Research Paper

Panchayats: The Key to Promoting Climate Action through Efficient Bioresource Management, Sustainable Agriculture, and Biodiversity Protection in India

This article will explore the importance of Panchayats in promoting climate action through sustainable agriculture, efficient bioresource management, and biodiversity protection in India. It include quotes and insights from various research papers and studies that highlight the benefits of Panchayats as the best units on a subsidiarity scale for implementing climate action measures.

It has been acknowledged that sub-national governance units will play a significant and far-reaching role in the process of moving towards a low-carbon economy. The nation’s response to climate change will benefit from a more bottom-up, decentralised approach to climate policy creation that produces actions tailored to regional circumstances and needs. It is hoped that by creating indicators for socioeconomic success, low carbon development performance, and carbon footprint, we may have a discussion about competence at the subnational level in India. IBBN’s work with Panchayats while aims at mitigation of carbon emissions through efficient Bio resource development and management strategies, it also looks at strengthening socio-economic capability and adaptive capacity of rural local governments.

The 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution, passed in 1992, gave constitutional recognition to local self-government institutions in rural areas, known as Panchayats. This amendment created a three-tier system of Panchayats – Gram Panchayats, Block Panchayats, and District Panchayats – with the power to manage local affairs, including the management of natural resources. The 11th Schedule of the Amendment provides a list of 29 subjects that Panchayats can manage, including rural development, poverty alleviation, and environment. This constitutional mandate gives Panchayats the legal authority and responsibility to promote sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Panchayats, being the lowest level of governance, are closest to the ground and can play a vital role in promoting climate action through efficient bioresource management, sustainable agriculture, and biodiversity protection. A research paper by Kedia and Desai (2019) stated that Panchayats are “uniquely placed to undertake climate change adaptation and mitigation activities at the local level.” This is because Panchayats have the mandate to manage natural resources within their jurisdiction, which includes forests, water bodies, and agricultural lands. They can also mobilize communities to participate in environmental conservation activities.

Bioresources, such as agricultural waste, livestock manure, and other organic matter, can be utilized for bio-inputs, biochar, biogas production, organic farming, and other forms of renewable energy. Panchayats can promote efficient bioresource management by identifying the bioresources available in their area, training farmers on how to collect and use them, and connecting them to markets for renewable energy and organic produce. According to a research paper by Mathew and Kumar (2019), Panchayats can play a crucial role in facilitating community participation in bioresource management, which can lead to increased income and improved environmental sustainability.

Sustainable agriculture practices, such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and organic farming, can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve biodiversity, and promote soil health. Panchayats can help integrate Bioresources for sustainable agriculture by providing technical support and training to farmers, encouraging the adoption of best practices, and facilitating market linkages for sustainable produce. A research paper by Kumar and Datta (2019) highlighted that Panchayats can play a vital role in promoting sustainable agriculture practices, particularly in areas where traditional farming methods are still prevalent.A study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that Panchayats have been successful in implementing community-based natural resource management practices that have led to increased biodiversity and improved livelihoods for rural communities.

  1. Agriculture and land development: Panchayats can promote sustainable agricultural practices and land development programs. They can provide support to farmers for the use of organic farming methods and encourage the use of indigenous and traditional knowledge for better crop yields.
  2. Watershed development: Panchayats can take up watershed development programs to conserve water resources, promote rainwater harvesting, and develop irrigation facilities for agriculture.
  3. Forest management: Panchayats can participate in forest management and conservation programs to ensure the sustainable use of forest resources for bioresource development.
  4. Rural energy: Panchayats can promote the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to meet the energy needs of villages and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
  5. Livestock management: Panchayats can provide support to the livestock industry through breeding programs, vaccination, and health care services. They can also encourage the use of biogas plants for sustainable waste management and energy production.
  6. Waste management: Panchayats can promote waste management programs in villages for the safe disposal of agricultural and other waste, which can be used as a source of energy or converted into compost for organic farming.
  7. Rural industries: Panchayats can encourage the development of rural industries, such as handicrafts, food processing, and agro-based industries, to promote rural livelihoods and generate income.

According to the study, Panchayats have been instrumental in promoting sustainable agriculture practices, including organic farming, crop diversification, and use of traditional knowledge for seed conservation. They have also been involved in developing community-managed forests, which have led to increased carbon sequestration and improved biodiversity.

The role of Panchayats in promoting bioresource management for climate change mitigation has been highlighted in a study by the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM. The paper suggests that Panchayats can be instrumental in developing bioenergy projects that utilize agricultural waste and other organic matter for renewable energy production. It also recommends the use of Biochar for soil enrichment, which can help in improving soil health and sequestering carbon.

Ecological balance depends on the protection of biodiversity, and Panchayats can play a significant part in doing so. Panchayats can support biodiversity conservation by creating biodiversity registries, mapping natural resources, and encouraging sustainable resource use, according to a study by Purohit et al. (2018). Additionally, Panchayats can collaborate with nearby communities to create eco-friendly tourism ventures that support biodiversity preservation while bringing in money for the neighbourhood.

Panchayats can be extremely important in supporting climate action at the local level and highlight their efforts in Global platforms. A study by Ramanathan et al. (2020) asserts that panchayats can support climate action by creating climate action plans, promoting renewable energy, and encouraging the adoption of sustainable practises. In order to help communities adjust to shifting weather patterns, panchayats can collaborate with nearby communities to establish climate change adaptation methods. The role of Panchayats in promoting climate action is also recognized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has been working with the Government of India to strengthen the capacity of Panchayats in climate change adaptation and mitigation. The UNDP has developed a toolkit for Panchayats that provides guidance on climate-sensitive planning and decision-making, sustainable natural resource management, and low-carbon development.

IBBN focus on Panchayats is because they are endowed with the 74th amendment and the 11th schedule, and based on the subsidiarity scale principle of governance, are a useful units to promote climate action through efficient bioresource management, sustainable agriculture, and biodiversity protection. These decentralized institutions of self-government can drive local-level climate action by engaging communities in sustainable resource management practices, promoting community participation in climate action, and developing decentralized solutions to climate change.

— Written by Dr.Kshithij Urs, Executive Director, India Biochar and Bioresources Network

The IBBN Secretariat is hosted by the Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network and Snehakunja trust, and supported by GIZ  – The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale.

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