Communities stress on the importance of local knowledge at a workshop conducted by IUCN on increasing resilience of peoples in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) against climate change
Documentation and strengthening of traditional knowledge and local institutions are essential to cope with uncertainties of climate and water insecurity in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). This was the clear message that came from residents of seven villages in the Balkhila watershed as they highlighted their problems such as landslides and soils erosion, water shortage, low agricultural yield, and drying of springs at a workshop organized by IUCN on 27 July 2011 in Gopeshwer, Uttarakhand.
The workshop on “Communities in Himalayas Coping with Change in Watershed, Climate and Livelihoods” was a part of continued IUCN interventions in the IHR to address issues of water and livelihoods in the context of climate change. Conducted in partnership with Uttarakhand Forest Department (UFD) and the Dasholi Gram Swaraj Mandal (DGSM), the organization brought together policymakers and communities in order to facilitate more local knowledge based policy.
The event, chaired by renowned environmental activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt and founder of DGSM, started with a plantation programme in the Papriana village where representatives from UFD, DGSM and IUCN India, along with the villagers planted Aonla (Emblica Officinalis) saplings in their community managed forest land. This marked the beginning of a series of eco development camps promoted by DGSM to increase the cover of multi-purpose indigenous species in the area for ecological and economic gains. These camps are going to be held at all the seven villages in the Balkhila watershed chosen by IUCN, UFD and DGSM as a part of WANI II.
Speaking at the workshop, Mr Bhatt expressed his concern on the degradation of natural resources in the IHR and vulnerability of the ecosystem due to climate change. He said that the combination of natural resource loss and natural disasters in the region would continue to increase unless people make a change in their lifestyle and avoid interfering with ecology of the Himalayas. Emphasizing on integrated planning for natural resource management and livelihood generation with the involvement of local communities, he commended IUCN on its efforts in initiative WANI in the IHR.
J S Rawat, In-Charge, IUCN India Country Office, discussed the rationale for IUCN interventions of IUCN in the Balkhila watershed and said that the severe water shortage and livelihood problems that people in this watershed faced could be called symptomatic of larger issues in the IHR. Immediate attention and action in this watershed as an example could bring out practices that could help in identifying future and better interventions to safeguard the IHR and human wellbeing. Upasana Joshi of IUCN discussed with the communities the importance building a robust Himalayan climate change programme to address issues of water and livelihoods based on the experiences from the Balkhila watershed.
Sanatan Shanakar of the UFD informed the gathering about ongoing activities Department in the watershed. He said that the partnership with IUCN in implementing the WANI II would help in undertaking similar activities in other villages under Integrated Watershed Management Programme.
R C Sundariyal of the Herbal Research and Development Institute expressed his interest in supporting the initiative by contributing to the plantation of medicinal plants in the pilot villages.