Enhance Green India Mission for the Betterment of Upcoming Generation
The Green India Mission has enhanced the greening regarding climate adaptation and mitigation, aiming to build ecosystems such as carbon sequestration and storage (in forests and other ecosystems), hydrological services, biodiversity, and saving fuel fodder, timber, and NTFPs.
The PM announced this National Green India mission as one of the 8 Missions under the (NAPCC) National Action Plan on Climate Change. It has recognized the climate change phenomenon, which has affected and alters its distribution and quality of natural biological resources. The NAPCC addresses urgent and critical concerns of sustainable development and identifies the close linkage of an economy with its natural resource base, and cautions that climate-sensitive sectors such as forestry and agriculture may face a major threat to the projected changes in climate. This will have repercussions on the livelihoods of people in general and forest-dependent communities in particular.
Significance of Forests concerning Climate Change
The Green India Mission acknowledges the influences & potential that the forests, as well as other natural ecosystems, have on climate adaptation/mitigation, the food, water, environmental, and livelihood security of tribal and forest dwellers.
Therefore, the Mission is in a unique position to significantly contribute to other missions’ sustainability for the following reasons.
Over the past decades, national conservation and sustainable management policies have transformed the country’s forests into a net sink of carbon dioxide. The carbon stocks stored in our forests are estimated to have increased from 6246 million tonnes to 6625 million tonnes, thereby registering an annual increment of 37.68 million tons of carbon or 138.15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The forests are essential for maintaining favorable and stable conditions needed for sustained agricultural productivity. The maintaining of agricultural productivity is one of the key reasons for forest protection by the community. According to a study, as much as 50% of paddy fields’ productivity in the Western Ghats is actually attributed to leaf collected from forests. Organic matter is essential to maintain the soil’s fertility, structure, and water-holding capacity in the high rainfall region. Forests provide food directly in the categories as follows: flowers, fruits, leaves, stems, seeds, roots, tubers, etc.
Forests prove vital for maintaining the hydrological cycle, regulating water flows and sub-soil water regimes, recharging the aquifers, and maintaining water flow in rivers and rivulets. However, the relationship between the forests and water flows, especially the low base flows, is not always as straight forward as often believed. Forest ecosystems are a source of a large number of rivers and rivulets in the country. The forested watersheds have better availability and quality of water than watersheds under alternative land uses.
Livelihood Security of Local Communities
Forests provide a range of provisioning services, particularly fuelwood, fodder, small timber, medicinal plants, and artisan raw material like canes and bamboo, crucial to forest-dependent communities’ livelihood security. Nearly 27% of India’s total population, comprising 275 million rural people, depends on forests for their livelihoods. The number includes 89 million tribal people, who constitute the country’s poorest and most marginalized section. NTFP sector with an annual growth rate between 5-15% also contributes to 75% of forest sector export income.
Forests and Climate Change: Key Challenges
- The Green India Mission acknowledges challenges on account of the demand and supply gap of various provisioning services from forests, particularly fuelwood, fodder/grass/grazing, timber, cane/ bamboo, etc., unsustainable pressure and contributing to the degradation of forests and ecosystems.
- The productivity of Indian forests is low compared to the world standards, worsening the gap between demand and supply of various forest products.
- Already challenged forest ecosystems will become much more vulnerable to the adverse climatic conditions. The forests would be vulnerable because of the altitudinal and latitudinal shift of the forest ecosystems species and on account of increased occurrences of fire, pests/diseases, invasive species, change in species assemblage/forest type, forest die-back, and loss of biodiversity.
- As a result, forest-dependent livelihoods may get severely affected, especially for women who depend on fuel, fodder, and food from forests, thus enhancing forest-dependent communities’ vulnerability.
- The first charge on the forest ecosystem goods and services would be that of the local communities, as mandated in the National Forest Policy (NFP) of 1988. Public forest lands that serve as the life-sustaining resource base for the rural communities shall remain in the public domain so that the benefits accrue to all sections of society.
- The Green India Mission would contribute to the empowerment of communities and strengthen the decentralized local governance of forests. The Green India Mission would support the revamping of the existing institutions and working with a plurality of institutions at the local level to strengthen decentralized forest governance.
- Traditional Ecological Knowledge of communities and forestry science and state-of-the-art technology would improve the Mission interventions.
- Under the Green India Mission, the greening scope will not be limited to just trees and plantations; emphasis will be on restoration of ecosystems and habitat diversity, for example, grasslands and pastures, degraded forest ecosystems, mangroves, wetlands, and other critical ecosystems.
- The Green India Mission will provide adaptation/ mitigation measures that enhance ecosystem goods and services, particularly carbon stocks, water, and meet biodiversity conservation and livelihood security needs. While attempts will be made to synergize adaptation and mitigation needs, local communities will be required to play a key role in prioritizing the range of ecosystem goods and services that they value most through a process of informed decision-making.
- Monocultures and habitat fragmentation are known to increase vulnerability. Therefore, the Green India Mission will focus on the restoration of native biodiverse species mix at the landscape level.
- The Green India Mission acknowledges the forces of de-greening operating across the country. It will be critically important that the Mission relates to processes that halt “de-greening.”
How Hindrise Helped in Building up the Green India Mission Successfully?
The Mission envisages our NGO role as a partner in furthering the Green India Mission mandate, especially in community mobilization, strengthening the Gram Sabha and its myriad bodies, facilitating community ownership and managing natural resources, and developing the cadre of skilled community youths, etc. Hindrise and other Process Support Groups would help strengthen institutions at various levels, from village level institutions to the State bodies.
The Mission will ensure the representation of the NGOs in decision making bodies at different levels. The Mission will set the process guidelines for the engagement with a proven track record. The State Mission organization, by using the guidelines, will be able to identify and provide them with the necessary support to help achieve the Green India mission objectives.
Improving Fuel-use Efficiency and Promoting Alternative Energy Sources
Energy security and carbon emission reduction objectives will be through energy-efficient devices and alternative energy sources. Primary targets will be areas burdened with unsustainable harvesting and use of fuelwood. Promotion of alternative energy devices such as biogas, solar devices, biomass-based energy, and expansion of services for cleaner cooking fuels like LPG in rural areas, improved fuel-efficient stoves, etc., would help reduce pressure on forests, gaining carbon benefits, along with health and other associated benefits.
Corridors for Connectivity
Habitat fragmentation would be a constraint to climate-change-induced migration, especially in species with limited dispersal abilities. “Corridors” are needed for effective dispersal and establishment of species. Both plant and animal species need to adapt through migration along latitudinal and altitudinal gradients. Assisted migration of species would be possible through connecting corridors. While prioritizing the areas to be taken up under various Sub Missions, corridor consideration would be taken on board and other key criteria.
Understanding, Identifying, and Protecting Areas/Catchments of Hydrological Importance
Forests play a key role in groundwater recharge and maintaining water quality. By moderating the hydrological cycle, native species forests and grasslands can often moderate monsoon peaks and enhance lean season flows in streams and rivers. On the other hand, certain exotic and invasive species can adversely affect both local biodiversities and the hydrological regime.
Increased variability in rainfall patterns and more extreme events will enhance the importance of the hydrological function of forests and other landscapes in adapting to climate change. What is clear is that a combination of vegetation and the underlying hydrogeology promotes infiltration and groundwater recharge.
Building Capacity of Local Institutions
The Mission will support the local community institutions’ capacity building as a long-term measure to effectively protect, regenerate, and manage forests and undertake forest-based livelihood enterprises. Sustainable forest management and utilization will require sound knowledge in inventorization (including growing stock enumeration, regeneration surveys, biodiversity, carbon assessment, etc.), adaptive silvicultural practices, sustainable NTFP harvesting, value addition and marketing, and monitoring of impacts. Traditional Knowledge, forestry science, and Information and Communication Technology will provide the capacity-building endeavor’s building blocks.
Building a Cadre of Community Foresters
The Mission is meant to double the ongoing efforts of greening the country nearly. It will necessitate developing extra hands from within the community, namely youths from a community who on the one hand would provide service to the community, and on other hand would link to a large number of other service providers, including the Forest Department and other agencies. Given the fast-changing rural scenario with an increasing number of educated unemployed/ underemployed youth, the Mission will support youth cadres as Community Foresters to lead the charge locally.
Every country has an obligation to arrest the downward spiral of climate change. Hence India is also responsible for growing global power, India has taken up the responsibility of reducing the deleterious effects of climate change by launching various other missions under NAPCC. Their primary aim is to protect, restore, and enhance India’s diminishing forest cover and boost up Green India Mission.
Support of the Forest Department, research institutions, universities, and colleges from local areas, and Hindrise would help develop this cadre of Community Foresters as self-employed change agents. The Mission can develop about one lakh skilled local community youths who would support community-based forest conservation, community livelihood enhancement, change monitoring, etc. The youth will also act as a bridge between the community and service providers like the Forest Department.