The ministry of rural development comes with a proposal to use the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) — the world’s largest wage-based social protection programme — to achieve India’s third climate target under the 2016 Paris climate change agreement. The proposal was submitted on the sidelines of COP 24 in Katowice, Poland.
According to the assessment by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), drought-proofing activities under MGNREGA can at least achieve removal of about 197 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent by 2030. But if the work focused on climate change, the scheme has a far higher potential, IISc scientists said.
India is on track in fulfilling two of its three key climate targets — 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and to reduce the emissions intensity of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by somewhere around 35% from the 2005 levels. But India has been lagging on the third target — to create carbon sinks of about 2.5 to 3 billion tons.
IISc scientists said oriented activities like drought-proofing, by promoting afforestation and creation of fruit orchards, can contribute effectively to meet the target. “Centre is already allocating climate proofing works under the scheme in 103 blocks of three districts of Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh”, said Dharamveer Jha, joint director, ministry of rural development.
A team of scientists from IISc has planned to conduct a pan-India assessment of potential from MGNREGA by dividing the area into various agro-ecological regions and carrying out field studies in sample villages in each state. In 2017-18, MGNREGA managed to sequest about 61.96 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Activities with the highest potential was found to be drought-proofing, followed by land development, revival of traditional water bodies and water harvesting, among others.
“Drought-proofing will increase the resilience of community by helping them to cope with droughts, and with tree planting there will be improvement in soil fertility over time which in turn could help retain more soil moisture and better yields,” said Indu K Murthy, IISc scientist who is in the project with Prof NH Ravindranath.
Under MGNREGA, at least one member of every rural household is eligible for at least 100 days of employment in the form of unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.
“There are co-benefits of MGNREGA work. It is a welcome step that the government has proposed it. Planting of trees can benefit communities and local eco-systems. It will be dangerous if the government promotes trees with high carbon sequestration capacity and ignore its contribution to the local economy. For example, corporate afforestation projects are usually mono-cultures to benefit industrial needs while the needs of local communities will have to be prioritised to make progress on the poverty agenda,” said Sanjay Vashisht, director, Climate Action Network South Asia.
Environment ministry recently said it will focus on agro-forestry with private partnerships to achieve the third target
One professor of economics from Jadavpur University and one of the Indian authors of the IPCC report, said the team has been briefing parties about climate science and about its economic impacts. “A 1.5 degree C rise in global warming climate will be a poverty-multiplier: makes poor people poorer, increases poverty head count. Most severe climate change impacts are projected for urban areas, some rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Climate change will negatively affect childhood under-nutrition and stunting through reduced food availability.”
Source: Hindustan Times
Author: Arindam Saha