Extreme climatic events inevitably impact most on developing countries, threatening the lives of people who are vulnerable and marginalised. There is therefore a need to mainstream the environment and the effects of climate change as cross-cutting themes in all sectors of aid and development work.
Whether working within the health, education, habitat, livelihood or rights sectors, the ‘green agenda’ often comes low on the list of priorities, or is included tokenistically without the depth of expertise that is characteristic of the primary intervention. An example is the planting of exotic fast-growing trees to satisfy this agenda, with no thought of the long-term impact. Knowing when and how to introduce appropriate and long-term environmentally sustainable interventions in all sectors is therefore critical.
I base my knowledge on extensive work with cutting-edge environmental regeneration and community resilience-building initiatives in Asia. This and involvement with projects aimed at redressing the long term impacts of poorly designed ‘token’ environmental ‘add-ons’, informs my work in this area.
These two case studies, which I have tracked over a period of time, demonstrate the long term intervention ethos required to ensure sustainable outcomes.
Case study 1: Rehabilitation of degraded farmland (previously indigenous forest) at Doeguling Tibetan Settlement, Karnataka, India describes the successes - and failures - of environmental regeneration as applied to a Tibetan refugee settlement in Karnataka, south India over the past 20 years. An EC/DFID co-financed project with which I was involved, significantly contributed to the rehabilitation process between 1987 and 1995. The recent Google Earth picture below shows the tree-lined road running from left to right roughly along the centre of the image, as well as the areas of treeplanting - for fuelwood, food and timber, which were prompted by the initial planting of shade trees. Prior to the 1960s this area was indigenous forest, which was clear-felled to accommodate the refugee settlement. When the shade trees were planted in 1987 there was very little tree-cover.
The photos to the right illustrate the challenges of keeping trees alive, as well as the environmental, educational and social benefits of planting roadside trees.
Case study 2: The restoration of the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF) of the Coromandel Coast, Tamil Nadu, India describes a shared forestry management (SFM) project implemented by Pitchandikulam Bio-resource Centre (PBRC) at various locations in Tamil Nadu, India. The project combines a range of initiatives aimed at reversing environmental degradation by re-connecting local people with their environment. The long term aim is to restore the tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF) of the Coromandel Coast. My involvement with this initiative was with an EC co-financed project component that ran from 2002 to 2005. PBRC is an intitiative of the Auroville International Cultural Township. See also a paper on the Restoration of the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest of Peninsular India, by Paul Blanchflower.
A long term outcome of this project has been the Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants environmental regeneration project, Adyar Poonga Eco Park in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, as described in 'Auroville Today', January 2011, and in a video in 2 parts. Part 1 Part 2
As both these case studies demonstrate, environmental regeneration and resilience work necessitates long-term strategies that are beyond the scope of traditional major donor sources. Such strategies require commitment from governing bodies combined with external financial support for at least two decades before interventions can become self-sustaining in terms of maturity of plantings, sustainable sources of income for the local community, and security from external forces such as large-scale industrial development, mineral extraction or other environmentally damaging pressures