Strategies for achieving environmental sustainability in rural development A report by United Nations Development Programme

Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 10:30

This report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) presents strategies for inclusive rural development embodying the principles of environmental sustainability. It recommends measures needed to achieve green, including measuring and tracking, the use incentives and the building of capacities. It also contains a number of case studies showing how green results can be achieved.

The report has examined six flagship Government of India (GoI) schemes namely-Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS); National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM); Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP); Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY); National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDP) and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to recommend actions and measures to achieve greening outcomes. In specific it looks at:

  1. Improving quality and carrying of eco systems including, water in surface bodies, aquifers and soil profile and arresting degradation of natural resources.
  2. Enabling sustainable livelihoods, based on sustainable use of natural resources.
  3. Strengthening ecosystem resilience to enable them to recover from extreme weather events and cope with climate change.
  4. Reducing the ecological footprint of interventions through efficient use of energy, material, natural resources and increased use of renewable materials.

The report also outlines specific recommendations for flagship schemes, which are as follows:

Priority recommendations for MGNREGS:

  • Prepare Perspective Plan for every gram panchayat on the basis of landscape, watershed or aquifer based planning.
  • Strengthen capacities of gram panchayats to develop green proposals and monitor green results: develop and utilize appropriate toolkits for this purpose.
  • Strengthen block level capacities to support implementing agencies to deliver green results.
  • Develop an MGNREGS green index as a part of the scheme monitoring system to track green impacts at the gram panchayat level.
  • Incentivize gram panchayats to achieve and surpass the threshold level on the MGNREGS green index; this incentive may be drawn from the budgetary provision for administrative expenses.
  • Increase focus on treatment of forest land in convergence with joint forest management and the Green India Mission.

Priority recommendations for NRLM:

  • Include as „essential‟ outcome in Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) guidelines, a result each on sustainably harvested produce and sustainable agricultural practices (in addition to current one on soil health) for all initiatives.
  • Develop protocols for sustainable harvest of non-timber forest produce and sustainable agriculture and livestock management, and facilitate their adoption by SHGs.
  • Earmark 2 percent of overall budget (or 10 percent of provision for infrastructure and marketing) for work at meso level on developing niche markets for sustainably harvested produce and for green input supply chains.
  • Provide backloaded, labour subsidy‟ to SHGs for adoption of sustainable practices to compensate for lower labour productivity (in current guidelines, there is provision only for capital subsidy or revolving funds for SHGs).

Priority recommendations for IWDP:

  • Specify environmentally sustainable resource management and production systems in the work plan, with convergent support from other schemes, and develop capacities of community institutions to adopt the systems.
  • Use the budget allocated for „production systems and microenterprises‟ to support key aspects of sustainable production systems.
  • Establish indicators for soil health, biodiversity and water resource sustainability and set up resource sustainability targets using these indicators.
  • Formalize usufruct rights and legal entitlements to promote sustainable use practices through community involvement. The 5 percent budget provision for the, consolidation phase‟ must be released only after these measures are adopted by the community.
  • Encourage support organizations to take on action research pilots to enhance green results.

Priority recommendations for NRDWP:

  • Ensure source sustainability is built into the Resource Development Proposals from Gram Panchayats while sanctioning projects.
  • Institutionalize participatory water quality monitoring and reporting by gram panchayats.
  • Ensure safe disposal of contaminants after the water treatment process.
  • Dedicate additional funds for use of green technologies.
  • The Water Security Plans must take into account all relevant water demands.

Priority recommendations for NBA:

  • Establish a Green Home Protocol and a green panchayat protocol to be implemented in a phased manner across the country.
  • Enhance the budgetary share of solid and liquid waste management component.
  • Increase emphasis on solid and liquid waste management in the eligibility criteria for the Nirmal Gram Puraskar.
  • Prepare an inventory of solid and liquid waste management technologies and disseminate widely.
  • Launch a campaign for highlighting the tangible benefits of rural sanitation on health and livelihoods.

Priority recommendations for IAY:

  • Prepare region-specific Handbooks of Green Building Designs including green construction materials that cover the life cycle of an IAY house.
  • Support district level Building Resource Centres to promote green technologies and designs; link financial support to quantity and effectiveness of green services provided.
  • Develop an IAY Green Index to measure, monitor and report on green results on a regular basis.
  • Provide additional subsidy (20 percent) to families building housing units that score above threshold on the green index.
  • Provide additional funds to districts committing to specified number of green housing units under IAY.
Click here to access the report.

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