The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report makes clear that low-income communities face substantially greater risk coupled with significantly weaker adaptation and coping strategies compared to higher income populations (IPCC, 2014). The dense urban population in South Asia is particularly susceptible to negative climatic changes, especially heat extremes, flooding & diseases and the most vulnerable are those living in informal settlements (World Bank, 2013). Climate variability and climate impacts in the form of slow on-set & extreme events contribute to and exacerbate inequality and both have a direct bearing on the habitat (house and its immediate environment) of the poor thereby playing out on all other spheres of their lives. For e.g., increasing air temperatures and prolonged periods of extreme heat is slow-onset but impacts the poor much more. Most slum dwellings are constructed with cement sheets, plastic covers & tin sheets that absorb heat, and create stuffy and hot living conditions, and require more energy to cool down, contributing to increasing health and energy costs. Extreme natural events such as flooding on the other hand cause extensive physical destruction & loss of assets and identity, and also drive the poor into debt traps.
Under its climate resilience program, MHT promotes a community based resilience model that is women-led, integrated, evidence based, and focuses on innovative communication strategies to promote a culture of resilience action. The fundamental components of the model include:
- Facilitate effective functioning of Women-led Community Institutions in slums
- Build capacities of women leaders from slum communities as Climate Saathis (Saathis is Hindi word for partner) to work with scientists, academicians, government and local entrepreneurs and co-create solutions for current climate risks
- Institute community surveillance processes
- Foster participatory community based vulnerability assessment and resilience and disaster planning
- Promote partnerships between technical experts and communities to scope, customize and test solutions
- Demonstrate financial products to manage climate risks
So far, MHT has trained 1604 women and youth leaders across 100 slums as Climate Saathis to lead action in their communities. Community-led data collection has led to an increased understanding of climate risks facing the communities, and more than 2000 families have adopted resilient solutions to combat heat stress, deteriorating water quality and growing threat of vector borne diseases.
My home-based work requires a lot of light. Before, my house stayed dark throughout the day and hence had exorbitant electricity bills. Now, because of the ventilation unit, I can save on electricity bills without compromising my work.
We can only dream of a well constructed house. But today with the help of RMC and MHT, our dreams have come true. I never imagined that I would have such a dignified house with a rain harvesting system.