Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Training Report

(8-9 April, 2013)
Organized by
Peri-urban Water Security Project,
Nepal Engineering College 

Schools in our community play a critical role not only in shaping minds of the children, the knock on effect of which contributes in creating society capable to deal with challenges. Considering the role schools can play in fostering awareness about environmental issues and preparing the students at individual level, followed by family and the entire community for conserving and maintaining healthy environment, environmental education was incorporated into school curriculum. This has also been included as a requirement of the new National School Curriculum, but unfortunately most educators receive no training to enable them to do so. Recognizing the contribution that teachers can make to create awareness at the community level, peri-urban research team at nec organized two days long training workshop on Climate change and environmental education for the secondary level teachers from all schools across the four study sites.  The purpose of this training was to inform school teachers about general concept of climate change including tips and techniques on communicating it clearly into their classroom teaching and at community levels thereby ultimately contributing to reduce its adverse impacts. Simultaneously, the training also aimed to contribute in initiating a culture of environmental awareness and activism within the school community. The training programme was organized, at nec-CPS premises in Balkhu and targeted teachers from schools across all four peri-urban study sites teaching science and environmental science subjects to secondary level students.
The programme was scheduled for two days on 8th and 9th April 2013. Professional environmental education facilitators were outsourced from Clean Energy Nepal (CEN), a non-profit organization focusing on research based education and advocacy campaigns on issues related to climate change, sustainable energy use and environmental conservation. The aim of outsourcing facilitators from CEN was to ensure the training for effective conveying of basics of climate change science, its impacts, responses towards changing climate at different levels and awareness on climate change and effectively propagating significances of environmental awareness. This also aimed to motivating teachers to include action-oriented approaches to environmental education that use participatory methodologies and encourage students towards practical application of environmental education.

Thirteen participants (9 male and 4 female) from different schools across the site participated in the training. The first day of the training focused on widening the horizon of understanding on the basics of climate change science, impacts of climate change, concepts of adaptation, coping, and resilience in responding to climate change through deliberations and discourses aiming to convey the issue of climate change more effectively within and beyond class rooms thereby ultimately contributing to reduce its adverse impacts. The second day focused primarily in upgrading the teachers skill in integrating climate change education in school, in making assessment of eco-friendly environment within school premises and involving students in such activities at both school and community levels by means of group discussions and exercises on these.

Day 1
The welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Rajesh Sada, Research Co-ordinator. With short note on the research project, project partners, supporting institution, the research objectives and the objectives of the training, he handed over the floor to the facilitators from Clean Energy Nepal to formally begin the training sessions.

Introducing herself, Ms. Amita Thapa Magar from CEN gave a brief introduction of CEN, including its prioritized working areas and publications in various environmental issues. She then collected a brief note on the expectation of the participants from the training so as to frame the training sessions effectively achieving the targets. The main expectations of the participating teachers focused on improving the individual knowledge on basics of climate change and learning new skills of teaching students on climate change and engaging students in environmental friendly activities.

Fig 1: Science of Climate Change

The technical session began with a comprehensive presentation by Mr. Sunil Acharya from CEN on the Science of Climate change. Explaining that the global climate system is a consequence of the earth’s energy budget and influenced by The Atmosphere, The ice sheets (Cryosphere), Living organisms (Biosphere), The soils, sediments and rocks (Geosphere), he discussed more details of climate system, energy budget, carbon cycle, climate models and climate forecast. His presentation also included note on green house gases, emission scenario by developed countries, emerging economies and the least developed countries relating it to the negligible emission scenario of Nepal. During the presentation, the participants clarified their doubts on the green house gases and the facilitator also introduced the concept of carbon foot print including the need to reduce it. He also introduced the international treaties and protocols on reducing carbon emission and the blame game that has been going on at the international level for accepting the role in carbon emission and how has that ultimately hampering the motive of reducing carbon emission. Explaining the global climate change scenario, he also explained the temperature increase rate being above the global average, increase its vulnerability to the likely negative impacts of changing climate.

Following this was the presentation by Mr. Manjeet Dhakal from CEN highlighting on the potential impacts of climate change on different regions of the world and impact of climate change specifically in Nepal especially in Agriculture, Natural Disaster, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Health. Sharing the instances of various incidences that have occurred over Nepal, he also shed light on those aspects that can be aggravated with increasing climatic uncertainty through the evidences which have started to be gradually manifested. Simultaneously, remaining circumspect on the misinterpretation of the impacts of climate change, he stressed on the risk of growing trend of heedlessly attributing every incidence to climate change and emphasized on the need of detailed study and investigations. Furthermore, he also briefly discussed on the positive approaches that have been initiated in Nepal reducing emission of green house gases and mitigation to climate change. Appreciating the activities such as promotion of alternative source of energy and community forests, he briefly explained the contribution of these practices as the clean development mechanism and the contribution made by these technologies as source of revenue through carbon trading.

Proceeding forward was Ms. Anushiya Shrestha, Research assistant, peri-urban research team at nec, shared the findings on the study of climatic variability in Kathmandu wherein she briefly shared on the findings from climatic data analysis with major focus on the impression of changing climate and the impacts of climate change as perceived and experienced by the local people along with the adaptive and coping strategies practiced by the local people across four peri-urban VDC. Sharing the findings contributed the teachers to be aware about the field based realities and thus capacitate them in effectively communicating the findings with the larger mass including students, their colleagues at the school and the community itself of which they are well appreciated as  intellectual groups. Thus could be an effective mediator for disseminating the findings to the community. Following this Mr. Sada added upon the major issues across each of the study sites and how these have been affecting the livelihood of local people and provoking dissatisfaction among the local people and instigating conflicts of different natures.

Following this was the a documentary show explaining the context of changing climate in Nepal, the impacts of changing climate and the activities undertaken and the challenges Nepal has been facing through in addressing the issues of climate change. Next was the deliberation on different ways of responding to climate change by Mr. Acharya and Mr. Dhakal. During the presentations, they described the concept of mitigation, resilience, coping and adaptation. Mitigation is related with the human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases while adaptation at local, community, national were described as stage having resilience over the climatic variability. The presentation also explained about the concept of loss and damage as the concept that has come up to address the vulnerability of the climatic impacts and include actions to compensate the irreversible impacts of climate change despite the action to mitigate climate change. As per the presenters, damage can be those economic or non-economic negative impacts that can be repaired or restored while loss can be characterized as those negative impacts that cannot be repaired or restored. Loss and Damage represents the actual and / or potential manifestation of climate impacts that negatively affect human and natural systems. These concepts being new and the participating teachers were confused to some extent. The confusion was cleared up through the instances from different countries, national practices and local practices including the coping and adaptive practices documented by the peri-urban research team through the study.

Mr. Dhakal shared his experiences and the analysis on the context of global conferences on climate change, the mechanism of participating by different nations including delegates from Nepal and the efforts and complications in developing the strategies, conventions and frameworks that can be accepted by developed, emerging economies and the least developed countries. Alongside, he also highlighted the current status of national adaptation plan of action (NAPA) and local adaptation plan of action (LAPA) in Nepal where both have been prepared but the implementation at the field have not yet been commenced.

Closing the day, Mr. Sada suggested the participants for more active participation in the following day for which the participants considered the climate change had been a very important issue for them as the environment and science teachers but were lacking knowledge thus the first day had been highly informative and useful in expanding them understanding on the conceptual and contextual scenario of climate change.

Day 2
The second day of the training dealt with the importance of climate change education in school education and the need of including climate change within curriculum and expanding the umbrella of curriculum to provide the information on the climate and create next generation aware, concerned and prepared to tackle the climatic uncertainties. During the presentation, Mr. Sunil Acharya shared local, global and future dimensions to climate change education and suggested on the use of local learning and real life experiences as means of motivating the young people and their communities in climate friendly behavior and preparing them to respond to the threat of changing climate. He also stressed on the need of expanding the on-going role played by teachers beyond the academic drilling for stimulating and reinforcing understanding of and attentiveness to the realities of climate change where reducing the consumptive behavior, shifting to non-polluting renewable energy sources and environmental conservation through reforestation and afforestation were presented as some of the areas where the teachers can be self- involved and inspire the students to be involved. He introduced 4C framework to climate change learning which included curriculum, campus, community and culture as the four pillars of climate change education. Furthermore, his presentation also explained how developing action addressing climate change and implementing educational and training programs beyond the class room course and science on climate change can contribute as the main vehicle in addressing a societal responsibility in reducing the scope and severity of climate change.

Fig 2: 4C Framework to Climate Change Learning

Following this was a presentation by Ms. Amita Thapa Magar where she reflected on ways and shared practices of initiating climate friendly behavior in school. Introducing the concept of green audit, she explained it as a self assessment of the school environment lead by the students on different themes viz. water, waste and land (open space).  She explained how the exercise on green audit will help students to understand the existing environmental condition of the schools. Sharing her experiences of working with various public and private schools, she explained how have the “Save My School” (SMS) ambassadors have been facilitating the Green Audit in the schools and also conducting trainings and orientation programs in the school in coordination with the school management even at the schools with resource constraint.

She also presented the overview of school program conducted at different schools through students which included the formation of Students’ Committee and their active participation in Green Audit, Action Plan, Local Day of Action. The participating teachers shared different natures and scales of environment friendly practices exercised at their school. Some of those mentioned included rainwater harvesting, plantation of a tree within the school premises by each batch of students passing the school leaving certificate and involving students group in caring for the planted tree. Among others, involving students in environmental campaigns, rally, maintaining cleanliness of school and community, declaring the area as open toilet free zone and polythene free zone were some already practiced at different participating schools. An interesting case was from Jhaukhel where the students from different houses or teams were involved in maintaining organic garden within the school premise under the monitoring and guidance of the teacher of individual house and the produced vegetables were exhibited and marketed among the teachers. The collected fund were maintained by students through house wise account and used for the maintenance of the garden.

Considering the growing urbanization and pollution in Kathmandu, Ms. Magar suggested engaging students in assessing and analyzing the consumption pattern and pollution level within the school premises and involved the participants in the demonstration through questionnaires developed for water audit, land audit and waste audit. She further suggested on forming the Green-Schools Committee which should be as representative of the whole school or capacitating the existing nature-club/ eco-club of the school to act as a Green School Committee. For this, her strong recommendation was on managing an active involvement of students, teachers including the principal and non-teaching Staff for the effective continuation of the initiatives. She also pointed out on the need of appreciation and encouragement for students's activities on wall magazine, notice board and other school program. Additionally, she also collected some activities that the participants thought could be imparted from them as teachers to their students in promoting environment and climate friendly behavior. Some of those stated by teachers include turning off appliances when not in use, encourage the parents and relatives to change the light bulbs to energy efficient ones, planting trees, to walk, cycle or use bus, carry a cloth bag when going shopping instead of plastic bags etc.

The teachers from private school accepted themselves to be in more resourceful situation can conduct extracurricular activities including the environmental friendly behavior, while the teachers representing the public school shared the pathetic situation where the students and the parents are unable and/or unwilling to make any investment and thus expanding the working area beyond academic arena was extremely challenging and thus requested CEN for the possible help and support. Addressing the request, the resource persons from CEN accepted to continue interactions to support some schools and also provided the name of organizations potential to provide the support.

The last session involved furthermore group works where the participants in five different groups discussed on climate change. This session helped the participants to reconfirm their understanding on two days session on climate change and integrating environmental education in school. Furthermore, the performance by the team was instrumental in evaluating the understanding of individual participants for the facilitators and the nec-peri-urban research team as the organizer. The resource materials were provided to all the participants. As all the schools were on the verge of entering into the new academic session, the participants showed enthusiasm to initiate and expand the education on environment and promote awareness on climate change among the students, co-workers, school administration and furthermore expand at the community level.

The session was closed with the speech from Prof. Ashutosh Shukla on environment, water and climate change and closing remarks by Mr. Sada.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Changing Usage and Access to Common Property Resources (CPRs) in Peri-urban Gurgaon

The major focus of the research in two peri-urban villages, namely, Budheda and Sadhrana, in the Gurgaon district of Haryana was to identify the factors responsible for degradation of common property resources. The study revolved around building my understanding of the various factors responsible for declined dependence on and changes in the usage of the Common Property Resources (CPRs). Factors like amplified real estate prices and reduced rainfall had an impact on the land use pattern, while other factors include social challenges like inflated inflow of cash due to land sales, illegal encroachment of agriculture and Panchayat land and elite domination.

Cities grow while villages shrink

Gurgaon's population in 2011 stands at 1.5 million against 0.8 million in 2001 with an increase of 73.9% in a decade (census 2001 & 2011). This increase in population has created a demand for better utility services. The peri-urban settlements are at the receiving end and government institutions are exploring their resources to meet the demands of the urban population. Acquisition of private agriculture land as well as common property grazing lands took place in Budheda for the installation of the water treatment plant (WTP) to provide drinking water for Gurgaon city. 230 acres of land was acquired in the first phase for the construction of a WTP. There is a plan to acquire an additional 140 acres of land for the expansion of the plant. On the other hand, Reliance, an industrial conglomerate had a plan to procure 25,000 acres of land to setup a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). They have procured around 1400 acres of land from villages Sadhrana, Budheda, and other neighboring villages. However, the project is hurdled by the strict norms of the Supreme Court in 2006 for protecting the Sultanpur National Park.
There is a sharp decline in the livestock as both the grazing and private agriculture land is declining. Most of the green fodder for livestock is procured from the agriculture fields. Rich elite who still own agricultural land has easy access to green fodder. However, they do not share with small and marginal farmers due to less availability of the fodder. The significant factors, which have influenced the shift of occupation from animal husbandry to other employment opportunities, are as follows:
(a)  Maintenance cost of livestock has increased as the prices of fodder have sharply increased in the last two decades and communities do not find it lucrative to keep livestock. While raising an animal (cow or buffalo), more than 70 per cent of expenditure is incurred on feed and fodder (NDDB 2009). The community from higher caste who owns the land afford this expenditure, while lower caste communities who do not own land have to pay higher input cost.

(b)  Buffalo larceny gangs from Mewat are responsible for the decline in the livestock population in the village. Almost 4-5 buffaloes have been stolen in the past one year. 

(c)   The labour to manage livestock has also declined. Earlier joint families had more human resources who could take care of livestock. This scenario has changed with the emergence of nuclear families. The lack of interest among the youth and children to engage with livestock is also one of the reasons for sharp decline in the number of the population.

Changes in irrigation & agriculture

There has been a change in agriculture pattern in Budheda and Sadhrana. Budheda was once famous for kharbuja (Musk Melon) People showed interest to give a girl into this village due to availability of sweet water and musk melons. Now, due to increase in the saline content of the water and depleting water levels, the cultivation of musk melon has completely ceased. The three major reasons for change in agriculture pattern in the two villages are:
 (a) Decline in rainfall since the 1980s
(b) Drying of open-wells used for agriculture
 (c) Water in the tube well becoming saline due to the declining ground water table.
There is a strong linkage between drying of Johads and wells located in Sadhrana. Technically, Johad feeds water to the well and helps in recharging the ground water table in the area. However, with drying of Johads and with emergence of a large number of tube-wells and submersible pump sets, sweet water open-wells have dried up. These sweet water open-wells were used for filling khed (common drinking spots for the livestock) as well as for irrigation. The alternative source for irrigation is the water from the wastewater canal, which is used by small and marginal farmers (as they do not own a tube-well in their own agriculture fields).

Common properties encroachment, elite domination & socio-cultural changes

In Sadhrana, subtle domination from the higher castes resulted in reduced accessibility of common property resources for the lower caste communities. During Chakbandi (Land consolidation) in 1982, the influential Pundit and Yadav communities distributed the Panchayat grazing land adjacent to their own or within their private land. Even now, dominant classes use the cloistered Panchayat land for personal agricultural purposes. Moreover, during land consolidation, the influential castes also acquired land from the small and marginal landowners by bribing the Patwari. The Patwari reduced the prices of the land of the small and marginalized farmers compared to the prices of land owned by Pundit and Yadav communities. With this effect, when reallocation of land after consolidation took place, the large and influential landowners were compensated with higher prices. This resulted in acquisition of more amount of land as compared to their previous ownership. Currently, the large landholders forbid livestock grazing or women to collect fodder from these Panchayat lands as the land is used for their own agriculture purposes.

Usage of Common property resources like Johads has changed over the period. Budheda has a 150-year-old functional Johad, which was earlier used for bathing purposes of the community. However, it is now exclusively used for livestock's drinking and bathing. The Panchayat has extensive rights and the Johad was taken care mostly under MNREGA. The major source of water for this Johad is from rainfall and Gurgaon water supply channel. In 2010, the Johad in Budheda was leased out on a legal contract to a private contractor from Nuh (Mewat district) for 7 years (2010-2017) for fishing activities. Communities claim that the democratic process failed while auctioning the Johad. However, contract mentions that the maintenance of Johad is the contractor's responsibility. Other conditions which facilitate the use of the Johad are: 

(a) Any villager can use the Johad without seeking prior of permission from the contractor;
(b) The contractor cannot add any chemicals in the Johad as it is used for drinking and bathing of livestock and;
(c) Water recharging and filling up of Johad with water from the nearby canal is the contractor's responsibility.

The depletion in the common properties is also affecting the socio-cultural behaviour of the people. Instead of fuel wood, cow/ buffalo dung cakes are now used for cooking, bonfire, and even for funeral rituals among economically weaker sections (especially SC communities). Due to depletion of grazing land, the work burden on women has increased. Traditionally, grazing of livestock has been the domain of men in households. However, with the diminished access to grazing land stall-feeding has emerged as an alternative, which has become the responsibility of women. Birbani (wife) is responsible for green fodder collection from the agriculture fields and preparation of cow dung cakes. Even after fodder is collected, women help men to cut the collected fodder and in the preparation of the mixture for feeding the livestock.

The above mentioned factors are responsible for bringing changes in usage of common property resources in Budheda and Sadhrana. There are other specific factors, which played crucial role in reducing the access for small and marginal farmers to a common property, which are: (a) Urban expansion (b) Illegal encroachment and (c) Elite domination. In a periurban context, the environment is changing at a faster rate, affecting the access to common properties. Budheda and Sadhrana are bound to feel the effects of Gurgaon’s haphazard urbanization, largely in the coming future. In case of these two villages, communities with assets such as land will be able to cope up with threats of urbanization whereas the vulnerable poor might face more teething troubles in the future. Coping with new livelihood opportunities and losing access to common properties might become a costly affair for these vulnerable communities.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Problems of peri-urban areas warrant immediate attention to policy

Over 40% of peri-urban households are not connected to tap water supply, and use pumps to draw water from shallow groundwater sources. PHOTO: SDPI

ISLAMABAD: As the sun sets over an impoverished household in Soling, located off Raiwind Road on the outskirts of Lahore, Rukhsana Bibi, 36, a housewife and mother of four, begins preparing the evening meal. She covers her face as smoke billows from burning firewood, which she uses as fuel for cooking. Her husband, 41-year-old Kareem Bakhsh, has just returned home from an industrial estate a few kilometres from their home where he works. Near the mud stove, their youngest son plays in the dirt, alarmingly close to a leaking drainpipe installed to expel household waste from the house into the street outside.

Rukhsana’s family is one of thousands of others in Pakistan who live in similar unplanned and un-regularised semi-urban settlements – known in academia as peri-urban areas – on the peripheries of large metropolitan cities like Lahore.

Peri-urban areas are defined in simple terms as areas directly adjoining urban areas, between the suburbs and the countryside. They exhibit traits of both urban and rural areas, but are actually undergoing a transition between the two. In the case of Lahore – a city district having a population exceeding 12 million – around 28% of its population, or 3.36 million people, are estimated to live in peri-urban areas.

A study carried out by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) captures a comprehensive picture of the state of affairs concerning three essential issues: governance, health and environment. According to the study, the dilemma of peri-urban areas is that they do not have certain or legal land tenures; moreover, they do not fall into a purely rural or purely urban classification.
Most of these areas have not been formally zoned for housing by the government, nor urbanised with infrastructure. These settlements often eventuate as illegal land invasions, which are, therefore, disconnected from municipal service networks.

The lack of planned land use policies, basic services delivery, waste management and adequate water and sanitation services gives rise to a number of environmental and health risks. Diseases like diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, malaria and jaundice are stated as the most commonly occurring diseases year-round, especially during summers, and cases of influenza and throat and chest infections were mostly reported during winters. In addition, a large number of skin and other allergies are also very commonly reported in peri-urban areas. Health experts state that a significant number of diseases were caused by the use of unsafe, polluted or contaminated water sources in cooking, drinking or bathing etc.

Over 40% of peri-urban households are not connected to tap water supply, and use pumps to draw water from shallow groundwater sources which also seem to be heavily contaminated with pathogens and pollutants. An alarming concern is that wastewater and sewage from industrial and residential areas flows into such water bodies near informal settlements. Similarly, the inadequate and poor sewerage system, common in such areas, gives rise to cholera, typhoid and other health implications.

Due to the unavailability of kitchens in homes, residents of such areas cook food in the open, rendering food items and utensils vulnerable to environmental contamination and contact with disease causing pathogens. Most households on the fringes of Lahore use biomass (eg wood) as fuel due to low or no access to cleaner energy services like natural gas. This cooking practice leads to acute respiratory infections, particularly in women and children. Additionally, some residents keep livestock indoors, which increases risk of spoilage and contamination of stored food, and increases health risks to residents.

Environmental issues related to unplanned urbanisation include soil erosion, destruction of vegetation, siltation and depletion of water bodies and pollution of resources such as soil, air and water.

The SDPI study proposes a number of recommendations to address the issues of peri-urban areas, including adequate land policies and official control procedures; decentralised approaches to basic service provision; greater collaboration between rural and urban authorities; wider integrated water management interventions and decentralized wastewater management techniques; need for project planners to encourage involvement of all relevant entities in development consultations; and intensive educational initiatives for occupational activities as well as awareness related to basic health and hygiene, waste management, and water and sanitation issues.

As night falls over peri-urban neighbourhoods and mothers lull their children to sleep, one can only hope that adequate attention to policy by decision-makers leads to the dawn of better days for the millions who dwell in such deprived areas in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2013.

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