Community Based Response To Climate Change: Experiences From Uttarakhand

Co-Written by Ashish Kumar Singh, Vidya Bhooshan Singh & Siddhartha Negi

Climate Change

The climate of the world is changing constantly due to the increasing global warming by the natural and man-made activities. These changes have an enormous impact on the people’s lives and ecosystems. Developing countries, and particularly the poorest people in these countries, are the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate variability and ongoing and projected climate change. Their economies depend heavily on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, a reliable water supply, and other natural resources. They are generally hindered by limited human capacity and limited access to technology and capital to invest in risk reduction. Thus, it is imperative that climate change adaptation is not separated from other priorities but is integrated into development planning, programs, and projects (World Bank, 2008).

Climate Change and its Impacts on Hills and Mountains

Mountains are the rich repositories of biodiversity and water and they are the providers of ecosystem services on which downstream rely. Climate change can impact on biodiversity and flow of ecosystems services either directly or indirectly through many impact mechanisms, Range and abundance shifts changes in phonology, physiology, behavior, and evolutionary changes are the most often cited species-level responses. At the ecosystem level, changes in structure, function, patterns of disturbance and the increased dominance of invasive species is a noted concern. Followings are major potential impacts of climate change on species, landscape, water and human well-being.


The IPCC (2007a) defines “resilience” as the ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organization, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change. Resiliency can also be defined by a capacity to cope successfully in the face of significant future risk.

Ecosystem-based adaptation

Ecosystem-based Adaptation involves a wide range of ecosystem management activities to increase resilience and reduce the vulnerability of people and the environment to climate change. Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation, or the conservation, sustainable management, and restoration of ecosystems to help people adapt to the impacts of climate change are gaining increasing attention, as they are accessible to the rural poor in developing countries and can be cost-effective. Such approaches include, for example, sustainable agriculture, integrated water resource management, and sustainable forest management interventions that use nature to reduce vulnerability to climate change. The role of ecosystems in adaptation is recognized at the international level under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).



Uttaranchal Youth And Rural Development Centre (an organization working in the Himalayan region of India) has developed integrated project titled “Coping with Uncertainty: Community Resilience and Ecosystem-Based Adaptation to Climate Change in the Indian Himalayan Region (CCwU)”. The objective of the project is to deal with the risk of climate change in Indian Himalayan Region where the sensitivity of the climate change is high which adversely affects the natural resources as well as traditional ecosystem services. The main cause of the loss of ecosystem services is to losing the traditional culture, habitation, resilient crops, foods, fodder, animal breeds as well as cropping patterns. In the early stage of the time, the cropping pattern and ecosystem services was very resilient but the due to the high population growth it leads towards the higher demand of food, water, natural resources and energy. Due to this pressure, unsustainable practices are being adapted to maximise the supply with limited natural resources where heavy use of chemicals, fertilisers, and pesticides are being practiced that adversely impacts on the sustainable ecosystem and health of the individuals. Changing pattern of life style and usage also impacts on the sustainable development where it leads to the higher risk of climate change and loss of ecosystem services.

Approaches to coping with uncertainty

As we have seen that there are many ecosystem services is being affected by the different kind of pressures and man-made uncertain practices. Based on the assessment, some of key practices has been taken to exercise with community to ensure the resiliency and ensure ecosystem based adaptation. Key approaches are;

Community Engagement 

To engaging community in ecosystem-based adaptation it is very necessary to have their roles in planning of any initiatives. Twenty community based village development plans have been developed through community consultation, social mapping and planning for adaptation to the climate change issues in the Balkila River Basin, Uttarakhand.

This in the light of changing climates vis impact on socio-economic, environment of respective village. Subjects with concerning outcomes to, such as, Migration, Agronomy, Livelihoods, Disasters (Manmade, Natural), Human-Animal conflict, shrinking commons/resources, Invasive species in farms and forest etc have been meticulously discussed. The communities have further sought mitigation possibilities with possible approaches within their capacities or aspired in joint-support with Govt. Participation has been very enthusiastic by one and all within every community team worked.

Establishment of Community nursery

Community nursery is very new concept where a group of 15 SHG members has established one nursery of 30000 plants of fodder trees species in project area. The objective of the initiative was to ensure the availability of climate resilient fodder for the community. To considering the importance of the initiative, around 400 sqr mtr of land in Bairangana for growing the Nursery on the request of the community has been provided by Mr. Anil Rana (a local resident) was feeling enthusiastic to give his land for the auspicious cause.

Fodder Sapling Distribution

To maintain the forest biodiversity four different species of fodder sapling were distributed amongst the different 63 beneficiaries with total number of 511 saplings on the need and request basis. Forest biodiversity has been discussed for its sustainable management, ecosystem service proliferation and management of village commons. The all stakeholders (CBOs, the Forest Council (Van Panchayat) members & Mahila Mangal Dal) committed to adapt climate resilient crops to conserve natural resources and mitigate with Climate Change.

Promoting organic farming

Organic agriculture is a way to fight with poverty and get better quality products. Introducing community with the concept of caring for its soil, adapting vermi composting practices, preparing bio-pesticides, using water management practices, etc. was helpful in making agriculture affordable to poor farmer families. More than 70 farmers from 4 villages took the benefit the initiatives. These farmers were using inorganic manure in their farmyard. High use of inorganic manure affects the cultivation of Millets and was slowly declining. Especially some of the millet variety, such as foxtail Millet. Quality seeds of Foxtail Millets were procured from within the state for promulgation and propagation so where the other quality seeds of Millets (Braynard, Finger & Little Millets) being raised with enthusiasm from respective villages. Today the villagers have started to woe the intake and cultivation of millets in farm for themselves and future generation. It can be ascertained after various celebrations that community is now growing millets with sensitivity to biodiversity nurture and nutritional health of families. They are advocating to government in promoting organic inputs and discouraging promotion of inorganic inputs in its departmental activities within the region. Hence, the department has not only stopped promoting the inorganic fertilizers, they have also given back the lots that came to the department from district office on farmer request.

Promoting Watermill Improvement

The initiative in water mill improvement and Establishment of Micro hydro energy has been a very need base intervention. Communities have responded very encouragingly to the efforts being undertaken. At Seroli, the generation of 5kv and functioning of water mill has been undertaken. Presently the generation of 5kv Microhydral is underway. At Mandal, improvement of one Gharat (Water mill) is being proceeded. The SHG under the name “Someshwar Mahadev” is being registered. The SHG has opened an account in District Cooperative Bank. The Gharat is fully functional and readily mills the grains of farmers. The work for 5 kv generation is underway.

Promoting sustainable energy

Installation of biogas: – The production of biogas is sustainable, renewable, carbon neutral and reduces the dependency from imported fossil fuels. Often operators or beneficiaries of biogas plants are able to become fully energy self-sufficient. To keeping in the mind of the importance of the biogas for environment sustainability and climatic resiliency, on the basis of community demand a number of 20-unit biogas has been installed in the village to provide sustainable source of energy and reduce the expenses of the households. They feel very grateful with gratitude as they inform that it has reduced the hard toil in the jungle, created a very zero carbon emission kitchen, improved theirs & family health.

Roof Top Solar and distribution of LED bulbs: – To ensure the use renewable energy and reduce the consumption of the electricity energy these initiatives have been taken to mitigate the risk of climate change. Further the LED distribution to the families have been much appreciated. A total of 4000 LED bulbs have been distributed. The communities realised the goodness of LED lights as it saves electricity and is long lasting. They also add it is less stressful to eyes and hence enables effective visibility. Particularly as felt by elderly in the family. The distribution took place everywhere with celebrating the occasion.


The effort of integrated approach has been appreciated and had a positive impact on the society where they have been informed about the impact of climate change as well as they became aware and responsible citizen of the state where they have willingly adopted the interventions that have been initiated for sustainable development. The adoptability and willingness of accepting and sustaining the practices is the achievement of the project. Adaptation of the climate resilient practices is very crucial where communities started getting direct benefits but here they have been mobilised and they also started experimenting the new concepts and practices to coping with uncertainty. There is an urgent need to scale up the above-mentioned pilot projects at mass level to have wider impact on the environment. These interventions have been proved by the acceptance of the society and can be replicated on mass scale.

(This project of UYRDC is done in partnership with IUCN, with support from GB Pant and NMHS , MoEF&CC)

(Ashish Kumar Singh is a Doctoral Candidate at the National Research University-Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia. He can be reached at- [email protected];

Vidya Bhooshan Singh is a Professional Social worker with expertise in Biodiversity conservation, Water and sanitation and community development, environmental education along with project implementation and management. He is currently working with Centre for Micro Finance-CmF, Sirohi Rajasthan, as Team Leader, implementing Water, sanitation and Hygiene-WASH project in tribal community of Rajasthan. He can be reached at- [email protected] &

Siddartha Negi is the Director of Uttaranchal Youth And Rural Development Centre, Chamoli, Uttarakhand. He can be reached at [email protected])


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