Kerala’s fight against climate change appears to have caught the attention of the global delegates at the recently-concluded climate change conference in Glasgow thanks to an initiative by Thanal, an environmental organisation based in Thiruvananthapuram.
The organisation produced a document showcasing 18 innovative and sustainable climatic practices being adopted by Kerala to mitigate the effects of climate change and distributed it among the Glasgow delegates.
Titled ‘Climate Action in Kerala - examples of good practices’, the document contains details of the projects that have been launched for climate mitigation, adaptation or resilience in nine sectors, such as energy, transportation, agriculture, oceans and coastal ecosystems, water resources, waste, afforestation, health and cross-cutting, in the State.
What makes the projects different is their design and implementation.
“Policy decisions on climate change are normally taken at the national level. But sub-national governments, such as States, districts, municipalities and gram panchayats, are well placed for identifying the needs and the strengths of their societies in the battle against climate change. What we need is this bottom-up approach. Kerala has taken the lead among the Indian states,” said C Jayakumar, executive director of Thanal.
He said the projects in the document can be easily replicated elsewhere in India or in the world. “So the document has grabbed the attention of delegates of the Glasgow conference,” he said.
The floating solar power plant in Banasura Sagar dam in Wayanad, 2MW solar power plant in Kuzhalmannam in Palakkad, the west coast canal connecting the north and south ends of the State, the project to revive traditional agriculture in Attappady in Palakkad and the carbon neutral programme at Meenangadi gram panchayat in Wayanad are some of the major projects mentioned in the document.
Kerala, the narrow coastal state with Arabian Sea in the west and the Western Ghats in the east, is highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate changes. The state has been addressing rising sea level, floods, droughts, landslides and cyclones seriously since the extreme climatic events of 2017.
Twelve of the projects in the document directly address climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while the remaining six projects address it indirectly by creating resilience among people and through adaptation.
Energy sector accounted for six projects in the document. They are: floating solar power plant at Banasura Sagar dam in Wayanad, solar power plant at Kuzhalmannam in Palakkad, soura rooftop solar project by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), filament free Kerala, project Nilavu and solar power plant at Cochin International Airport Limited.
Three projects from the transportation sector (electric vehicle policy, west coast canal, Aditya solar boat), two each from agriculture (Namuth Vellame, Thanal Agro Ecology Centre) and water resources sectors (Killiar city mission and Now, let me flow) have found a place in the list. One project apiece from ocean and coastal ecosystems (clean sea), waste (zero waste cities), afforestation (pachathuruth) and health (climate resilient health system) are part of the projects. It also has a cross-cutting section that addresses multiple sectors simultaneously (carbon neutral gram panchayat in Meenangadi).
One of the ambitious projects in the list is the carbon neutral initiative being implemented in Meenangadi gram panchayat in Wayanad district.
Launched in 2016, the project aims at making the gram panchayat carbon neutral.
Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net zero carbon emission by balancing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity with an equal amount of carbon sequestration or removal from the atmosphere.
Apart from Thanal, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation’s Community Agrobiodiversity Centre and Kannur University’s zoology department are the agencies involved in the project.
The plan is to achieve the target by planting more trees to increase sequestration, installing biogas plants to convert waste to cooking gas, managing waste at source, composting biodegradable waste, producing organic food locally, switching to renewable sources of energy, phasing out fossil fuels and use of electric vehicles.
According to the concept note for the project, prepared by Thanal, the panchayat plans to manage anthropogenic (man-made) carbon emissions through a series of environment-friendly methods and techniques for sustainable development. “The scheme in Meenangadi panchayat will be a model project in India, which is inclusive of interventions in every aspect of human life, guaranteeing income security and ensuring better living conditions for all,” the note stated.
The central government apparently has shown interest in replicating the carbon neutral project in other Indian villages. The ministry has appointed Keralite Dr P P Balan, an expert in local administration, as a senior consultant to prepare the framework.
“The project aims to boost the existing initiatives and to formulate a framework at the national level,” Balan said.