Environment protection always remains as one of the big challenges in India. This is especially so when industrial activities are situated in eco-sensitive areas, such as coasts, forests, and rivers, causing irreparable damage to the fragile biodiversity and livelihood ecosystems. The current environmental regulatory set up for thermal power plants in India includes a mechanism for the local communities to register their apprehensions about proposed Thermal Power Plants in public hearings. However, it has become known that local communities’ knowledge and understanding of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is limited. We work to build the knowledge of local communities about the regulatory and administrative processes that industrial activities will have to adhere to, and the current recourse avenue set up and available to them.
The environment – rivers, lakes, forests, grasslands and other natural ecosystems – that we all depend on for food, water and energy is under tremendous pressure. In addition to changing environmental drivers, such as climate change and variability, unplanned and rapid urbanisation, and poor land management compound the consequences on poverty and inequality. The combination of population growth, urbanisation, climate change, and environmental degradation means that an increasing number of people are vulnerable to a wide range of hazards. More research is needed to characterise the contributing factors and processes leading to environmental hazards, which actors have responsibility and capacity to assess risks, plan and take action for sound development, humanitarian relief, and environmental protection, and how can communities be empowered to build resilience. In this thematic area, we examine the challenges to mitigate and adapt to environmental changes, develop stronger institutional and participatory processes to overcome challenges to environmental protection, and build the capacities of communities to strengthen their ability to cope with environmental hazards.
There are recommendations and vision statements from global governance institutions, Indian federal and state governments, and businesses stating that developing countries need to rapidly transition to green economies and urgently take climate adaptation measures. Developing countries, such as India, will face the brunt since climate change will superimpose on existing vulnerabilities. However, adaptation cannot replace mitigation, but more importantly, countries like India do not need to “transition” to green economies. There are practices that are already low-emission and climate resilient, that if amplified, could have a larger impact on climate change mitigation than several technologies proposed whose impacts are as yet indeterminate or would require enormous amounts of resources to make happen. These green practices are often in the informal sector and rely on informal actors and networks, but are hindered by their informal nature, lack of data and mapping support, poor knowledge of formal plans and planning processes, and tenuous access to democratic processes and institutions that are responsible for planning. Unfortunately, these ignore existing low carbon good practices, instead choosing to focus on centralised, technology dependent, expensive solutions that also tend to exclude the urban poor. In response to this context, CAG is initiating research and advocacy on invisible urban practices that can be both pro-poor and climate change mitigating measures. The initiative would bring informal actors and their practices in each of these themes in partnership with groups that can provide knowledge and technology support.
Water bodies and wetlands perform significant environmental, social, and economic functions, ranging from water purification, flood control, carbon sink, and coastal stability to being a source of drinking water, recharging groundwater, supporting biodiversity, and providing livelihoods. However, given the department-oriented institutional framework, the approach of conservation and development has not addressed the cross cutting environmental and conservation issues. Instead, it has led to inter-sectoral inconsistencies leading to further loss of waterbodies and wetlands. The integrity of lake and wetland ecosystems is very much dependent on the conservation of catchment areas. Given the lack of publicly available maps and lack of transparency, it is impossible to conserve catchment areas, and these have suffered because of encroachment, land filling, and massive deforestation. Moreover, communities have lost their right in the participation and involvement in the decision-making processes for protection and management of these water bodies and the government has arrogated itself the power over these water bodies. In response to this context, our work combines advocacy for an institutional structure for the management of all waterbodies and wetlands, with the creation and use of data and maps, and facilitating community stewardship.