Govt officials, sectoral experts convene to discuss energy access in Assam, in a bid to improve climate resilience
Guwahati: The World Resources Institute India (WRI India), on Thursday organised a high-level, multi-stakeholder consultation in Guwahati to explore the role of energy access in building resilience against climate risks in the state. Officials from the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) and the Assam Energy Development Agency (AEDA) joined the workshop along with several organisations operating across healthcare, education, skilling and livelihood sectors.
Assam has been identified as extremely vulnerable to climate change due to its geographic proximity to the delta region and poor socio-economic conditions. Many districts in the state face massive stress due lack of, or inadequate access to, basic services like water, sanitation, health and education. In recent years, the severity of extreme weather events like floods and landslides have risen. Such events have adversely affected livelihoods in the predominantly agricultural and livestock-dependent state, wreaking havoc on life and property in the state, and especially amongst the 32 percent of the population that lives below the poverty line.
This first-of-its-kind stakeholder consultation saw sectoral experts, state officials and non-government organisations jointly identify challenges, as well as discuss strategies to work on, at the nexus of development, energy access and climate resilience in Assam. The discussion was focused on improving essential services in climate vulnerable districts, and identified the need for reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy to achieve this.
Delivering the inaugural address, Subhash Chandra Das, Chairman, Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC), stressed on the need for stakeholders from across sectors to collaborate with the government, to help build robust, technologically sound energy infrastructure required to facilitate climate resilience in Assam.
“In 2018 alone, natural incidents cost Assam dear – several lives were lost and the state suffered financial losses of nearly Rs. 2,400 crore. Going forward, it is important that we are prepared to combat such pressure on our lives, livelihoods and the economy. Energy access is essential develop risk-reduction capacity at a local level, especially in rural regions and relief camps,” said Kripaljyoti Mazumdar, Project Officer, ASDMA, highlighting the need to develop a strong climate adaptation program.
The recent advancements in the clean energy space in India, fuelled partly by the Government of India’s supportive policies and targets, create unique opportunities for vulnerable communities to explore customised solutions.
“There’s huge potential for solar energy and renewable sources towards meeting challenges faced during natural disasters, particularly floods. We welcome the partnership with WRI India and similar agencies to meet such challenges in the state,” said, Mrinal Choudhury, Additional Director, AEDA.
Having uninterrupted electricity can further help in crisis management such as early warning systems, disseminating information, emergency coordination between support teams and other key network functions even after long-term power outages, helping the local administration and NGOs with timely and effective relief work.
“Across the developing world, we have observed communities exploring clean energy solutions to support in their development across health, education and livelihood sectors. We are trying to bring together combined expertise from the government and development sector and energy and climate resilience experts to co-develop strategies to work at the nexus of development and environmental challenges,” explains Pamli Deka, Lead, Energy Access, WRI India.
The stakeholders agreed that lack of access to energy prevents implementation of services such as health, water and sanitation, and security during and after natural disasters, especially in relief camps. A collaborative effort is required to explore how renewable energy can be used to address these issues, they stated, highlight the need for partnerships and grass-root level involvement in the process.
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