Greening Rural Development In India

Feb 14th, 2013 | By | Category: Adaptation, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Books, Carbon, Development and Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Forest, Government Policies, International Agencies, Land, Lessons, Livelihood, Publication, Renewable Energy, Sanitation, Waste, Water

UNDP-Greening Rural Development IndiaUNDP: Poverty reduction and economic growth can be sustained only if natural resources are managed on a sustainable basis. Greening rural development can stimulate rural economies, create jobs and help maintain critical ecosystem services and strengthen and strengthen climate resilience of the rural poor.

Conversely, environmental challenges can limit the attainment of development goals. The Approach Paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan notes that “as the economy gains the capacity to grow rapidly, it will come up against the constraint of limitations of natural resources and then need to exploit these in a sustainable manner”1.

Recognizing the national and global imperatives for regenerating natural resources and conserving ecosystems, the Ministry of Rural Development requested UNDP to examine the environmental implications of its schemes and assess the potential of these schemes to deliver green results. The Report defines ‘green’ outcomes for major RD schemes, reviews the design and evidence from the field to highlight potential green results and recommends steps to improve green results.

In the context of this report, greening rural development refers to five broad green outcomes:

  • Improved natural resource conservation,
  • increased efficiency of resource use,
  • reduced negative environmental impacts,
  • strengthened climate resilience of communities and
  • contribution to climate change mitigation.

These outcomes can be delivered by RD schemes by a) investing in regenerating natural resources, b) mobilizing and developing the capacities of community institutions to utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner and c) aggregating ‘small initiatives’ in several locations to improve natural capital on a macro scale.

The rationale for greening rural development emerges from the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17) strategy of faster, sustainable and inclusive growth for poverty alleviation and MoRD’s mandate to reduce rural poverty and ensure a better quality of life especially for the poor:

  1. Greening rural development will contribute to inclusive growth by a) enabling the target growth rate of agriculture of 4 percent, which is important due to agriculture’s multiplier effects and due to the continued dependence of 58 percent of India’s rural population for livelihoods on agriculture, b) regenerating common land and water bodies, which offer sustenance to the rural poor through provisioning of goods and ecosystem services, c) ‘crowding in’ private investment in green businesses: renewable energy generation, organic input chains and advisory services, green product supply chains, production of environment-friendly construction materials.
  2. Greening rural development is essential for ensuring the environmental sustainability of economicgrowth: RD schemes can contribute significantly to conserving water resources, soil quality andbiodiversity. RD schemes such as MGNREGS, IWDP and the source sustainability component of NRDWP can help arrest and even reverse the decline in groundwater levels in critical regions. This is particularly useful for hard-rock regions where groundwater depletion is at its most acute. Soil conservation works are a large part of MGNREGS and IWDP activities. Soil fertility enhancement is a key objective of the MKSP and sustainable agriculture components of NRLM. MGNREGS, IWDP and NRLM activities can play a major role in conserving India’s biodiversity which is so essential for providing the country with ecological and livelihood security.
  3. Green outcomes from rural development schemes can help increase climate resilience of production systems, livelihoods and habitats: RD schemes can help reduce the impact of metereological droughts by conserving soil moisture, slowing down water runoff and increasing water storage in surface reservoirs as well as aquifers. It can also improve vegetative cover in common lands, making more fodder and fuelwood available during droughts. Resilience in the face of floods can be provided by improving drainage.
  4. Green outcomes will help making public expenditure more effective: RD schemes can strengthen livelihoods security for the rural poor thereby reducing demand for work under MGNREGS. Investment on source sustainability will result in greater longevity for drinking water supply systems and will reduce the number of ‘slipped-back’ habitations. MGNREGS and IWDP can help bridge the gap between irrigation potential created and irrigation potential utilized, for small and microirrigation projects.

Potential green results of specific schemes

The major schemes mentioned above can potentially make a significant contribution to sustaining natural resources and ecosystem services. Some examples are:

  • A vast majority of the works under MGNREGS are linked to water, soil and land. The list of ‘permissible’ works provide environmental services such as conservation of water, groundwater recharge, reducedsoil erosion, increased soil fertility, conservation of biodiversity, reclamation of degraded crop andgrazing lands, enhanced leaf manure, fuel wood and non-wood forest products supply among others.
  • The Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP) aims to restore ecological balance in a watershed by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil,water and vegetative cover and thereby help provide sustainable livelihoods to the local people. The scheme’s potential for green outcomes is also enhanced if it supports the adoption of “greenagronomy” practices and promotion of use patterns that sustain natural resources including groundwater and soil fertility
  • Under NRLM the guidelines for non-timber forest produce-based livelihoods under the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) identify regeneration and sustainable harvesting of NTFP species as key objectives; similarly, promotion of organic and low-chemical agriculture and increased soil health and fertility to sustain agriculture-based livelihoods is an objective under the sustainable agriculture component of MKSP; increased availability of green inputs and advisory services to farmers and livestock herders and use of renewables-based energy services for processing activities have immensepotential for green outcomes
  • Under Indira Aawas Yojana (IAY), green results include efficient use of resources, including water, energy and construction material. Further, IAY can encourage greater use of renewable and locallyavailable construction material, and reduced use of water and energy.
  • Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan – formerly the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) – has recently expanded its scope from eradication of open defecation to comprehensive sanitation in rural areas. Ten percent of the project funds is earmarked for solid and liquid wastes management. NBA can ensure safe disposal of solid and liquid waste, and prevent untreated wastewater from  re-entering the water system. These results can substantially improve the quality of water.

The National Rural Drinking Water Program guidelines give high priority to water supply source sustainability and water quality. Further, the potential for green outcomes is enhanced by an emphasis on safe disposal of sludge after treatment of contaminated water, and the use of renewable energy for water pumping.

The above green results can be achieved through specific measures a) at the level of the Ministry and b) for each scheme.
Recommendations for Ministry-level measures to achieve green results:

To achieve incremental green results, the Ministry of Rural Development may

  1. Identify a key set of green outcomes that are feasible and have high impact; prepare Green Guidelines which will detail how to achieve these desired results. The hallmark of the Green Guidelines will be (i) a set of non-negotiable principles and goals and (ii) flexibility beyond the non-negotiable so thatpeople and institutions are encouraged to adopt creative and innovative activities.
  2. Form a network of support organizations by designating select civil society organizations, technical institutions and academic centers to facilitate the implementation of the Green Guidelines.
  3. Establish an Innovations Portal for greening rural development. This portal will encourage innovative ideas, activities, technologies and processes adopted to promote and expand the greening activities.
  4. Set up a Green Innovations Fund to promote and incentivize the development and extension of technologies and social processes to achieve green outcomes
  5. Set up a dedicated Green Cell within the Ministry for guiding the greening agenda and for the implementation of Green Guidelines in the country. The Green Cell will develop procedures to converge actions and funding for greening activities that cut across rural development schemes.
  6. Prepare an annual Green Report for the Minister of Rural Development summarizing the major green achievements and their outcomes during the year. This report should draw upon independent evaluation of schemes for green outcomes.

Full Report:


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