Given the geographic diversity of South Asia spreading from the Everest to the islands in the Indian Ocean, the heterogeneity of communities with diverse languages, ethnicities, lifestyles, and cultures, this region offers unique opportunities for studying community-based initiatives on building climate resilience. This book tells stories of climate change adaptation initiatives in seven South Asian countries highlighting grassroots level solutions, documenting lessons learned, and identifying gaps and opportunities. There are 27 studies selected from the island nations of Maldives and Sri Lanka, the floodplains of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and the mountainous countries of Bhutan and Nepal. These studies, which highlight how communities have been working to deal with climate change, are designed to guide others who are searching for examples to replicate in their own communities. These case studies highlight that win–win solutions may exist for communities battered by climate change, poverty, and environmental degradation.
The book is organised into six thematic areas—each constituting an important area for climate change and sustainability that is of concern in South Asia.
The book begins with a section on Concepts and Models to introduce issues related to building climate resilience at the community level. An integrated framework is developed that connects community-based climate adaptation (CBA) with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and principles of resilience and efforts at disaster risk reduction. A review of academic and grey literature offers insight into the concept, application, barriers, and opportunities for CBA along with a few case studies from outside South Asia to situate the stories in this book in the broader context of global grassroots resilience building initiatives. This section also develops the taxonomy related to resilience building efforts at the community level. Agriculture is an important sector which will be severely impacted by climate change and India is a large economy with a variety of agricultural products. Adaptation strategies are very important for agricultural communities. Therefore, a literature review of adaptation practices in Indian agriculture is also presented in this section. The section ends with an example of the application of a resilience analysis protocol in Bangladesh as a model for resilience building that can be applied elsewhere as a tool for community-based climate adaptation.
Communities across the regions in South Asia have used indigenous and traditional knowledge to combat many challenges of nature. Paddy growers in Bhutan have been growing traditional rice varieties to deal with water scarcity. It has given them a ‘safety net’ against shortage of irrigation water. Farmers in Pakistan facing floods have used local knowledge to develop resilience, using both individual wisdom as well as community knowledge to deal with flash floods. Similarly, farmers in Kerala formed collectives to manage the impact of massive flooding with a variety of post-flood measures in conjunction with the state. Farmers in Maldives use innovative local knowledge to grow vegetables. They learn from each other to build an agricultural practice to withstand the onslaught of sea waves. Similarly, stories from agriculture in India further suggest that farmers need to adapt to use water sustainably in order to protect their income. Hence, there is a genuine need to find water-saving technologies using traditional varieties of crops rather than using modern varieties which are water-intensive. The Traditional Knowledge and Sustainable Agriculture section highlights the value of local knowledge, autonomous adaptation, conservation initiatives, and water resource management.
Throughout human civilization, technology has been the foundation for change and progress. Facing harsh environmental conditions, human civilization has depended on technology adaptation. An array of modern technologies as well as indigenous know-how is explored in the section under Technology Adoption. Communities living in areas far from the influence of government institutions have used traditional knowledge to harvest rainwater for sustaining their agriculture-based livelihoods during the dry season and to protect riverbanks. This section also shows how markets often facilitate adoption of technologies that might build resilience in communities faced with the threat of cyclones. It shows how farmers in Sri Lanka used a cascading tank system to continue to irrigate their crop land for thousands of years. The cas studies show how markets and institutions facilitated adoption of modern technologies like LPG and Solar Home Systems in traditional and rural communities.
The section on Disaster Risk Reduction shows how communities have worked together to deal with natural disasters. It shows how communities in the coastal areas of Bangladesh used help from NGOs to build a resilient community in a cyclone-affected area. It also provides evidence on the value of mangroves on the coast of Odisha in India, in reducing damage caused by super-cyclones, and shows how in Bangladesh, villager’s decision to adapt against cyclones depends on natural capital like the mangroves. It shows how farmers and the entire value chain in agriculture use seasonal weather forecasts to reduce risks and how farmers in Sri Lanka adapt locally to deal with soil erosion.
As more and more people migrate to urban areas, Urban Sustainability against climate change has become a major issue. In particular, it is more important for the people who are poor and living in slums and the low-lying flood prone areas. This section highlights creative approaches to water and waste management as part of climate adaptation in urban areas. This helps communities to reduce the risk of urban flooding and waterlogging due to events of high-intensity short duration rainfall. A case study also illustrates how local communities can come together and sustainably manage the supply of drinking water when natural springs are drying up in the mountains. Cases from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal show how waste management remains an important component for building resilience in urban settlements against climate extremes and how these can be addressed locally using market signals and by building awareness which not only reduces the risk of urban flooding and water logging but also provides a way of sustainable financing of municipal waste management.
Finally, the section on Alternative Livelihood documents how people in vulnerable communities are adjusting traditional practices and using innovation in new enterprises to cope with the inevitability of ongoing climate stresses. The section highlights win–win strategies for local communities to find alternative livelihood options using natural capital like mangroves and mountains to diversify income which is threatened by climate change. It also shows how agricultural diversification is used by farmers in Sri Lanka and Pakistan to build resilience.