- Bihar plans to frame a new Climate Change Action Plan using data of the past 10 years. While attempts are now being made to collect information from the panchayat level, officials admit that information from all sectors are yet to be compiled and availability of data, specially quality data, is a challenge.
- An earlier attempt at creating this plan had to be withdrawn because a detailed plan to combat carbon emissions was not part of it.
- In 2002, the union government had framed norms for a register on local biodiversity, which Bihar did not complete. Experts say that if the state had complied, it would have been in a better position in terms of data.
Bihar’s progress towards a state Climate Change Action Plan is slow because of dearth of localised data. The state government had earlier framed a Climate Change Action Plan but it did not include a plan to combat carbon emissions, because of which it had to be withdrawn 2019. Now, the state has once again decided to embark on developing a new Climate Change Action Plan and on February 12 this year the government signed an agreement with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to revive the project.
A.K. Dwivedi, the nodal officer of the Climate Change Wing of the Bihar Government told Mongabay-India, “We have started the process of climate risk assessment. We have sought two years time after the completion of climate risk assessment in the state. If the union government gives us the green signal, we will go ahead for the further steps of adaptation or mitigation,”
Dwivedi said that the assessment of climate risk would be done at the panchayat level and based on the feedback, a panchayat-level climate risk assessment plan would be made.
Risk assessment will be done on a total of nine parameters including education, employment, health, migration, change in local weather, flood, drought and others using available data. “For the risk assessment we will collect and analyse data related to these parameters,” said Dwivedi. He however also admitted that the state government had been struggling to garner old data on several of these parameters.
Struggle on data front
Sourcing data, that too quality data, is one of the challenges facing the progress of the plan. Dwivedi told Mongabay-India, “We have asked all concerned departments to appoint nodal officials for the same and to collect data from the department for the last 10 years. However, we see some delay in the collection of information. Second issue here is the quality of the data available. We have to examine if the data given is of genuine quality or there has been any interference on this as fudged data can affect our whole exercise,” he said.
To dig deeper into the issue, Mongabay-India contacted the state meteorological department and other district-level statistical officials and also analysed the previous Climate Action Plan. It was found that data for the last 10 years was not even available at the district level and this will be a challenge as the government is aiming to use data from the panchayat level.
“We do not have panchayat and block level information with us. We have our four observatories at Patna, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Purnia. They are very old and we can fetch the data of the last 10 years from these four districts. Setting up of automatic weather stations was done later. Besides this, Bihar hosts 250 rain gauges. If a district has five rain gauges, we can get information about the rainfall in the district only from these five sites. We do not have a holistic picture of the district,” an official from the meteorological department told Mongabay-India. “We do not have any data on temperature in districts, blocks or panchayats levels so it is almost impossible to get such information,” the official said.
When the district-level agriculture department, health department officials were approached for data, they asked to contact the District Statistical officials. Madhepura District Statistical Officer (DSO) Rajendra Prasad said, “It is tough to get information on the agricultural productivity of the district for the last 10 years. We have been compiling data on crop insurance from panchayat to block levels since it started. However crop insurance scheme started in the last few years.”
When asked for health related data, he said, “Whatever data we have comes from concerned departments. After compiling all data and information, we send it to the state-level statistical department. If the departments do not give us data and information, how can we host it?”
“As soon as the digital and online system started, the data collection, storage and monitoring became easier. Online system started in the state in the last 5-6 years. We can find data from the time period since the online system started,” he said.
Effect of lack of data
Pradhan Parth Sarthi, a professor of environment science at the Central University of South Bihar at Gaya told Mongabay-India, “If the government has been claiming that it could prepare a climate action plan up to the panchayat and block level, it sounds unrealistic. For assessing climate change, the two most important datasets needed are temperature and rainfall. Leave alone panchayats, we do not have even block-level data on temperature and rainfall. How can we then expect to develop a localised climate action plan under such circumstances? If the climate action plan is created with estimates and assumptions, it will not be effective.”
Anamika Barua, a professor with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati also doubts the success of such an exercise.
“For our report we faced several challenges when we had asked the Bihar government to give us data on mud roads, blacktopped roads, health centres and health workers in rural areas in early 2020 where we faced several challenges. We had to manage with secondary data. There is a dearth of socio-economic data in the country,” Barua, who has been involved in the Department of Science and Technology’s report Climate Vulnerability of Adaptation Planning in India Using e-Common Framework, told Mongabay-India.
She said that with the dearth of accurate data, precise evaluation and framing of a rational action plan could be a quite tough task. She said, “If we do not have adequate data, risk assessment is a tough task. A precise measurement of the parameters cannot be done. Under such a situation, there should be an attempt to frame plans from that level for which we have adequate data. Meanwhile attempts should also commence to explore data from all possible sources and areas to keep it ready for the future.”
Cost of apathy towards biodiversity management committee
The national government had enacted the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 under which there was a requirement to prepare a register of local biodiversity up to panchayat level and take steps towards its protection besides creating livelihood options based on these.
On the same lines, the National Biodiversity Authority was constituted in 2003. After that national biodiversity boards were constituted in each state. There were plans to form local biodiversity management committees at the urban and rural areas to prepare biodiversity registers. The members were supposed to get training for the same too. These local committees were envisioned to create the local registers and submit the same to the state level biodiversity board.
However, poor progress on the Bihar government’s part on this front, resulted in inadequate data on several parameters from the panchayat levels. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) criticised Bihar’s lack of seriousness in its order on August 9, 2019. It said, “States like Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir have made zero progress towards formation of biodiversity management committees.” The tribunal later asked the chief secretaries of all states to constitute biodiversity committees and ensure 100 percent works towards the production of a biodiversity register within a fixed timeline.
Four months after the NGT order, the Panchayati Raj department wrote to all collectors and asked them to organise special gram sabhas on December 27, 2019 and constitute biodiversity committees. The department in its direction also said that all collectors should call their officials and form the biodiversity management committees on the same day. Collectors were asked to prepare a list and send the same to the State Biodiversity Board on the very next day.
With the hasty decision of the government, attempts were made to conduct gram sabhas and also constitute seven-member biodiversity management committees on the same day.
Rural Public Service’s Chief Executive Officer Praveen Kumar Rai told Mongabay-India, “Constitution of biodiversity registers is meticulous work. Special training was needed for the members of the committees. When the government order came and such committees were formed haphazardly. There is a doubt if these committees can work effectivity on the duties they have entrusted upon.”
Truth of government infrastructure
S.K. Shukla, Chairman of the State Biodiversity Board told Mongabay-India that they have received the biodiversity registers from all the panchayat-level biodiversity committees. However, they were not available anywhere online, he said because works are being done afresh to make a dedicated website for the same and once all works would be done, the same would be available online in the public domain.
Mongabay-India talked to several mukhiyas (panchayat leaders), many of whom admitted to sending their registers, while some said they were yet to send the same to the government. Ramesh Kumar, mukhiya of Katarsa panchayat in Sighwara block in Darbhanga district said, “We were asked to submit the names of committee members that we have submitted. But anything called as biodiversity register we have neither made nor submitted it to the government.” Arvind Patel, Mukhiya from Belkhara panchayat in Arwal district said that constitution of the committee had been done by neither any training nor any preparation of any such register was done from their side.
Panchayat elections are happening in Bihar and special focus is now being given for the constitution of a biodiversity register. Praveen Kumar Rai said, “In areas where the register is not prepared and if the members of the biodiversity management committees are changed, then the process of developing the registers could take more time. This means that the already delayed process is likely to see another round of delay due to the elections.”
Banner image: A fallen tree is seen on the banks of Mechi river in Kishanganj. This river coming from Nepal has created soil erosion on its banks in the state. During monsoon season, several portions of the land gets engulfed into the river water. Photo by Umesh Kumar Ray.