successful tax resistance campaign that rolled on for three months. Only Tilak’s Famine Relief Campaign in Maharashtra (1896) could be compared to it in organizational brilliance. Patel organized the Satyagraha on military pattern though completely non-violent. He himself was the Supreme Commander (Senapati) and under him were Sector Commanders (Vibhag Patis), and under then volunteers (Sainik). The battle field covered 92 villages and 87,000 peasants. He ran a thorough information network involving horse mounted messengers, bhajan singers, paper printers etc. His success at Bardoli, attracted the attention of the whole British Empire. But the best recognition came from a farmer of Nanifalod, in Bardoli Taluka. Kuverji Durlabh Patel said in an open meeting, “Patel you are our Sardar’. Thereupon the title ‘Sardar’ attached to him permanently.
Patel’s disciplinarian approach was legendary. Self-discipline was Gandhi’s mantra. But Patel brought the organizational discipline and cohesion necessary for mass movements. Patel arrived on the political scene exactly when Indian politics hit mass-movement stage. John Gunther, the American journalist, who surveyed Asian politics in 1930s found Patel ‘party boss par excellence’. He found Patel a man of action, of practicality, the man who got things done.
Patel’s organizational capacities were at test as independence approached. There was a threat of India’s balkanization had the princely states, numbering around 565, not joined Indian Union. Some like Travancore wanted to remain free, whereas others like Bhopal and Hyderabad conspired to join Pakistan, though not contagious to it. Partly by diplomacy and partly by coercion, Patel won over the princely states to join the Indian union. Force had to be applied in the case of Hyderabad, where Razakars had unleashed terror on subject population.
As independent India’s first Home Minister, he dealt with onerous responsibilities of resettling Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and organizing the civil services etc. Philip Mason, ICS, said Patel was a natural administrator who did not seem to need any prior experience. Kaka Kalekar, Gandhi’s close associate, said Patel belonged to the illustrious class of Shivaji and Tilak though he was an unquestioning follower of Gandhi. Patel completed 75 years in 1950, in a broken health due to excessive strain. He passed away in Mumbai on December 15, 1950. On the death bed he betrayed no anxiety about his family, but about the condition of the country.
It is a pity that the legacy of Patel suffered from neglect. The present government has done well to rectify the wrongs of history, and highlight Patel as India’s master nation builder.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial in Ahmedabad
The central hall of the Sardar Patel National Memorial
The coat of Sardar Patel, on display at the Sardar Patel National Memorial, Ahmedabad
The writer is an independent researcher and columnist based in New Delhi. The views expressed are his personal.
India enjoys a demographic dividend where more than 60 percent of its population is in the working age group. The youth bulge presents an opportunity for India to enhance its growth and also supply skilled manpower to the rest of the world. According to the World Bank Report, this is because India’s working age population will be more than the dependent population for at least three decades till 2040. The National Higher Education Commission, in its report estimated that the average age of population in India by 2020 would be 29 years as against 40 years in USA, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan. It is also estimated that during the next 20 years, the labour force in the industrial world is expected to decline by 4%, while in India it will increase by 32%.
However, the country is facing a paradoxical situation where on the one hand young men and women entering the labour market are looking for jobs; on the other hand industries are complaining of unavailability of appropriately skilled manpower.
This paradox reflects the criticality of skill development to enhance the employability of the growing young population and also to gear-up the economy to realise the target of faster and inclusive growth.
However, keeping in view the heterogeneity of the labour market and also preponderance of the unorganised sector; designing a model which benefits the key players of the ecosystem: employer, training providers, trainee and the government is a challenging task. It is known that 93% of the total labour force is in the unorganised sector. Thus, the major challenge of skill development initiatives is also to address the needs of a vast population by providing them skills which would make them employable and enable them to secure decent work leading to improvement in the quality of their life.
The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 supersedes the policy of 2009. This primarily aims at meeting the challenge of skilling at scale with speed, standards (quality) and sustainability. According to India Labour Report 2012, it is estimated that 12.8 million new persons join the labour market annually vis-à-vis the current capacity of the skill development which is 3.1 million in our country.
It is estimated that incremental HR requirement for skill development in the period 2012 to 2022 for the whole country is 12.03 crore. Hence there is pressing need to expand the infrastructure for skill development many fold to cater to the target which is more than four times the present capacity. As mid- term strategy, 104.62 million fresh entrants to the labour force between 2015 to 2022 would be required to be skilled/provided vocational education. At present 21 Ministries/Departments of Government of India are engaged in skill development programme.
There are several challenges which have been identified in skill development of the Indian Youth. For instance increasing the capacity of the existing system to ensure equitable access for all and at the same time maintaining their quality and relevance is a big challenge.
This involves strong and effective linkages between the industry and the trainer institute with adequate provisions for constant knowledge upgrading of the trainers. Creating effective convergence between school education and the governmental efforts in the area of skill development also need to be reworked. All this has to be in consonance with Labour Market Information System. Other challenges include creation of institutional mechanism for research development, quality assurance, examination, certification, affiliation and accreditation. Needless to say that efforts should be on to make the skill development attractive and productive to motivate the youth to aspire for it.
Addressing the above challenges, government has taken some concrete steps which include dovetailing and rationalization of the Central Government Schemes on Skill Development in order to achieve maximum convergence and making skill development an integral part of all Government of India schemes which has ensured that all government schemes now has the component which takes care of skill development as per the programme’s requirement. Skill gap studies conducted by NSDC for 21 high growth sectors of the country will project he human resource requirement in those sectors by 2022.
Monitoring and evaluation is the spine of any development plan. Since National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has been structured as an outcome oriented policy, it has been decided to set up a Policy Implementation Unit (PIU) for reviewing the implementation and progress of the various initiatives and undertaking corrective measures under this policy. For bringing improvements in the scheme through the feedback, provision has also been made to facilitate constant consultation with the stakeholder. To ensure that the desired results are achieved on this account, it is necessary that along with monitoring, a quick evaluation of the Programme is undertaken at the earliest possible. Based on evaluation findings, we would be able to take effective measures and breach all the gaps in the implementation process.
Providing cheap solar lanterns has the possibility to replace the fossil based polluting kerosene that is used for lighting in many parts of rural India.
Author: Pandurang Hegde
It is estimated that 18000 villages in the remote areas do not have access to electricity in the country. The conventional approach to solve this problem is to provide connectivity through centralised electricity grids. However this solution is not only capital intensive and comes with high financial costs, but it also has high environmental costs due to power transmission form conventional power generation stations.
In contrast to this, the small scale decentralized off grid solutions, especially installation of solar power will meet the needs with provision of reliable power supply.
What are these off grid solar power systems and how does this work?
Solar power has enormous capacity to generate power without causing pollution; it is one of the main sources of clean energy and alternate to burning fossil fuels. The installation of captive solar power plants, roof top solar systems is essentially geared towards connecting to the existing countrywide power grids.
In contrast to this the off grid systems are those which utilities the solar energy at decentralized household or village level.
Solar Home Systems, with solar panels to generate power for individual homes is an easy way to connect those who are deprived of power connection, it can also act as stand by during the severe power cuts in the countryside.
The installation ofsolar irrigation pumps is another off grid power initiative that is being successfully tried out in many parts of the country. Though the initial capital costs are high, over the years it pays back the owner through provision of cheap uninterrupted power over with very little maintenance costs.
This has the potential to resolve the power crisis as well as provide energy and food security to the farming community.
Providing cheap solar lanterns has the possibility to replace the fossil based polluting kerosene that is used for lighting in many parts of rural India. Similarly, micro grids supported with battery can store the power. This can provide easy access to recharge mobile sets and power the telecommunication systems in remote hill areas.
Solar powered refrigeration systems in Primary Health Centres can store the lifesaving medicines in the countryside.
The solar driers for agricultural processing and industrial use, and water heating systems are already in use that needs to be supported under the ongoing solar mission.
These systems lead to reduction in consumption of conventional energy resulting in saving the energy.
Realising the importance of solar power, the Prime Minister has given the approval for increasing the capacity of solar mission from 22 giga watts (GW) to 100 GW to be achieved by the 2022. The Government of India has set a detail road map to achieve this through roof top solar generation of 40 GW and the medium decentralised off grid connection of 60 GW.
In order to meet the target, an investment of Rs 60000 crores is being made that is bound to unleash enormous opportunity to entrepreneurs who wants to take advantage of the lucrative solar market. India is the only country in the world that has attracted of US dollars one billion from The World Bank to realize the goal of harnessing solar power.
Recognising this factor the global leaders in solar power are keen to invest in India to harness the ever increasing solar market. Already 40 companies have come forward to install solar home systems. The high initial costs of these systems needs to be shared by the financial institutions, especially banks in the rural areas. Policy support towards this will pave way for a sustained growth of off grid solar market with large customer base willing to use the products to meet the home needs. Like any consumer goods, the people would be willing to purchase the solar products across the counter with assured follow up services over the years.
In order to achieve the target of off grid solar systems will require the skilled manpower and barefoot technicians in rural areas to provide maintenance and services. The skill development programme launched by Government of India needs to be linked to building the capacities of rural youth that can provide livelihood opportunities and sustained source of income. The potential of creating 1 million green jobs to cater to the needs of solar energy as technicians will regenerate the rural economy.
Accessing energy is strongly linked to achieving millennium development goals. The lack of accesses to modern forms of energy leads to energy poverty. In India 360 million people live without grid connectivity, suffering energy poverty.
The Solar Mission launched by Government of India has the capacity to alleviate this population above energy poverty and provide regular and clean source of renewable power.
*Author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Karnataka. Regularly writes on environmental and climate change issues. He has experience of using solar technology for past three decades.
With its green initiatives, Indian Railways is reinforcing its commitment to environmental sustainability and steadily proceed on a greener path. Indian Railways has taken several initiatives which reaffirm its obligation towards minimizing the impact of its operations on the environment.
Bio-Toilets in trains
In order to contribute to ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission launched by Prime Minister, Ministry of Railways have taken up a mammoth task of providing human discharge free bio-toilets in all its coaches and the this task would be completed by September 2019.
With the provision of bio-toilets in all its coaches, discharge of human waste from trains on to the ground would be completely stopped which in turn would help in improving cleanliness and hygiene. Indian Railways have already provided 40,750 bio-toilets in its coaches till middle of this year and in the current financial year, it plans to fit additional 30,000 bio-toilets.
After extensive research and field level experimentation, Indian Railways have introduced Bio-toilets in trains that will contribute cleaner, environment friendly and more efficient discharge of human waste.
The under slung tanks below the coach toilets have specially developed inoculums which continuously keep on decomposing the waste and regenerate itself. As a result no replenishment of bacteria is required and toilets are totally maintenance free.
The technology has been developed jointly by Indian Railways and Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) for railway passenger coaches. This environment friendly, low cost and robust technology, is the first of its kind in Railway Systems in the world.
First Green Train Corridor
To mark the beginning of this journey towards ‘Swachh Bharat’, Ministry of Railways recently started 114 Kms long First Green Train Corridor – Rameswaram-Manamadurai track, free from human waste discharge from trains. Accordingly, 10 passenger trains consisting of 286 coaches moving over this section have been provided with bio-toilets.
After Rameswarm-Manamadurai, Okha-Kanalas Junction(141 Kms), Porbandar-Wansjaliya (34 Kms) and Jammu-Katra(78 Kms) would also be taken up for making them free from human waste discharge from trains. For this around 35 trains consisting of nearly 1110 coaches would be further provided with bio toilets and the work is underway. These sections and stations were chosen, because the number of trains originating and terminating at these stations and sections are few, thus making it operationally easier and faster to make them human-discharge free.
In order to carry out efficient disposal of waste, Indian Railways has decided to provide separate dustbins for collections of biodegradable (wet waste) and non-biodegradable (dry waste) on the platforms and all passenger interface areas in A1 & A category stations apart from vending stalls. Zonal Railways will train the staff engaged in cleaning duties at railway stations for separate collection and further handling for final disposal of segregated dry and wet waste from the dustbins.
Indian Railways had already instructed for efficient disposal of waste arising out of pantry car services and static units as also to provide adequate dustbins on platforms and by the side of stalls at all railway stations for environment friendly disposal of waste.
Indian Railways will provide different coloured dustbins and polythene liner bags for bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste viz. Green for bio-degradable and Black for non-biodegradable. In the first phase. Zonal Railways will ensure provision of separate dustbins for segregated collection of garbage at all A1 category stations immediately, followed by ‘A’ category stations on or before the end of this year.
Countrywide mass mobilization activities on cleanliness
To commemorate the second anniversary of the country’s Swachh Bharat Mission, countrywide mass mobilization activities were carried out on cleanliness and for Open Defecation Free communities.
In keeping pace with the programme, Indian Railways undertook intensive cleanliness drives on all stations. All stations wore the ceremonial look with posters and banners spelling the message loud and clear to the travelling public that the Railway is their travelling home. Railway officer and staff donned the ceremonial caps interacting with the travelling public and conducting inspections at station premises. Anti-littering slogans were posted at various locations. Dustbins for garbage were provided and awareness programmes were undertaken. All major stations on the Northern Railway were inspected by all levels of hierarchy from top executives and supervisory cadres. A drive on garbage handling and disposal was also undertaken at railway stations, Trains and Depots. Tree plantation ceremonies were held at various places.
Earmarking each day with specific focus area for spruce-up, the cleanliness programme has certain defined themes like Swachh Stations (Clean Stations), Swachh Rail Gaadi (Clean Train), Swachh Neer (Clean Water), Swachh Parisar (Clean Complex), Swachh Samarpan (Dedication for ensuring Cleanliness), Swachh Aahar (Clean Food) etc. Indian Railways is committed to continue this Cleanliness drive on sustained basis. The Indian Railways has been constantly appealing to all rail users to express their solidarity through greater public support and an active public co-operation to make the Railways a place of pride and rail journey a pleasant experience.
Evaluation & Green rating of industrial units of Railways
A Memorandum of Understanding between Ministry of Railways and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to evaluate the Green Initiatives and rate the performance of Industrial Units of Indian Railways which are pursuing environmentally sustainable practices was signed in July this year. CII will extend technical co-operation for various Green initiatives in three Railway’s Industrial establishments, with an objective to make Indian Railways, as a leading Government organisation in the field of Environment.
Increased reliance on renewable sources of energy
Indian Railways envisages sourcing at lease 10% of its energy requirements through new and renewable energy sources, achieving 15% enhanced energy through improved energy efficiency in both traction as well as non traction use.
Towards this end, solar panels at stations, level crossing gates, are being installed. A 10 MW windmill has been set up at Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai which is expected to earn about 20,000 CERs (Carbon Emission Reduction) per annum. Two more windmill plants of 10.5 MW capacity have been sanctioned for Southern and North Western Railways through Public Private Participation.
In addition, new trains introduced in Mumbai suburban section with IGBT based propulsion system have been equipped with regenerative braking features which have recorded energy regeneration while braking to the tune of 35-40% of energy used for hauling these trains.
An alternative fuel – Bio-diesel
Bio-diesel is an environment friendly, fuel used to replace Petro-diesel. This viable and indigenous alternative to fuel the railways is derived from multi feed stock like fresh and used vegetable oils of both non-edible & edible types, animal fats, grease etc. Indian Railways have decided to use bio-diesel extensively in its diesel locomotives and road vehicles. This environment friendly oil is free from sulphur and does not emit any sulphur dioxide. Its combusts completely releasing very little carbon monoxide.
Free distribution of CFLs
Indian Railways has also brought in annual reduction of 0.14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through free distribution of 26 million CFLs (4 CFLs per family) to Railway employees in replacement of energy inefficient incandescent lamps. The project is entirely financed with the carbon credits earned under CDM framework.
*Author is an independent journalist. He was earlier associated with the PR Wing of Indian Railways.
Building strong Institutions is one of the major objectives of Good Governance. The Digital India initiative represents a landmark in ushering in the First Digital Revolution in Health Care at AIIMS. The successful implementation of the AIIMS e-Hospital Project and the AIIMS OPD Transformation Project, transformed AIIMS to India’s first fully digital public hospital. In 16 months of implementation since the launch in July 2015, the AIIMS e-Hospital project has had the largest footprint of Digital India projects.
The creation of a patient friendly hospital has benefitted 35 lac patients till date, reducing wait times at the Hospital by nearly 6 hours, brought transparency to OPD appointments; created digital medical records and represents a sustainable and replicable model for hundreds of India’s Hospitals.
The very name invokes images of crowds, a sea of humanity that is present at the hospital doors, waiting from 3 in the morning, to rush for expert medical consultation at 8.30 am when the OPD opens.
With an average of 10,000 OPD patients per day, 35 lac OPD patients per annum, 55 Departments, 640 faculty, 2000 resident doctors and 5100 Nurses, AIIMS represents India’s behemoth in tertiary care super specialty hospitals.
While the Institute led by highly driven professionals works with clockwork precision, the overwhelming patient loads have proved impossibly challenging for a manual system and required significant systemic changes in terms of improved digital practices and process re-engineering, as millions of India’s population seeks medical care at the Nation’s apex Medical Sciences University.
AIIMS – UIDAI – DeiTY Collaboration:
It was in January 2015 that the first step in the Digital AIIMS project was taken with the creation of an effective linkage between AIIMS, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeiTY).
A unique health identification number for every patient visiting AIIMS was generated on an Aadhar platform. The patient could log into the AIIMS OPD Appointment System (ORS.gov.in) and submit a request for an appointment online using his Aadhar number. The verification of the demographic details of the Patient was based on the one-time password for the patient being transmitted to the mobile phone number of the patient registered in the Aadhar data base. The Unique Health Identification Number gave every Patient visiting AIIMS a Digital Identity. The Patient could use the UHID for his entire lifetime and every consultation visit was documented by the system.
The e-Hospital project proceeding at a modest pace, suddenly gained significant momentum with the launch of Digital India Initiative. There was a new urgency in DeiTY and NIC for expeditious development of the software so that the Online Registration System could be established. This was followed by the collaboration between AIIMS and Pay Gov for creation of a payment portal.
The e-Hospital project necessitated transparency in OPD appointments. AIIMS always encouraged walk-in patients and also had several follow-up patients coming for consultation. The streamlining of the new OPD cases began with 15 percent of the total new OPD appointments being given for online registration. The out-patient appointments of each of the Departments of AIIMS was placed online and every consultation room in the OPD was allotted a fixed number of OPD patients identified by name.
AIIMS – TCS Collaboration:
The AIIMS-TCS collaboration for the AIIMS OPD Transformation Project was conceptualized as a Corporate Social Responsibility Project in April 2015. It was only after several months of observations at OPD followed by conceptualization, discussions, capacity building, consensus building and software development that the TCS prescribed a model of AIIMS OPD transformation.
The approach was to facilitate faster registration, to dissipate crowds with larger patient waiting areas, introduction of several new measures like fresh signages, screening at the entry point, patient care coordinators at the registration/ consultation areas and the rather unique exit OPD counters for all follow-up patients. Today, the AIIMS-TCS collaboration has provided the country with a role model for transforming OPD services at all major Central and State Government Hospitals.
The newly adopted model envisaged construction of a Patient Registration Center, with 50 Registration Counters each one equipped with a computer terminal loaded with e-Hospital software. It was constructed and operationalized in a record time of six months.
Now the registration time was a mere 40 seconds for all new appointments with UHID numbers generated from the online registration system. Fast Track Queues were created where the patients who had already registered themselves under the online registration system could get their OPD cards and move quickly to the Patient Waiting Areas. Patient Care Coordinators ensured that Patients understood clearly where to visit during the entire process. The whole approach was one of empathy and efficiency. The successful operationalization of the Patient Registration Center meant that the waiting time in the Hospital had come down by nearly 6 hours per patient. The 3 am serpentine lines were no longer there. They were replaced by a more orderly queue system that commenced at 8 am and reached the OPD consultation rooms by 9 am.
AIIMS attracts 10,000 patients per day but the patient waiting areas had only 2500 seating capacity. This meant that patients rushed to consultation areas without any wait time in a comfortable environment. The TCS model envisaged creation of seating spaces for an additional 3500 patients. Air conditioned Patient Waiting Halls were developed where the patients could comfortably wait for their turn to visit the OPD Consultation rooms.
Initially, the new model was implemented in the Medicine and Pediatric OPD areas on a pilot scale in December 2015. The Clinicians would commence work at 9 am. Patients would reach the clinician’s rooms in an orderly manner. All multiple registration counters in these Departments were discontinued. The successful implementation encouraged AIIMS to introduce the model in all the 5 floors of the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur OPD covering all 55 Departments.
The most innovative feature of the new model was the introduction of EXIT OPD Counters. Patients who were recommended for advanced Laboratory Tests, Radio-Diagnosis, Virology and Pathology Tests as follow-up appointments, all of which could be scheduled from the EXIT OPD Counters. The Patient thus had a very orderly journey from the point of entry to the Hospital to the point of exit. Even the VIP Patients including the officials at senior position in government willingly went through the entire OPD Transformation Process and found the entire experience quite expeditious and satisfying.
AIIMS transformed itself into a patient friendly hospital by its willingness to adopt the modern day digital practices and create specialized cadres who enabled rapid scaling up of the new technology. The Nursing Informatics Specialists provided the linkage between the Clinical Departments and the OPD appointments. Nurses with an aptitude for technology were deployed to coordinate between the Departments, OPD, Wards and the software professionals.
The Patient Care Coordinators touched every patient entering the OPD with their empathy. They were the friends and guides who ensured patients followed the established protocols. They were also deployed to assist with the E-Kiosks to enable literate and tech savvy patients with appointments.
The Data Entry Operators were deployed at Patient Registration Center and the EXIT OPD Counters. They were trained to handle cash collections simultaneously. Security Personnel were trained in Queue Management systems with a considerable degree of patience.
AIIMS–India’s First Fully Digital Public Hospital
Hitherto, the implementation of the e-Hospital project had not been orderly. For AIIMS to be a fully Digital Hospital, each of the e-Hospital modules needed to implemented in an orderly manner to create a comprehensively digital hospital. By June 2016, the e-Hospital module implementation in AIIMS was completed. The NIC took a big step forward in completing the AIIMS e-Hospital Project. NIC Teams from Tripura worked with each of the Departments in AIIMS in a prescribed time frame to transform AIIMS as India’s first fully digital public hospital. The modules comprised of Blood Bank module, Billing Module, In-Patient Department comprising admission and bed to bed management, Laboratory Module integrating 55 laboratories, establishment of nearly 200 Kiosks with Net Banking Facilities for ease of payments, Laundry Module for monitoring the central laundry operations, Store management for inventory purposes, Dietary Module for preparation of electronic diet charts for in-patients, and RIS-PACS (Radiology Imaging System – Picture Archiving Communications System) for exchange of radiology data.
The Titanic is Saved
The transformation of AIIMS to a patient friendly hospital under the Digital India Initiative can be compared to “Saving the Titanic”. Under the Digital India Initiative, a core team of officials collaborated cordially and constructively over a long period of time to make the First Digital Revolution in Health Care possible.
There was considerable resistance from every possible quarters– patients, support and administrative staff, security apparatus and even some medicos had their share of doubt during the course of the implementation of the Project. Needless to say, now everyone is satisfied and happy. As the success story unfolds benefitting 35 lakh patients, in 12 months’ time, the hours and hours of effort put in by those involved in the project, are adequately rewarded. The Prime Minister launched the Online Registration System as part of the Digital India Initiatives in July 2015. Following a year of successful implementation wherein the project benefitted 35 lac patients, the Prime Minister mentioned the successful implementation of the AIIMS e-Hospital Project from the ramparts of Red Fort in his Independence Day Address this year. The AIIMS OPD Transformation Project has enthused several State Governments. AIIMS has been mandated to conduct on-boarding workshops for replication across all 12 Central Government Hospitals.
Thus the AIIMS Transformation Project represents India’s First Digital Revolution in Health Care. No doubt, it is a remarkable success story.
*Author is a senior civil servant, an IAS officer of 1989 batch, presently serving as Deputy Director Administration, AIIMS New Delhi.
There is a felt need to adopt ‘global ethics’ to indicate ethical science devoted to protecting the environment and our own future species.
Rapid strides in medical technology with an artificial human being almost in sight, designer babies, organ and gene replacements, are all creating an explosion of ethical dilemmas in medicine. Where should technology stop? The world is becoming more ‘anthropocentric’, to the extent that entire species of other animals are disappearing. On the clinical level, conflict between medical practitioners and their patients is becoming more and more common today. At least partly, this is due to failure to recognize each other as individuals and human beings, each with their own rights.
The need of the day is to adopt ‘global ethics’ (a term coined by the American biochemist Van Rensellaer Potter) to indicate ethical science devoted to protecting the environment and our own future species. Named ‘bioethics’, these are ethical principles based on sound transcultural understanding. The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, adopted on 19 October 2005 codifies these principles. Among them, the first principle is that of Human Dignity and Human Rights: (Article 3): 1. Human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms are to be fully respected. 2. The interests and welfare of the individual should have priority over the sole interest of science or society .
Based on this principle, more than 114 Units across the world will mark the First World Bioethics Day with a uniform program on topics around human dignity and rights.
In 2001, the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics was established at the International Center of Health, Law and Ethics, University of Haifa. The UNECO Chair Haifa, headed by Prof. Amnon Carmi, gradually established a number of Units at medical Universities all across the world. Their aim was to form a network to ‘coordinate and stimulate an International Network of Institutes for Medical Ethics Training (NIMED)’. The UNESCO Chair of Bioethics is tasked with developing a culturally sensitive yet responsive syllabus in ethics for medical schools all over the world. Dr. Russell D’Souza, an Indian psychiatrist settled in Australia is heads the Asia Pacific region for the UNESCO Bioethics Chair, Haifa. The Indian Medical Association, Medical Council of India, National Board of Examinations, and Vice-chancellors of several health Universities in India are all Units of UNESCO Chair. Units for medical students are also being formed. Among such units, the Central India Unit is based at PGIMER-Dr. RML Hospital in Delhi. The International Forum of Teachers in Bioethics has been established for membership to medical teachers who are already trained in bioethics.
All Units meet at least once a year to discuss progress and formulate future plans. At their Annual Meeting in 2015, a decision was taken to mark the signing of the UNESCO Universal Declaration by observing a World Bioethics Day, with programs focused on the First Principle of Bioethics- Human Dignity and Human Rights.The UNESCO bioethical principles are:
Respect for human dignity and human rights (Article 3.1)
Priority of the individual’s interests and welfare over the sole interest of science or society (Article 3.2)
Beneficence and non‐maleficence (Article 4)
Autonomy (Article 5)
Informed consent (Article 6)
Protection of persons unable to consent (Article 7)
Special attention to vulnerable persons (Article 8)
Privacy and confidentiality (Article 9)
Equality, justice and equity (Article 10)
Non‐discrimination and non‐stigmatization (Article 11)
Respect for cultural diversity and pluralism (Article 12)
Solidarity and cooperation (Article 13)
Access to healthcare and essential medicines (Article 14)
Benefit sharing (Article 15)
Protection of future generations (Article 16)
Protection of the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity (Article 17).
Thus, these principles not only emphasize the imperative changes we should bring in our attitudes and behavior towards each other, but also to the environment and to other species.
As the Bioethics Movement widens, it is hoped that not only will health care improve, but also mutual respect and recognition between patients and their healthcare providers will enter a more informed and respectful phase.
*Author is Professor & Head, Department of Psychiatry & De-addiction Services; Centre of Excellence in Mental Health, PGIMER, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi, and member of Council for National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.
There is a need to increase food productivity across the world in the face of burgeoning world population and Climate Change
By 2050, the world population will reach nearly 9.5 billion, which effectively means that we will have to produce 70% more food for over two billion additional mouths. Hence, the food and agriculture systems need to adapt fast to the changing climate and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This would require judicious use of natural resources and minimised post-harvest losses coupled with improved harvesting, storage, packaging, transportation and marketing practices as well as appropriate infrastructural facilities.
Aptly, theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”. Ever since 1979, it is being celebrated on October 16 with the aim to raise public awareness regarding hunger challenges and encourage them for necessary actions to fight hunger.
The global goal for achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ is 2030 which cannot be reached without addressing climate change – food security being highly vulnerable to changing climatic patterns.
Food security refers to an ability to access/utilize sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food; however, the related challenges are afflicting the urban/rural populations in wealthy/poor nations alike. FAO estimates nearly 194.6 million Indians (15.2%) were undernourished during 2014-16.
Climate change – a catalyst of crisis and food/nutrition insecurity
By the end of 21st century, global temperature is predicted to rise by nearly 1.4-5.8˚C leading to a substantial reduction in food production. As per ISRO, the Himalayan glaciers already on retreat (shrinkage during the last 15 years: 3.75 km) may disappear by 2035. Ill effects of climate change include growing deserts and escalation in extreme weather events like droughts, cyclones, floods and droughts. Such situations often pose worst effects on the poorest of the poor (many being farmers) and are, thus, a serious threat to our goal – ending hunger by 2030! Hence, concerted action on climate change is crucial for sustainable development. Ironically, agriculture is also considered amongst the big contributors to climate change. On 2 October 2016, India has ratified the Paris Agreement which aims to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to well below 2˚C.
To quote, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji “The world is today worried about climate change, global warming, natural disasters. Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhayay had understood the need for striking the fine balance between human development and the need to preserve natural resources….to be vigilant about the exploitation of natural resources. Human race has only now realised the disastrous impact of our material development on the nature”.
Since a consistent increase in greenhouse gases is the major cause for climate change, it is imperative to ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems by reducing their emissions. In the context of Indian agriculture, key issues of climate change include – vastness of the nation with diverse climatic conditions; varied cropping/farming systems; excessive monsoon dependency; climate-change hampering water availability; small land holdings; lack of coping mechanisms; poor penetration of risk management strategies; extreme rainfall events (droughts/floods – esp. in coastal regions); high incidence of pests/diseases; speedy oxidation of carbon-print affecting soil fertility and extinction of biodiversity. Though, India has been successful in achieving self-sufficiency in grain production, it has not been able to address chronic household food insecurity. It is likely that climate change will exacerbate food insecurity, particularly in areas vulnerable to hunger/under-nutrition.
For our country, where a large chunk of our population is poor and nearly half the children are malnourished, ensuring food security is of utmost importance. While access to food is directly/indirectly affected via collateral effects on household/individual incomes, food utilization gets impaired due to poor access to drinking water and its adverse health effects. India is likely to be hit harder by global warming – affecting more than 1.2 billion, particularly those residing in flood/cyclone/drought prone areas. Climate change is a significant ‘hungerrisk multiplier’ which can affect all the dimensions of food/nutrition security – Food availability, accessibility, utilization and stability.
Attaining and sustaining food security is one of the biggest challenges worldwide. Food security plans must emphasise on effective handling of threats, efficient storage/distribution of food along with suitable monitoring/surveillance according priority to corrective actions. Adaptive measures such as modified cropping patterns, innovative technologies and water conservation become rather important, particularly in arid/semi-arid areas. Therefore, necessary efforts should be directed towards carbon sequestration and mitigation of green-house gases. In this regard, there is a dire need for awareness generation and efficient involvement of the public at every step.
At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit-2015, world leaders were served dishes reformulated from ‘trash’ (vegetable scraps, rejected apples/pears and off-grade vegetables). This is an exemplary utilization of unwanted/would-be-wasted food – highlighting the crucial issue of global food wastage and its harmful effects; otherwise this food would have ended up in landfills, got rotten and emitted methane – a potent greenhouse gas.
There is an urgent need for investing in “climate‑smart food system” that is more resilient to the impact of climate change on food security. Millets – the drought resistant crops, require fewer external inputs, can grow under harsh circumstances and are, therefore, called ‘crops of the future’.
These nutri-cereals have a rather short sowing-to-harvest period (~65 days) and if stored properly, can be kept for two years and beyond. Unlike paddy (contributing immensely to green-house gases from water-drenched rice fields), millets help in mitigating the climate change by reducing atmospheric CO2; while wheat production (a heat-sensitive crop) is liable to adverse effects. Owing to wide capacity of adaptation, millets can withstand variations in moisture, temperature and soil type including infertile lands. Further, millets contribute to the economic efficiency of farming by providing food and livelihood security to the millions, particularly small/marginal farmers and people in rain fed/remote tribal regions.
Rome Declaration on Nutrition and Framework of Action (Nov, 2014) recognized the need to address the impact of climate change on food/nutrition security – particularly the quantity, quality and diversity in food production; and recommended policies/programmes to establish and strengthen the food supply institutions for enhancing resilience in crisisprone areas.
Thus, mitigating climate change is a global issue; appropriate adaptation strategies being the immediate solution to ensure livelihood/food security. India needs to sustain its ecosystem for meeting the food/non-food needs of its ever-growing population. Major thrust of the concerned programmes should be on soil conservation, appropriate/judicious use of the natural resources including rainwater harvesting. Raising population awareness regarding adversaries of climate change on crop production is one of the prime-most solution for attaining food/nutrition security.
*Dr Santosh Jain Passi – Public Health Nutrition Consultant; Former Director, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi
* Ms Akanksha Jain is a Researcher on Public Health and Nutrition issues.