Assam, located on the floodplains of the Brahmaputra river, faces a severe water crisis. River erosion and floods are a recurring problem. More than 90% of the cultivable land lies in flood-prone areas. Climate change projections indicate an increase in the concentration of extreme rainfall days, leading to monsoon floods and winter droughts.
Current agricultural practices may require modifications to meet the demands of the changing climate. Growing urbanisation adds to the demand for water and increases the vulnerability to flash floods and the number of people at risk from flooding. As a result, the State is dealing with a complicated problem in terms of the demand for and supply of water.
The consequences are not limited to the urban population alone, but are being felt by the poor and marginalised population living in rural areas. Of the rural population, 86% rely on agriculture and allied activities for their livelihood, but the sector suffers from low levels of productivity.
Assam’s wetland areas are a huge potential asset for the State, and fish production could be a valuable livelihood supplement. However, climate change and development activities are threatening this potential resource. The State Government requires a comprehensive and sophisticated climate resilience mechanism to deal with the challenges.
Action on Climate Today (ACT) aims to strengthen State policy and institutional frameworks and capacity to identify and minimise the impacts of climate change on economic development. It focuses on mainstreaming climate change into programmes, policies and budgets. ACT is supporting the Government of Assam to put in place effective climate-smart water management practices. This includes establishing a long-term vision and cross-sectoral policy framework for water.
ACT will also pilot policy instruments for tackling key water-specific vulnerabilities, such as urban floods. Most importantly, it will continue to support the Government to move forward with the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC). The programme will focus on the following three areas.
Climate-smart water resource management and planning
ACT is supporting the Government of Assam to identify sustainable climate resilient strategies for improved institutional capacity that result in effective water resource management and planning. The programme technically assists the Government of Assam to develop a state water mission as directed under the national water mission, prepare guidelines for the government to develop a decision support system, and develop an action plan for climate resilient flood management for cities along the Brahmaputra river.
Improving climate change adaptation capacities
The programme aims to build the adaptive capacities of vulnerable communities by making livelihoods more climate resilient. Using a value chain approach, ACT will design policy instruments for incentivising the adoption of climate resilient crops. ACT will also employ a participatory approach to optimise the available wetlands for fish production, which could be a valuable livelihood supplement. This will entail raising awareness of their value and piloting policies and programme initiatives for conservation. Conserving and promoting wetlands has the added benefit of flood protection.
Institutional mainstreaming of climate change
Following the adoption of the SAPCC in 2015, ACT will support the Government of Assam in incorporating a systemic change in the budgeting exercise by mainstreaming climate finance in the State’s financing plans. ACT will assist the Government in exploring priority sectors for investments, identifying gaps in adaptation financing, finalising plans and a roadmap for mainstreaming adaptation financing, and completing a climate change action budgeting policy. ACT will also provide training to the relevant stakeholders on climate-informed budgeting, with the aim of empowering local institutions with the knowledge and capacity to take informed decisions on climate-sensitive issues.
ACT’s assistance to mainstream climate finance in the State’s financing plans will augment the adaptive capabilities of the State’s economy in the long term.
Partnerships and beneficiaries
ACT is working with a broad range of government partners and agencies to build climate resilience in Assam. These include the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Irrigation, the Department of Environment & Forests, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Fisheries and Animal Husbandry and the Veterinary Department. The programme will also support multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the State Water Mission and the Assam Climate Change Management Society.
The programme will place special emphasis on working with local government, private research and technical institutes (the Assam Energy Development Agency, the Assam Science Technology and Environment Council, the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Guwahati, Assam Agricultural University, Guwahati University and Dibrugarh University). It will deliver the technical work and contribute to wider capacity building. Through the piloting of policy instruments to address vulnerability, ACT will be able to deliver immediate localised benefits to the affected population, as well as a much wider group by scaling up and mainstreaming these policy innovations.
By taking this integrated approach, ACT will ensure that building climate resilience in Assam is a truly integrated process that ensures the well-being of all citizens.
Rizwan Uz Zaman, Team Leader
T: +91 95 7767 2840