Climate change and community resilience: Insights from South Asia

Joining hands to cope with climate change (Image Source: Usha Dewani Das)
Joining hands to cope with climate change (Image Source: Usha Dewani Das)
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The risks posed by climate change are no longer distant. Many countries have already started experiencing extreme climate events due to global warming. While the global North is experiencing it through hurricanes and super storms, persistent heat waves in Europe and unprecedented forest fires in Australia, the South has been subjected to multiple natural hazards such as cyclones, extended droughts, heavy rainfall patterns, flooding, and landslides. These have caused widespread ecosystem degradation, loss of livelihoods and agricultural productivity, salinity intrusion, and erosion of soil.

Evidence shows that 495,000 lives were lost over the world between 1999 and 2018 as a direct result of more than 12,000 extreme weather events, causing economic losses of US$ 3.54 trillion. The impact of these events has been more pronounced in South Asia and Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan are among the top 20 countries that have been most severely impacted by extreme weather events.

India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives have been identified as the most vulnerable to flooding and rising sea levels. Communities in these countries have been undertaking efforts and initiatives to cope with climate change.


This book titled 'Climate Change and Community Resilience: Insights from South Asia' by ICIMOD and South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), edited by A. K. Enamul Haque, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Mani Nepal and Md Rumi Shammin narrates stories from seven South Asian countries namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and highlights how communities in South Asia are building resilience to climate change. It also discusses lessons learnt, gaps and opportunities that can serve as a guideline to all others who are searching for examples to replicate in their own communities.

The book is organised into six thematic areas. Chapter 2 and 3 highlight the evolution and importance of community based approaches for building climate resilience while the book includes eight chapters on India.

Chapter 1: South Asian stories of climate resilience

Authors: A. K. Enamul Haque, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Mani Nepal and Md Rumi Shammin

This chapter provides a background to the book by highlighting the dual threats of climate change and development that South Asia is facing and the importance of highlighting community-based adaptation initiatives in vulnerable communities of South Asia for others to learn from.

Part I: Concepts and models

Chapter 2: A framework for climate resilient community-based adaptation

Authors: Md Rumi Shammin, A. K. Enamul Haque, and Islam M. Faisal

The chapter highlights the importance of looking at Community-based approaches to create innovative opportunities for building climate resilience. The chapter provides an overview of the key concepts in the climate change discourse, discusses  opportunities and challenges for community-based adaptation to climate change and presents an integrative framework based on emerging concepts and lessons learned.

Chapter 3: A survey of community based adaptation in developing countries

Authors: Md Rumi Shammin, Amy Wang, and Maya Sosland

Community-based climate change adaptation (CBA) programmes are now widely used in developing countries to address climate change impacts in vulnerable communities. This chapter provides an overview of the evolution of the climate change adaptation programmes and the barriers experienced in developing effective CBA programs by discussing case studies from the Philippines, Thailand, and Ethiopia.

Chapter 4: What motivates farm based adaptation in India: A systematic review of determinants of farm-level adaptation measures in India

Authors: Chandra Sekhar Bahinipati and Unmesh Patnaik

This chapter highlights the lack of information and research on climate change adaptation in India with respect to climatic factors, perception, risk attitude behaviour, and government policies.

Part II: Traditional knowledge and sustainable agriculture

Chapter 8: Resilience to climate stresses in South India: Conservation responses and exploitative reactions

Authors: P. Indira Devi, Anu Susan Sam, and Archana Raghavan Sathyan

The chapter depicts three case studies: one on the experiences of flood management in the Kuttanad rice ecosystem (Kerala, Southern India) through active state intervention for EBA and collective action by farmers collectives. The other two case studies are on the challenges faced in  addressing water scarcity issues in two agriculturally important districts of Kerala where the state presence is limited and farmer collectives are not functioning.

Chapter 10: Climate sensitivity of groundwater systems in South India: Does it matter for agricultural income?

Authors: R. Balasubramanian and V. Saravanakumar

The chapter discusses the findings of a study that quantifies the impact of climatic and non-climatic factors on groundwater level and its consequences for net farm income. It uses data generated from 1700 observation wells spread over the entire state, and that on costs and returns from crop production for 11 districts over a period of 40 years from 1971 to 2010.

The analysis finds that current and one period lagged rainfall lead to reductions in water tables reducing the water table depths. Share of area under water-intensive crops and maximum temperature also have a significant role in pushing down the water table. Flat or fully subsidised electricity pricing policy that results in zero-marginal cost of pumping has a negative impact on the groundwater table.

Part III: Technology Adoption

Chapter 13: What influences rural poor in India to refill their LPG?

Authors: Liya Thomas, Raksha Balakrishna, Rahul Chaturvedi, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, and Rucha Ghate

This chapter examines the impact of rural employment generation programmes along with various socio-economic and local environmental factors on LPG use. The study finds that poorer households are more likely to switch fuels if their disposable income increases through employment generation schemes. Thus increasing expenditure on MGNREGA can lead to benefits like reduced household air pollution, reduction in forest dependence and reduced emission of carbon, while in turn promoting affordable and clean energy for rural households

Chapter 17: Valuing the role of mangroves in storm damage reduction in coastal areas of Odisha

Author: Saudamini Das

The chapter describes a study that quantifies the storm protection services of mangroves of Odisha and the storm protection value of every km width of present mangroves - that work out to be Rs 39,568 to the state exchequer in the form of reduced compensation and Rs 3,339,166 to society for saving human life, livestock, and preventing house damage. The per hectare benefits (for just averting the three damages) work out to be Rs 182,080.

The cyclone probability adjusted annual storm protection value per hectare of mangroves works out to be more than twice the market price of cleared mangrove forest land and 18–26 (or nearly 20) times higher than the annual return from land. The chapter argues for the urgent need to preserve the remaining mangroves as a socially and economically viable strategy to protect from storms and cyclones.

Chapter 18:  Using climate information for building smallholder resilience in India

Authors: Madhavan Manjula, Raj Rengalakshmi, and Murugaiah Devaraj

This chapter highlights the importance of Seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) in risk reducing decisions across the agricultural value chain. The chapter also highlights the importance of communication  and appropriate participatory methods to be adopted to communicate SCF. Capacity building of the end user in understanding, interpreting and using the forecast information for decision-making needs to be taken up for realising better utility of SCF, argues the chapter.

Part V: Urban Sustainability

Chapter 22: Do community-based institutions spur Climate Adaptation in Urban Informal Settlements in India?

Authors: Upasna Sharma, Bijal Brahmbhatt, and Harshkumar Nareshkumar Panchal

This chapter provides evidence on the effectiveness of CAGs to enhance the awareness on climate change to reduce climate impacts and to facilitate the implementation of adaptation options by slum households. The study finds that household members of CAG are more likely to take climate actions than the control group, particularly in case of those options which are less commonly known such as green roofing and airlite ventilation.

Part VI: Alternative livelihood

Chapter 26: Climate Change, Ecological Stress and Livelihood Choices in Indian Sundarban

Authors: Santadas Ghosh and Sreejit Roy

The chapter discusses the findings of a study that finds that the younger generation in the Sunderbans delta is coping with the disasters in the region by moving out of the region as migrant labour. Such livelihood dynamics might be considered ecologically beneficial as it reduces the anthropogenic stress on the mangrove ecosystem, argues the chapter

Part VII: Moving forward

Chapter 29: Communities, Climate change adaptation and win–win solutions

Authors: A. K. Enamul Haque, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Mani Nepal, and Md Rumi Shammin

The chapter states that there are both success as well as failures in efforts made by countries in South Asia to deal with climate change adaptation by the communities also showing that no single mechanism is the ideal way out. Communities will need to adapt by taking into consideration the local contexts. Traditional knowledge, new innovations, sensitive state interventions and market incentives will all play a role in ensuring that the adaptation is optimal.

The book and all the chapters are open access and can be downloaded from here