Inspiring India Magazine - UNDP India 2022

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Inspiring India Edition 2022

A look into India’s climate action journey for a sustainable future

Editorial Board Shoko Noda UNDP Resident Representative Charu Sethi Head of Communications & Strategic Partnerships Sangita Khadka Communications Specialist James Jose Communications Officer

Art Direction

UNDP has been in India for 70 years. Over the decades, we have worked on poverty eradication, reducing inequalities, democratic governance and environment protection. We work with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities and focus on ‘leaving no one behind’. We are the lead agency for implementing SDGs in India in partnership with the government, private sector and civil society. We remain committed to continue our work in India, for the people and the environment.

UNDP is the leading United Nations organisation fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet. Learn more at or follow at @UNDP.

Abhir Avasthi Communications Associate - Content and Branding Wishbox Studio Layout Design and Illustrations

Distribution Partner

Photo Credits Abhir Avasthi/UNDP India Biome Deepak Malik/UNDP India Dhiraj Singh/UNDP India Gaurav Menghaney/UNDP India Junglescapes Prashanth Vishwanathan/UNDP India Raja Mani/UNDP India Tuul and Bruno Morandi (Cover Photo)

Established in 1927, FICCI is the largest and oldest apex business organisation in India. A non- government, not-for-profit organisation, FICCI serves its members from the Indian private and public corporate sectors and multinational companies, drawing its strength from diverse regional chambers of commerce and industry across states, reaching out to over 2,50,000 companies.


On trail of the elusive Snow Leopard


Nature Crossword


A conversation with Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog


BIOME : In Sync with Nature


Combating Climate Change, one business Goal at a time


A conversation with the German Ambassador


Green Horoscope


Bringing Water to Kutch: One pond at a time


A Day in the life of Laxmi and her Safai Saathi friends


Tackling the Green Invader of Bandipur - The Lantana Camara


How do we make responsible tourism a reality outside of protected areas?


Farm for the Future


UNDP at a glance


SHOKO NODA Resident Representative, UNDP India

Bright blue skies, lofty peaks and emerald, green water – I stood mesmerised, watching the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers in Ladakh, India. Ladakh is known for its breath-taking mountain scenery, wildlife and unique culture. But more than that, it’s known for its thriving communities of people who set a perfect example of living in harmony with nature. Since I landed in India in May 2019, despite the pandemic, I have had the privilege of visiting several places and varied terrains in India. From the breathtaking landscapes of Ladakh, the flourishing mangroves of Odisha to the eclectic communities of the North East - the natural beauty of India has always amazed me! But what has moved me more is the deep knowledge and passion of the people and the bond that they share with nature. Today, as we are looking for solutions to combat climate change and make our lifestyles more sustainable, we can learn so much from these communities and their coexistence with nature that has protected their ecosystems for centuries. I am delighted to present the first edition of ‘Inspiring India’ – that brings you such

inspiring stories of change and voices from across the country. This edition presents a glimpse into the incredible work being done on climate action by leaders, communities and the citizens of India. UNDP India, together with our partners, has been working extensively on the climate crisis, focusing on protecting ecosystems, increasing access to sustainable energy, restoring livelihoods of local communities and their traditional knowledge. While there is so much work that is being done to recover and restore all that is lost, we still have a long way to go. Each one of us can make a difference by the choices we make – the way we live, the way we travel, the way we eat and the way we think! I hope you can consider participating, donating and supporting our conservation efforts to ensure a safe and sustainable future for both people and the planet. Come join us in this journey of change!


ON T RAIL OF T HE ELUSIV E SNOW LEOPARD On a crisp and clear morning in the Himalayas, as the first rays of the sun illuminate the snow-clad peaks, two young men can be seen walking slowly through a meadow. Pencils and rulers in hand, they crouch over the ground from time to time, taking measurements and jotting down notes.

that they play a vital role in maintaining the health of the entire ecosystem. It is not easy to access these regions, so we don’t have accurate estimates of just how many snow leopards there are. Current estimates give their population globally between 4,000 to 7,000 individuals, of which around 700 individuals are believed to be India.

Saurabh Rawat and Vikas Rana are a part of a group of 30 youth from Uttarakhand who have recently been trained to conduct wildlife population surveys. They are walking through high-altitude meadows in their native region of Uttarkashi looking for signs of snow leopards, one of the most beautiful and enigmatic big cats.

“An accurate estimate of the population is the first step towards conserving any wild species”, explains Dr. Dhananjai Mohan, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Uttarakhand Forest Department. In 2019, Government of India launched the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) programme towards this objective. UNDP, through SECURE Himalaya initiative, is helping in implementation of SPAI in the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim, and the Union Territory of Ladakh.

Snow leopards live in the rugged and snowbound landscapes of 12 Central Asian and Himalayan countries, including India. They are a ‘keystone species’, meaning

A Little About Snow Leopards

Status VULNERABLE Scientific Name PANTHERA UNCIA Population EST 4,080-6,590

Snow Leopard Range Map They are generally found at elevations between 3,000 to 6,000 m (9,800 –19700 ft), of the Himalayas and in Mongolia, Russia, Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan at lower heights

06 As one of the first activities, a programme on para-taxonomy was conducted for youth from villages in Uttarkashi. “These people have a good knowledge of local plants and animals passed on from their elders, and are also skilled in navigating complex mountain terrains. By complementing their traditional knowledge with trainings on scientific methods of collecting and analysing data for conservation purposes, we can create a truly participatory model of conservation with the local communities,” Dr. Mohan explains. “Every minute was a great learning. We were taught to measure the length of pug marks with a pencil, consistency of their faecal matter and much more,”

says a beaming Rawat, as he talks about the training programme.Their group spent five days in the Gangotri National Park with experts from the Wildlife Institute of India learning the nuances of conducting floral and faunal surveys. Trained to recognise animals, birds, shrubs and medicinal plants, their skill sets go much beyond surveying snow leopards. Aneesha Routela, one of the trainees, now wants to start a homestay in her village, giving tourists a taste of the local culture and biodiversity. Having seen many families migrate to town and cities downstream in search of jobs, she is hopeful that tourism can help in reversing this trend.

“The overall objective of the programme is to create a bridge between conservation and livelihoods”, highlights Aparna Pandey, State Project Officer, SECURE Himalaya. “By giving youth new skills, we want to encourage them to take pride in their natural heritage, rich culture and traditions, and inspire people around them to do the same. Opportunities like tourism, cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants, are some examples of nature-based livelihoods that we are trying to promote”, she adds. Ankita Chauhan, another participant in the programme, is motivated to address the problem of solid waste due to unsustainable tourism. “When tourists

visit our area, they throw plastic bags and lot of other garbage. Grazing animals accidentally consume these with the grass, and predators like the snow leopard who feed on them then end up eating these harmful items. We have to learn to preserve our land or else we will not be able to live in this fragile ecosystem”. Saurabh and Vikas bend over and measure a fresh pugmark in the soil. Comparing notes, they conclude that it might belong to an adult snow leopard. Winding up a hard day’s work, they head down, excited at the discovery. They might not have seen the snow leopard, but they can feel it’s presence, the guardian of these high mountains.





2 – First name of the leader of Chipko Andolan

1 – Swedish environmental activist and author of the book ‘No One is too Small to Make a Difference’

4 – Tropical cyclone that develops in the Northern Hemisphere 6 – Japanese word for this tree is ‘Sakura’ 8 – Animal that sleeps for three years at a stretch 11 – Number of hearts in an octopus 12 – Legendary singer of the Earth Song

3 – Coldest city in the world 5 – India’s oldest national park 7 – Longest living mammal in existence 9 – Animal that can outrun you at the meager age of 1 day 10 – Blackbuck is the state animal of this state

Down: 1.Greta Thunberg 3.Yakutsk 5.Jim Corbett 7.Bowhead Whale 9.Reindeer 10.Haryana Across: 2.Sunderlal 4.Typhoon 6.Cherry Blossom 8.Snail 11.Three 12.Michael Jackson Answers

A CONV ERSAT ION W IT H AMITABH KANT, CEO, NIT I AAYOG India: A Champion of Climate Action

Shoko Noda: India’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is reflected in its convergence with the National Development Agenda. How has NITI Aayog taken the lead in implementing and measuring the progress of SDGs in India? Amitabh Kant: The spectrum of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets span from poverty eradication to safeguarding the global ecosystem on which humanity depends for its survival. As the nodal agency for the adoption of the SDG framework, at NITI Aayog we felt that the commitment of the union government to achieve the SDGs can be realised only if actions at the national level are complemented by

initiatives of the State Governments. There was a need to develop a comprehensive policy tool capturing the progress on the SDGs considering the complexity of the interlinked global goals at national and sub-national level while instituting a monitoring mechanism which would foster competition among the States. In December 2018, we released the first edition of SDG India Index and dashboard which was the world’s first governmentled effort to rank sub-national entities on SDGs. At the level of states, this initiative and our efforts towards localisation has triggered the institution of focused SDG units, cells or coordination centres to engender a whole of government


approach towards the SDGs with both horizontal and vertical convergence across multiple government departments. In this regard, we’ve worked very closely with UNDP. To support further localisation of the SDGs in the north-eastern region, we created the country’s first regional SDG index where we have mapped all 120 districts of the eight NE states. Fostering of competition and collaboration amongst the states and the UTs is at the core of the strategy of localising SDGs. Shoko Noda: Climate change is part of SDGs and India is a champion of climate action. How is the government moving this agenda forward? Amitabh Kant: India’s commitment to the Paris Agreement was well above what was expected of a country with historically low emissions. We are almost a decade early on our target to achieve 40% non-fossil fuel capacity in our power generation mix. But we aren’t slowing down to celebrate. Instead, we are now driving all our ambitions and efforts towards significantly scaling up renewable energy capacity to a mammoth target. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initially announced a target of 175 GW by 2022. We’re taking it to 500 GW by 2030, which has really upped the game. The Prime Minister’s landmark national statement at COP26, held in Glasgow in November ’21, will be a harbinger for transformative climate

action. The vision of meeting 50% of energy requirements from renewable energy, reduction of projected carbon emissions and carbon intensity of its economy by 2030 along with the aim of achieving the net zero target by 2070 has laid down a certain, measurable and comprehensive pathway for the country. We have undertaken a host of sectorspecific interventions towards further reduction of our emission intensity through wind energy, solar energy, biomass energy, hydro-power, and national smart grid mission among others. We are also looking into new and innovative technologies towards a low carbon emission pathway. On India’s 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the National Hydrogen Mission (NHM) that aims to use hydrogen as a clean energy source and ensure energy security for the country. In addition to this, our forest cover has been rising thanks to concerted efforts made under the National Afforestation Programme and Green India Mission. We have been initiating and taking lead on efforts such as the International Solar Alliance, the Leadership Group for Industry Transition, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure with the aim of converging global synergy to successfully address the world’s major environmental challenges.

There is also much to learn from India’s tribal, indigenous, and agricultural communities. Age-old traditions of agriculture, environment and biodiversity conservation have deep roots in our culture. Crop rotation in agriculture for soil and water management, ground water recharge techniques, and mangrove conservation to prevent coastal erosion are some examples of the same. Shoko Noda: India’s economic recovery from COVID-19 is quite impressive. How do you envisage a green recovery for the future? Amitabh Kant: To ensure the country’s green recovery from the pandemic, even small steps that have climate co-benefits and promote ecological restoration are critical. To address the growing rates of unemployment. Its recovery stimulus included a $792 million support for rural job creation and for afforestation. These will be coupled with the Suryamitra initiative of the government of India on skill development. India is increasing investments in domestic manufacturing capacity of batteries, electric vehicles and solar, and in the research and development of innovative clean energy solutions such as hydrogen. India also recently launched the Vehicle Scrappage Policy which aims to discontinue old, unfit, and polluting vehicles to replace them with modern fuel-efficient and environment friendly vehicles. Single use plastic ban will be enforced by July 2022 to prevent plastic pollution. By integrating the principles of green recovery and green economy in its development strategy we can ensure that economic development does not come at the expense of environmental and climate degradation. We are very clear in our mind that post-pandemic, we have to drive our manufacturing by going digital, going lean, and going green.

Shoko Noda: As an individual, what steps are you taking to reduce your environmental footprint? Amitabh Kant: I was recently involved in planting about 2,000 trees in my colony through the Miyawaki methodology of planting urban forests. My family and I constantly strive for conscious use of water and energy. We switch off the lights and shut the taps when not needed, we have retrofitted our house with measures to enable thermal comfort, and we buy energy-efficient electrical appliances and ensure proper waste segregation. We have even installed a solar energy system on our roof and are planning on switching to electric vehicles. I want to and hope to lead by example. I also think it’s a way for me to understand the bottlenecks, so these learnings can be incorporated into NITI Aayog’s larger work in Planning for Development and Climate Action. In our organization, we use only electric vehicles. The aim is to identify and encourage little steps that every Indian citizen can adopt to reduce their environmental footprint.



Bengaluru-based urban design firm Biome’s work harnesses design, light, water and ventilation to reduce environmental damage

Nestled inside a leafy neighbourhood of North Bengaluru, the home of Chitra Vishwanath and Vishwanath S, is strikingly beautiful and aesthetic. The walls and flooring are earth-toned, with high ceilings and arches, allowing natural light to pierce through windows. Behind the building’s charm lies the story of a revolution in sustainable architecture in the city. “The word ‘biome’ means ecology. It is the idea of blending earth, water and space with architecture while reducing carbon footprint and energy in construction. In a way the buildings whether residential or other space become not mere spaces, but ecosystems,” says Chitra, Principal Architect and Managing Director.

T he building blocks: non-pollutants and energy ef f icient The buildings use many elements for environment conservation. To start with, bricks are manufactured and not purchased thereby reducing the carbon footprints of transporting material that traditional bricks would require. Biome’s bricks are Stabilized Mud Blocks (SMB) and not ovenbaked which saves carbon footprint and pollution through its baking process. Though, this does not make them any less solid or durable. Paint is one of the highest energy containing substances and pollutants which is high on Biome’s list of things to avoid. Therefore, the walls and floors using these bricks don’t need plaster or paint. The only conventional material used is cement to add durability and thickness to the walls which only makes up for 5% of total materials used. Traditional oxide flooring, tools & labour are used to support the local economy.


High ceilings help keep the temperature cool and are quite common at Earth homes. Mezzanine floors are another design element which helps with additional light and ventilation. The bedrooms in the home of the Vishwanaths’ for instance, uses this duplex style model, with an upper and lower section. The lower one caters to daytime use, with books, a study and seating, while the one on top has just a bed. “Every building is different, based on multiple factors such as client’s preferences, location, finances and so on. Our home is simply the

starting point of this idea which has evolved very differently in different locations. Although, the core principals remain the same,” says Chitra. Apart from architectural design, the other big factor is the use of water, led by her husband Vishwanath, a water conservation specialist who has helped frame the city’s bylaws for rainwater harvesting and advised policymakers. Biome’s work focuses on rainwater harvesting, recycle, treatment and re-use of wastewater.

Design Tools: Of Vertical Spaces, Water And Waste “Urban housing does not allow groundwater to seep and causes flooding. So, if we were to collect the water, we would not be dependent on the city’s water supply, which is a precious resource. Since water storage tanks are a commonly used in urban Indian homes, our idea was to merely add some filters to this, which is not expensive,” says Sharath Nayak, Director and Senior Architect, Biome. Biome buildings use a ‘smartroof’, which offers multiple features like terrace gardening, recycling, re-using water & composting all of which take place in a small or moderately-sized spaces. The

Biome office has a garden which employs the use of repurposed toilets, which now have abundant green foliage growing out of them. The terrace garden of the Vishwanath home includes toilets and a washing machine which uses recycled water. The wastewater is filtered by a row of tall reeds growing in the terrace, which in turn is used for watering other plants in the terrace garden. The plants themselves attract scores of insects, birds, and butterflies. A dry toilet is on the terrace, and behind it a compost that converts toilet waste into manure for the plants and completes the cycle of nature.


COMBAT ING CLIMAT E CHANGE, ONE BUSINESS GOAL AT A T IME By Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Limited

than we sell beginning this year. With the support of UNDP and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, we have set up four Material Recovery Facilities called ‘Swachhta Kendras’ in Mumbai. Through the project we have covered thousands of households and collected a few thousand tonnes of plastic waste and trained more than 800 Safai Saathis (sanitation workers). Increased urbanisation, deforestation, agriculture intensification and massive fossil fuel consumption have led to large-scale environmental degradation. We are facing a climate catastrophe on an unprecedented scale as exploitation of natural resources and pollution have increased incidences of natural disasters like cyclones, landslides and floods. Without nature we cannot survive and deteriorating nature causes several challenges for everyone on the planet. We need to collectively work towards a sustainable future. At Hindustan Unilever, we are committed towards this goal by setting bold ambitions through the Unilever Compass Strategy. We are working with partners, industries, suppliers, NGOs, governments, and small farmers to form partnerships, promote advocacy and carry out work on the ground to drive the systemic change that’s needed to protect and regenerate nature. At HUL, we have achieved plastic neutrality. Since 2018, we have facilitated the safe disposal of more than 2.2 lakh tonnes of postconsumer use plastic waste with the help of collection and disposal partners across India. We are committed to making 100% of our plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and we aim to collect and process more plastic packaging

To tackle air pollution, we are committing to net zero emissions from all our products by 2039 – from the sourcing of the materials we use, up to the point of sale of our products. We have reduced CO2 emissions per tonne of our production by 91% compared to 2008 baseline. We’ve achieved this by reducing the total energy footprint across factories, expanding renewable energy footprint (solar and wind) at our sites, and by replacing fossil fuel with green fuel. Within this decade, we will achieve zero emissions in our operations and will halve the greenhouse gas impact of our products. Realising that the water availability in India could pose severe challenges we have been working in thousands of villages with our partners to create water potential by working on both the demand and supply side. In the last 8 years we have cumulatively created water potential of over 1.3 trillion litres. Whether we take small steps or set lofty goals, there is an urgent need to combat climate change. Each one of us needs to step up and take care of the environment and our planet. It’s the only home we have.

A CONV ERSAT ION W IT H T HE GERMAN AMBASSADOR UNDP India’s Resident Representative Shoko Noda in conversation with Walter J. Lindner, German Ambassador to India

Shoko Noda: You have been inspired by India since the 1970s. What fascinated you then and what continues to inspire you now? Walter J Lindner: A whole generation in Europe and the US in the 1970s was inspired by India’s spirituality. They were amid the anti-Vietnam war protests, and the capitalist system was getting on our nerves. Many of my friends who wanted to experience spiritualism came to India back then. It wasn’t easy to travel, but I was attracted by meditation, Buddha and the different kinds of exotic living in India. That was 42 years ago, and I spent half a year travelling in the 2nd class in trains with a backpack. Nowadays, it’s in an airconditioned car, even if it’s an Amby! I’ve travelled to many countries but in my mind, I knew I always wanted to come

back. India is such a complicated, complex, and diverse country with extremes that you need a whole lifetime for it. Returning after 40 years to a place where I came as a backpacker has been interesting as a lot has changed. India was half the population then, probably 600 million, while it’s almost 1.4 billion now. Mumbai was one-third of its size then. Now, so much is modernised with cars, technologies, IT, etc. But, you still have the old India with its culture and spiritual way of life. Shoko Noda: Music is one of your passions. How has India inspired you to compose new music and how do you like India’s authentic music? Walter J Linder: One of the reasons why I came to India 40 years ago was a solidarity concert organised by former Beatles


guitarist George Harrison alongside the Indian musician Ravi Shankar and his troupe, Eric Clapton and others. The concert was held at Madison Square Garden in New York for the victims of the flood and the civil war in Bangladesh. It was the first time that I saw sitars and tablas. I was mesmerized by Indian ragas as they were totally different from western music. When I came to India, I made some records with Indian musicians. I’m still learning because it’s a different way of playing an instrument. What you need for this kind of North Indian music is a peaceful mindset, with rain ragas, morning ragas, night ragas, etc. You need to concentrate on them and immerse yourself in them. The modern world with its noise and lack of time is not very conducive to it. Old Indian traditional music has to be protected. Shoko Noda: You are very passionate about the conservation of nature and climate change. How do you see the current situation in India? Walter J Lindner: This combination of a perfect storm of population growth, global warming, misuse of nature, and exploitation of natural resources, will mess up our planet in another 50 years. We need to rescue our planet, or we won’t have anything to give to our grandchildren. I lived a long time in Africa. There, the big animals used to occupy an area of about 10% of the whole continent. Now, it’s just 2-3%. It’s the same in India where there are very few places where you get to see wild animals like elephants and tigers. If we don’t take care of them, we’ll only be able to see them in zoos in future. I had recently gone to Mathura to an Elephant Rehabilitation Camp where they have the only Elephant Hospital in India. I learnt that there are still 400 elephants in captivity in the country who are used for begging, transport, or at weddings, and they are trying to rescue as

many of them as they can. Most of these gentle giants are in chains and it’s a terrible thing to do as elephants are quite similar to humans. We need to rescue and protect many other animals on the planet. Everyone can do something to make the world a better place, even if it’s just donating a little bit of money. Shoko Noda: Germany and India have a longstanding relationship. What are some of the things both countries are working on currently in the field of climate change and the environment? Walter J Lindner: India is such a big country population-wise and size-wise that no solutions for global problems can be done without India because it matters if 1.4 billion people are coming along with you or not. So be it plastic waste management, overfishing, green energy, etc, we have to do it with India. Germany has several projects with India in the area of green mobility. We do a lot of financing for the metro trains, e-rickshaws and e-cycles, as well as work on energy transition from coal to renewables like solar energy. We have a lot of technology and know-how to share, and I think we are on a good track that we need to intensify. Shoko Noda: As a person, do you do something different these days as part of climate action? Walter J Lindner: We try to not use cars too often or fly too often. In Germany, we are environmentally conscious, so we try to replicate it here in the embassy too. We have a Green Embassy where we don’t use plastic anymore, separate waste and reuse water. These are small things but they add up to something substantial.

GREEN HOROSCOPE Aries (March 21 - April 20)

Cancer (June 22 - July 23)

As Aries would do anything on a dare, this is the time you accept the challenge to switch to a sustainable and healthier lifestyle. Saturn demands you to find joy and freedom in these choices. So maybe upcycle your mom’s vintage Levis into a skirt and say no to fast fashion. Use the passion that comes with being an Aries to win the right battles. Saving the planet is equivalent to saving yourself.

As a Cancer, you empathize with people a lot. Their problems are your problems. It is time you take the Earth’s problem into your hands and contribute to making this Earth a beautiful place to live in. For instance, you can track your carbon and water footprint and take decisions as a family to switch to more eco-friendly alternatives. Switching to bamboo and steel straws from plastic is a great step to move forward as a responsible citizen.

Taurus (April 21 - May 21)

Leo (July 24 - August 23)

Taureans are generally satisfied with how things are but this time you need to adjust a little bit for your betterment. Listen to your community and get inspired. Eat locally, buy locally, thrive locally. You could try to grow your own food and contribute to the community’s resources. If you align your principles towards what’s good for the earth, you will receive cosmic rewards.

Leos are known for their leadership quality. You love to guide others to do the right thing. If the neighbouring forest is being cleared, you must agitate against it. Your community market is being uprooted; petition against it. Assert yourself and you will grow by leaps and bounds. You might be caught in disagreements but you must persevere to emerge victoriously. Do the right thing, Leo. You got this!

Gemini (May 22 - June 21)

Virgo (August 24 - September 23)

As Geminis are very intelligent and they pick up knowledge faster than others, they already know what is the need of the hour - adopting a greener lifestyle! Educate yourself and others to adopt a sustainable lifestyle as they might just listen to your inner ramblings because of your enlightening aura. So, trust your instincts! Were you planning to adopt veganism? Do it now even though it might seem like an arduous path and a tedious lifestyle.

Virgos are known to be perfectionists and cleanliness freaks. One can’t leave the tap water dripping in front of a Virgo. You treasure self-care routines like evening baths. Switching to bucket baths instead of showers will ensure your healthy future. We know you’re a shopaholic, so supporting eco-friendly brands can add to your bowl of good deeds. No matter what Virgo, take every challenge with love and happiness and you’ll win every time.


Libra (September 24 - October 23)

Capricorn (December 23- January 20)

As a sign of balance, you need to take care of the equilibrium needed between humans and planet Earth. So, try introducing greener and eco-friendly themes in your conversations when you go out with your friends. Switching to carpools can be a great way to socialize. We know Libras have always wanted to be fashion influencers. So, to ensure financial security while staying fashion-forward, shifting to sustainable clothing brands would be a great option.

Themes around identity are bound to come up, and you are likely to indulge in deep consideration on how you want to move forward in life, dear Capricorn. This is the best time to think about your future possibilities and how you can protect your future by switching to a more sustainable lifestyle. Replacing plastic with terracotta tea cups will not only contribute to a healthier environment but also complement your kitchen’s design.

Scorpio (October 24 - November 23)

Aquarius (January 21- February 19)

You will be getting ready to take on a path towards deeper speculation. This surely means you can be the Green Ambassador our Earth needs. Educating people about the harm we are causing to the planet and its consequences - only you can accomplish this Scorpio! The more you reduce environmental pollutants and poisons in your life, the better you will feel! Switching to organic scents made from flowers and barks will not only cleanse your body but your soul too.

It’s likely you’ll be a bit worn out from the pandemic and will be looking for strategies to reinvest in yourself and grow. What will be a good start? Switching to a plastic-free lifestyle and asking your neighbours to change their plastic cutlery too. From using metal straws to switching to a permanent carpool with your friends and family, it is time to embark upon a healthier and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Sagittarius (November 24- December 22)

Pisces (February 20- March 20)

Saving the planet is of supreme importance for a Sagittarius. Try to live your life without adding to the pollution and waste. Ride your bikes when you can, and carpool when you can’t. You will find ways to make yourself and your partner’s life better by switching to more eco-friendly solutions. Shopping for your garden was never outdated. You might want to try that Sagittarius!

You are the kindest sign, dear Pisces, full of love and compassion! So, acts that harm the environment provoke you. Organizing drives and seminars educating people to save planet Earth could help you keep your loving nature at ease. Planting a little sapling in your neighbourhood and asking your friends to do the same will grow your affection towards Mother Earth.



Valiben Rabari a 50-year resident of Momayvandh village used to spend two hours a day carrying water from the well to her house. Due to the invention of a simple device, the roll barrel, this daily drudgery has been reduced to almost nil. Not just this, a water revolution in this parched region of Gujarat is changing people’s lives.

With the help of people’s participation and Government aid, Samerth, a Non-Profit Organization has revived or built 155 irrigation ponds, 187 drinking water ponds, 131 drinking water wells, 114 irrigation wells, 36 check dams, 5 step wells and 167 rain roof water harvesting structures at the household, panchayat, and school levels. Close to 77,000 people have benefited due to the availability of water for drinking purposes, cattle and irrigation. Distressed migration, which happened quite frequently as water supply became scarcer, has now come down drastically.

Home to over 900 villages, people of Kutch are no strangers to parched conditions. Samerth, an organisation that works with over 114 villages in the region since the last 20 years has helped people construct, revive and recharge water bodies. “Twenty years back when we started work here, people were suspicious. It took time to gain their trust. But we now see wholehearted participation in the villages we work in,” says Gazala Paul, Managing Trustee & Founder Member of Samerth. Availability of water has meant that people are now able to raise cash crops and build a better life. Children, especially girls, are no longer made to get water from far flung water bodies and can instead attend school. The governance of the water bodies is managed by 730 water user groups and 660 self-help group members who actively participate to ensure equitable and judicious use of water at the village level. “An old woman came up to me in one of our community meetings and said she could finally see the floral print on her clothes. She never had enough water to wash them properly,” says Gazala who was instrumental in leading this change. The project has demonstrated that simple interventions can lead to big changes if led by the people.


A DAY IN T HE LIF E OF LAXMI AND HER SAFAI SAAT HI F RIENDS It is 8:30 on a summer morning. Laxmi and her friends are busy sorting out waste. They pick carefully, segregating each bag. These are the Safai Sathis of the city of Panaji, Goa. This is the world of waste pickers, the scavengers, the waste workers. Workers who dirty their hands and feet, breathing dust and grime from the mountains of waste. The invisible environmentalists who move silently to keep our cities clean and disease free.

Launching Utthaan – Rise with Resilience For most, Goa is the beautiful land of sun, sand, and beaches. But this tourist hotspot generates one of the highest per capita waste in the country. A short drive around some of the most popular beaches often reveals heaps of garbage strewn among the coconut groves and lush greenery. Laxmi and her fellow Safai Sathis are reimagining how waste is managed and used in the city. Working at the Swachhta Kendra or Material Recovery Facility started by the Corporation of the city of Panaji in partnership with HDFC Bank and UNDP India, they segregate and recover dry waste. This includes plastic bottles, milk packets, and bags collected from houses, and hotels. This recovered dry waste is then recycled to be used as construction material, delivering roads that are less costly yet stronger and manufacture tables, chairs, face shields, pencils, and helmets. Over the years, volumes of dry waste, including plastic, have grown phenomenally, accumulating as small mountains of garbage in landfills. This has given rise to an occupation - invisible hands that dig through mountains of waste to scrape out a living. How long will it take for Laxmi and her friends to break this chain and move up? Will their children follow in their footsteps? Is there a promise for a better life? The work of Safai Saathis contributes to circular economies, public health, and environmental sustainability. Yet instead of being celebrated, they are looked down upon. Safai Saathis have worked non-stop throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to keep Panaji clean and happy. The 50+ Safai Sathis at the Panaji Swachhta Kendra have helped recycle over 4,000 Metric Tonnes of dry waste. Laxmi and her fellow Safai Saathis are illiterate and marginalised. They have spent their lives walking on the tight rope of poverty at the very bottom of the socio-economic chain.

Goa accounts for one of the highest per-capita plastic waste generation in India.


Waste pickers are front-line workers in the mission to create a sustainable future and need to be empowered. For this to happen, Safati Sathis need an ecosystem comprising a stable income, healthcare, safe working environment, respect in society, and the right to choose. Some simple but powerful changes were introduced into the lives of the waste pickers of Panaji. First, they were educated in basic knowledge of finance and accounts (including the opportunity to open a personal bank account). This was accompanied by giving them a space to expand themselves beyond their identities as wasteworkers. UNDP set up a facilitation centre in this Swachhta Kendra helping Safai Sathis get access to Government schemes right at their workplace. Laxmi, for instance, opened a bank account. She will also be enrolling for a pension plan, along with medical and health insurance. She has also been imparted basics of financial education, that can help her plan for the future and ensure lasting financial stability, transforming her life and that of her children. Safai Sathis get trained on workplace safety, waste segregation, bio-medical and hazardous waste, and health and hygiene. Government certification gives them national recognition of their acquired skills and knowledge, providing them job opportunities in the formal sector.

The Swachhta Kendra operates with fixed timings where sanitation, menstrual hygiene management and creche facilities are integrated. A library has been setup at with books found in the waste dumpsite and donated by the citizens of Panaji. This library is free and open to all. The plan is to extend this free space into an evening school for waste workers. One of the first visitors to the library was Laxmi’s daughter Akanksha. She could not read, but that did not matter. She grabbed a book, eyes sparkling with curious wonder. Akanksha had found her happiness. The big eyes full of awe looked about for more. For this idyllic sea-side city of Goa, this ambitious programme is becoming a reality for Laxmi and her fellow Safai Saathis towards a better future for themselves and their families.


TACKLING T HE GREEN INVADER OF BANDIPUR T HE LANTANA CAMARA Conservation NGO Junglescapes has been engaged in restoring the Bandipur Forest by tackling the invasive plant species Lantana Camara On the scenic Bangalore-Ooty highway, much before the mighty Western Ghats can make themselves visible to the tourist, a curtain of green with flaming pink dots takes over the landscape. This is Lantana Camara, an invasive plant that covers this UNESCO World Heritage site and biodiversity hotspot, and now threatens to wipe out native plant species. The ubiquitous and deceptively cheerful, pink-flowered Lantana Camara, native to South America, was brought to India by the British in the early 1800s to be a decorative hedge plant. It has grown exponentially since then, overtaking native species at an alarming rate, and inhabiting large proportions of forests in India. In Bandipur, Lantana has taken over 600 square kilometres, or 60 percent of the forest, almost decimating the local flora and

fauna of the region. As a result, Lantana removal is the primary focus of Junglescapes – an environmental Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that is engaged in forest restoration in the region. When Junglescapes started working in the region in the mid-2000s, Hanumant Rao, a Mysuru-based real estate businessman and wildlife enthusiast who had started volunteering with the NGO, noticed the Lantana. “We were no botanists, but we kept seeing it everywhere and wondered what it was. Upon some basic research, I realised that it was a dreaded invasive species, which was aggressively taking over the region, making it difficult for native flora and fauna to flourish,” he said.

The Lantana has evolved in a way to constantly propagate; its leaves cannot be eaten by herbivores, and its fruits, the only edible part of the plant, are eaten by birds whose droppings then carry the Lantana seed all over the forest floor. The Lantana’s presence has also shrunk the presence of native species, which could have been eaten by herbivores in the forest. To look for food, they have started straying into agrarian fields, and appear lesser in number in the forest. When there are less herbivores, there are less carnivores, because they too are short of food. The initial forays to check Lantana led Junglescapes to a similar issue in Corbett, led by scientist Professor CR Babu, who had devised a unique method for tackling it - ‘Cut Root Stalk’. While it would be easier to simply bulldoze and remove it, such a violent method would have a counterproductive effect when dealing with an invasive species, which would merely grow back even more aggressively.

Babu’s approach advises to cut the Lantana manually, three inches below the root. The cut plant is turned sideways and left for a few days, until it completely dries up. Not turning it would then allow it to take root and start growing, as the nature of invasive plants such as this is to grow in adverse conditions as well. Guided by Professor Babu, Junglescapes’ restoration of the Bandipur forest is a five-year process -- in which the local community plays a big role. In the first year, majority of big Lantana bushes are removed from the forest. The forest is divided into grids using Google Earth, and project managers keep track of each grid being successfully cleared of Lantana. In the second year, the forest is combed once again, to weed out Lantana that might have grown back. By the third year, only 4-5 percent of Lantana survive, which too are removed. By the fourth year, if all the steps have been followed as planned, the Lantana is gone. Along with removal of Lantana, planting native

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Bandipur National Park

species is critical too. Grass plays a key role, not only because of being native to the region, but because its presence blocks the further growth of Lantana. “Grass is a pioneer species in restoration. Bandipur alone has 17 species of grasses, of which 50-60 percent are palatable and can serve as food for herbivores. The non-edible ones serve as habitats for fauna, a place for birds to nest and lay eggs. When you remove lantana, we sprinkle grass seeds,” says Rao – adding, “Plugging the species gap is important, otherwise, without floral diversity, we will not have diversity in fauna either.” This labour-intensive process has seen active participation from the local community, many of whom are former forest dwellers who were resettled once Bandipur was declared a preserved forest. The team features two managers, four self-help groups and a staff of 16-20 women permanently engaged in restoration work, all trained and facilitated by Junglescapes. Beliamma, one of the community women who now works on the project, is guaranteed 25 days of work for activities such as sprinkling grass seeds, removing Lantana shrubs, etc. A former

native of the forest, Beliamma’s used to earn by selling forest produce in the market. “I am back working in the forest as part of my job and have regular income for 25 days in a month. That is a big deal for a widow like me,” she says. Meanwhile, the Lantana waste has been channelised in various ways. One of them is by using it in cookstoves as fuel. The other is turning it into furniture, and the finished products resemble cane furniture. But Rao warns of promoting the commercial side of an invasive species, “We are only doing this as an upcycling process, while the Lantana exists. Promoting this as a long-term career path for craftsmen will lead to promoting Lantana growth, which is tantamount to destroying the forest,” warns Rao. “Lantana is a great lesson in how we are framing our environmental discourse at the policy level. And the idea of a ‘green cover’ can be deceptive, especially because the majority of what looks green is invasive. The word we should promote instead is ‘biodiversity’,” says Rao.

HOW DO W E MAKE RESPONSIBLE T OURISM A REALIT Y OUT SIDE OF PROT ECT ED AREAS? After months of deprived access to forests, it was a delight to finally make my way across the dusty plains of Delhi to the foothills of Himalayas, to visit India’s most famous national park. Everyone is here to see the tiger. We caught a glimpse of her by the riverside: making her way through the grass, yawning, standing, sitting, and sending photographers around her in frenzy. We saw her ambling across the road looking at our jeep for just a fleeting second as if to say- “I see you.” Corbett had not failed to disappoint us. On our way out, in the blue waters of the Ramganga River, we saw the king of the waters — the mahseer — resting on the stone reefs underwater. Previously, we had seen a wild boar digging the ground for roots and tubers, a sambhar deer with weeds resting on its antlers like an untidy crown and a female elephant with her calf ambling through the forest on their morning stroll.

A Rude Shock We checked into a resort offering a view of the river, hoping for a continuum of our experience in the park, and preparing for a fine end to our spring break. As the sun started setting, I heard the whooping laugh of a pack of hyenas. The property had an in-house naturalist who showed us a number of birds that kept us busy. But as the sun set, the entire place morphed into a nightmare: smoke-belching generators were wheeled in, the view of the mountains overlooking the river was blocked by a tall wooden platform on which a stage was built for a dance party. As it turned out, this was not only wildlife season, it was also the season for marriages. The din of the hyenas, the call of the barking deer and the gentle chirping of birds was replaced with the loud booming noise of a DJ and an ensuing drunken brawl. We were shaken


out of our nature-soaked reverie. I learnt that for resorts around this national park, this was not an exception but the norm. Whether it was marriage events or college kids arriving for an after-party, nature was not necessarily top of the agenda for all visitors. Corbett has dealt with this problem for years. And the problem is not peculiar to Corbett. Across India, thousands of resorts are grappling with the issue of making tourism more responsible and sustainable.

Realizing Responsible Tourism According to Harold Goodwin, an authority on the subject, Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to

live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility and action to make tourism more sustainable. How do resorts in these areas dispose their waste? Are they able to instill a sense of responsible water usage; are they restricting or encouraging the use of plastic? These need to be addressed by the nature tourism industry that is centered around selling the wilderness experience. Resorts around national parks cannot afford to operate like regular hotels and are dutybound to be judicious in their use of natural resources. Every piece of plastic used is an opportunity to educate guests about the need to reduce such consumption. The Tiger Operators for Tigers (TOFT) is an example of incentivising the tiger tourism industry in implementing sustainability standards. State-driven guidelines on responsible tourism, awarding resorts


that follow these guidelines, a certification process, and incentivizing resorts that create local employment could be positive steps forward. But there is a fundamental legal issue — resorts are built on private land and therefore, opposed to any kind of regulation. It is difficult to police private resorts, and perhaps self-policing by the tourism industry will be the best guide to the sustainability path. Another roundabout is for nature-loving tourists to avoid such resorts. I for one am determined never to stay again at a resort that trades nature for loud marriage parties. I hope to be able to witness the laugh of the hyenas, the trumpet of the elephants and the alarm call of the barking deer. The orchestra of the forest is all we need.

Bahar Dutt is an award-winning environment journalist who has designed communication products for many UN organizations such as UNCCD, UNEP and UNDP India.


Agricultural non-profit Trutrade has created sustainable farming using Organic Produce and Digital Pushcarts


On the outskirts of Bengaluru, a lush green field full of almost-ripe snake gourds hang from their delicate vines. The farmer, Shiv Shankara, stands observing this brood of vegetable, beaming like a proud father. “This native variant is called naati, and unlike the hybrid variety, it is much more delicious,” he says. It wasn’t a long time ago when the local farms were dependent on chemical-heavy agricultural activities, which affected the produce. “The health of the plants was affected. Worse, the health of the soil was affected -- and with every passing year, it was getting more barren and harder to cultivate,” says Shankara. Difficulties on the production side were matched by uncertainties on the marketing and sales side. At best, Shankara would get 15-18 percent of the final sales value -- excluding the issues of spoilage or poor sales. The agrarian crisis in India has been an ongoing issue for over two decades. When Trutrade Founder & CEO Naveen Seri was still an executive in a tech company, reading the statistics of the farming sector distressed him. Between 19952010, farmer suicides went up to 2,56,913, the highest-ever recorded in human history according to NCRB. “Given that agriculture and allied sectors amount to 50 percent of our workforce, this makes it extremely severe. Climate change compounds the issue, with 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from agriculture — due to the use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and animal waste,” says Seri.

These statistics became the fulcrum for tech-driven agri-business, Trutrade. A lot of research went in to understand the agrarian crisis and the vulnerable communities at its heart— small landholding farmers and urban distressed street vendors. The two biggest challenges being market linkage and fair price. Trutrade’s research found that these problems could be solved with one simple switch: organic produce.

Organic Farming Using his decades of experience as a techie, Seri in collaboration with UNDP, launched Trutrade’s Thallugaadi (pushcart in Kannada), combining digital technology with traditional organic farming methods. Thallugaadi is a digitized pushcart – where the vendor carries a tablet which immediately loads point of sale and details of purchase, including the farmer’s name and mobile number. “The minute the vendor touches the picture of the item on the app, details are emailed to the customer - 60 percent of the sales value goes to the farmer’s bank account. The customer can even call the farmer after the purchase to confirm ,” says Seri. Chemical fertilizers have given way to organic alternatives. Instead of chemical pesticides, farmers have started using herbal spray. Jeevamrit, devised by scientists, is a mix of cow dung, local pulses, citrus fruit, jaggery and chemical-free soil sourced from forests, lake and riverbeds. “Earlier, we only knew about cow dung, but combining these ingredients is a new technique,” says Vijay Kumar.

“Digitization allows for real time analytics, that can optimise their sales. For instance, by 3 pm if we get the information that a particular pushcart has not sold leafy veggies, we can transfer the contents to a place where leafy vegetables are in demand. This helps minimize wastage, and ensures transparency and traceability,” says

Seri. On the production side, Trutrade has trained thousands of farmers with more than 13,000 farmers now adopting organic practices. With zero use of chemicals and pesticides, the organization promotes sustainability by harnessing traditional farming practices using modern methods.


“The health of vegetables have improved and their shelflife is much better than chemically-grown ones. Even the soil has become more fertile,” he adds. Being local and native, serve the dual purpose of reducing carbon footprints by way of transport of material and having local nutrients and minerals to enrich the farming processes. For instance, some of the elements farmers use to enrich their plants is from the soil of the local riverbeds. When a UNDP team visited Trutrade farm, they saw the growing plants with soil sprinkled on them -- glistening in the sun Even the manure used is of cows and bulls native to India. A simple high-school technique of using solar power is employed to ward off crop-infesting mosquitoes and insects.“The power of sustainable farming in fighting climate change is undeniable,” says Seri.

UNDP INDIA AT A GLANCE UNDP works in 28 states & 8 Union territories with a total of 300 staff spread across India. With 7 field offices in Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab and Uttarakhand, UNDP works to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

36 State and Union Territory Governments

UNDP remains committed to support India in its vision to Leave No One Behind.

18 Union Ministries 5 Sustainable Development Goals Coordination Centres

ACHIEV EMENT S IN 2021 UNDP is a key partner to MoHFW, providing technical and implementation support for the roll out of CoWIN platform

INR 2 billion mobilised by Akanksha CSR platform developed by UNDP in collaboration with Govt of Karnataka for COVID-19 pandemic response

1.2+ million frontline workers trained on the COVID-19 vaccination drive

76,000+ women and youth provided skill based training

82,000 MT of plastic waste processed across 22 states, till date

177,000 people across India empowered to access social protection schemes 31,000 farmers, artisans, and micro-entrepreneurs trained on financial and digital literacy 9,000 small enterprises were supported to continue business operations during the pandemic Set up 11 oxygen generation plants in hospitals across Northeast Helped industries reduce 4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions Provided support to build more than 239,000 houses in Odisha 400,000 calls were answered by the CoWIN helpline, which is supported by UNDP.

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