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Changing Times and Tides Part 2: Managing Risks and Adapting to Changes

As part of an initiative to test the climate-proofing of development plans in India, WRI and NABARD have been studying the impacts of changing weather patterns in Cuddalore, a coastal district in Tamil Nadu. As a premier development bank in India, NABARD has been instrumental in providing technical and financial support to various development initiatives throughout the country. In Tamil Nadu, the Bank has been particularly contributing to alleviate the state’s dire water needs, through the promotion of participatory water management scheme in collaboration with Government of Tamil Nadu. Additionally, NABARD recently launched a remarkable country-wide Water Campaign. Mr. Nagoor Ali Jinnah, Chief General Manager at NABARD’s Regional Office in Chennai, effectively uses the campaign slogan “Thaneerai kapom, Kaneerai thudaipom”- that he coined to promote awareness on water conservation. This translates to - saving water is akin to wiping away the tears of the masses.

Adaptation Measures in Parangipettai, Cuddalore

The district of Cuddalore was picked for this pilot initiative as it has been experiencing the vagaries of climate impacts for the past several years yet managing it effectively through community actions and planned adaptation interventions. Hence, it would serve as a good case study example. Systematic field studies and consultations with key stakeholders helped understand the climate impacts and the possible response options.

In Parangipettai, a town in the Cuddalore district at the tail end of the Cauvery Delta, a project sanctioned by the central government and administered by the Agriculture Engineering department aims to reclaim the land affected by saline water intrusion in 6 villages, located around 2 km from the sea. The district administration in consultation with the local communities has developed peripheral bunds with appropriate control structures for arresting sea water intrusion. Other infrastructure, like farm ponds and weirs have been constructed to reclaim the saline land. The saline soil is being carefully drained by deep ploughing and leaching. Till recently, this particular region had several aquaculture farms which have exacerbated the soil salinity. Realizing the detrimental effects of aquaculture farming on the agricultural lands, the local communities now want to switch back to agriculture. The benefits of this project, once completed, would extend to a staggering 1100 ha of land, which is unprecedented in terms of its adaptation scope and scale.

Meeting with farmer federation members, Tamil Nadu Meeting with farmer federation members, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu

According to Mr. R. Natarajan, Assistant Engineer, “This shows how careful planning and utilization of funds in the right areas could benefit not just an area and its population now, but also for generations to come”. Such win-win strategies are an indicator of how people-centric adaptation interventions, along with technological inputs, local knowledge and institutional buy-in can effectively combat climate change.

Given the fact that adaptation is a dynamic and iterative process, WRI suggested the setting up of investigative units to systematically monitor the progress of such projects through periodic follow ups and actions which would optimize benefits in the long term.

Mainstreaming Climate Adaptation

Most of the problem faced by local communities in the developing countries like India arise from unplanned and ad hoc climate resilient activities. As one of the village leaders remarked about the Parangipettai project, “If we had only done this 15 years ago, we could have saved so many livelihoods and prevented the negative impacts.”

In this regard, NABARD is uniquely positioned in the country to mainstream climate adaptation through targeted interventions and help secure the livelihood of the vulnerable rural communities. As Mr. D. Shankar, District Development Manager, NABARD, Cuddalore, observed, NABARD has an understanding of the ground realities and the necessary expertise at their disposal at the district level to design and execute solutions that have maximum impacts. The insights gained through this initiative not only enhance the understanding of the climate-development nexus, but also help in the mainstreaming of climate-proofed development in India. The tides have been changing, but now so are the times.

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