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Transforming Environments from the Bottom Up – Examples from Marginal Environments in India
18th January 2021 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
This is the first of two virtual sessions convened by the TAPESTRY project at the Gobeshona Conference on Locally Led Adaptation Action.
- Ketaki Bhadgaonkar (Bombay 61)
- Jai Bhadgaonkar (Bombay 61)
- Hans Nicolai Adam (NIVA)
- Ranit Chatterjee (Kyoto University)
- Rohit Jha (Kyoto University)
- Mihir Bhatt (AIDMI)
- Lyla Mehta (IDS)
Chair: Terry Cannon (IDS)
About the session
This is the first of two sessions on the TAPESTRY project (‘Transformation as Praxis: Exploring Socially Just and Transdisciplinary Pathways to Sustainability in Marginal Environments’). (See details of the second session.)
Climate-related uncertainties have tended to be defined by experts and bureaucrats (the ‘above’), mostly ignoring local perspectives and knowledge. Living in landscapes characterised by climate-related uncertainties creates anxieties.
Can uncertainty also open up exploring alternative pathways? How people from ‘below’ understand and deal with uncertainty is helped by knowing how it affects their sense of place, identity and wellbeing. This can be a first step for fostering transformative change.
Transformative action requires reframing nature-society relations, knowledge, and value systems, and a reconfiguration of institutions and frameworks. It involves fostering alliances between communities, NGOs, scientists and state agencies to co-produce new knowledge and ideas for more robust livelihoods. This can give rise to ‘patches of transformation’ that can be scaled up and out.
These issues are assessed for three sites in south Asia:
- the coastal megacity of Mumbai, where a fishing community on the outskirts is struggling against existing problems magnified by climate change
- the dryland areas of Kutch in Gujarat, where pastoralists struggle for their livelihoods
- the Sundarbans (in both West Bengal and Bangladesh)
This session will focus on the first two sites (Mumbai and Kutch), while a second session will focus on the Sundarbans.
Presentations in this session
Transformation from ‘below’ : Praxis, patches and politics
Lyla Mehta, Shilpi Srivastava , Lars Otto Naess (IDS), Synne Movik (NMBU), D. Parthasarathy and Lalatendu Kesari Das (IITB) , Hans Adam (NIVA), Nobu Ohte (Kyoto University)
This presentation discusses how the notion of transformation can be conceptualized from ‘below’ in marginal environments that are marked by climate change induced uncertainties. Climate-related uncertainties in so-called marginal coastals environments have tended to be defined by experts and bureaucrats (the ‘above’), mostly ignoring local perspectives and knowledge. Living in coastal landscapes characterised by climate-related uncertainties such as droughts, floods and sea level rise can give rise to anxieties and fears. But can uncertainty also open up spaces for exploring alternative pathways? Insight into how people from ‘below’ understand and deal with uncertainty is helped by knowing how it affects their sense of place, identity and wellbeing. This can be a first step for fostering transformative change. Starting with people’s lived experiences, we conceive of transformation as emphasizing agency and practice (praxis). Transformative action requires the reframing of nature-society relations, knowledge, and value systems, and a reconfiguration of institutions and frameworks. It involves fostering alliances between communities, NGOs, scientists and state agencies to co-produce new knowledge and ideas for more robust livelihoods. This can give rising to ‘patches of transformation’ that can be scaled up and out. This paper provides the conceptual and methodological framings for such a normative and political approach to transformation from below. It will be followed by empirical studies from two sites across India (Kutch and Mumbai in western India).
Arresting Environmental Collapse, Restoring Resource-based Livelihoods: Transforming Koli Fisherfolk in and with Mumbai
Ketaki Bhadgaonkar, Jai Bhadgaonkar (Bombay 61); D. Parthasarathy and Lalatendu Kesari Das (IITB) , Hans Nicolai Adam (NIVA), Synne Movik (NMBU)
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region is frequently cited as among the most vulnerable urban agglomerations to climate change impacts. Recent predictions by climate scientists have warned that by 2050, parts of the city will be submerged due to sea level rise. Extreme precipitation events will cause frequent flooding ravaging its population, economy, livelihoods, and fragile ecosystems. The Mumbai region, like many other urban agglomerations are characterized by coastal wetlands, mangroves, salt pans, forests, and marine biodiversity, all of which are under threat by climate change related impacts including sea level rise, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, and monsoon extremes. In addition, rapid degradation and encroachment on coastal ecosystems due to urban development, pollution, and coastal infrastructure projects, threaten more damage as these ecosystems have historically acted as flood barriers, and have provided ecosystem services. Through a collaborative project involving fisherfolk in one of the city’s koliwadas (fishing villages), a local NGO, researchers, and local leaders, an attempt is made to co-produce hybrid knowledge combining indigenous understandings of ecosystem changes and climate impacts with science based risk scenarios. The team will then design and implement a transformative plan with potential to arrest further environmental collapse, restore resource based livelihoods, and provide greater autonomy in local level environmental governance to the Koliwada. This paper, while documenting these efforts, will critique ongoing urban planning processes and visions, and showcase the ways in which the health of urban ecosystems and livelihoods is crucial for disaster risk reduction, climate risk mitigation, and sustainable urban design.
Co-production to facilitate bottom-up adaptation: insights from co-learning with the Jat herders in Kutch
Ranit Chatterjee and Rohit Jha (Kyoto University); Shilpi Srivastava, Lyla Mehta (IDS); Pankaj Joshi and Mahendra Bhanani (Sahjeevan)
The dryland of Kutch counts among the world’s most variable and unpredictable environments where local Jat and Rabari herder communities have learnt how to live with and harness this variability to support sustainable and productive economies and ecosystems by drawing on and developing their indigenous knowledge systems. Although pastoralism in Kutch can be regarded as a drought insurance cover, state policies have systematically ignored the particular dynamics around variability, uncertainty and water scarcity, thus displaying ‘dryland blindness’ and relegating these landscapes as marginal and degraded. We show how the synergistic links between the Mangroves, Mal (livestock), and Maldharis (pastoralists) are crucial to responding to climate induced uncertainties. In this presentation, we focus on the importance of knowledge co-production for developing locally led, bottom-up adaptation pathways. We discuss the case of the Jat herders who share a unique relationship with the ‘swimming’ kharai camels and mangrove habitats, and demonstrate how various stakeholders have come together to work towards preservation of this unique ecosystem as we stay attendant to the manifold power relations within the pastoral community as well as across the stakeholders.