Adaptive Planning: For Climate Resilient Communities

Mandated by the Government of India, all states are required to develop their State Action Plans on Climate Change on lines of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The states are also supposed to mainstream appropriate Climate Change strategies in the relevant state policy, plans and schemes/ programmes.

While mainstreaming of Climate Change concerns in policy happens at the institutional level, mainstreaming at the programme/ scheme level needs to be preceded by plans that help communities better adapt to those climate change related vulnerabilities and challenges. This involves identifying sector-specific vulnerabilities of the communities and the region, capacity building of communities, capacity development of institutions facilitating the planning/implementation process, integration of those concerns in the plans for the scheme/ sector and a mechanism that ensures that activities are undertaken as per the prepared plans during implementation.

A number of approaches and mechanisms have been tested to identify the best ways in which adaptation can be integrated into the development process and each one of these approaches poses different issues and challenges:

  • Eco-system based approach versus administrative approach to Adaptive Planning.
  • Focus on community-specific vulnerabilities versus regional vulnerabilities.
  • Reliance on technical vulnerability assessment (quantitative) versus participatory vulnerability assessment (qualitative) as the basis for planning.
  • The larger debate related to sectoral planning versus convergent planning.

With several uncertainties associated with the implications of climate change for a given community, it is evident that adaptive planning can only attempt to help a region/ community understand the type of vulnerabilities that may emerge or intensify and understand what are the best approaches to cope with and minimize the impact of those potential changes on different set of people within the community. There is, of course, consensus on one issue- that adaptation plans need to have the flexibility to be able to respond to somewhat altered scenarios.

In terms of approaching adaptive planning there could be two points of view:

  1. One is to look at adaptive planning in the context of disasters and enlarging the scope of the disaster preparedness/ management plans to incorporate longer term climate change risks.
  2. Another approach, though relatively untested, and which needs much more effort, tries to look at adaptation within the context of regular development planning process and how departmental / village plans can be best informed by potential climatic changes.

At another level, when we look at how adaptive planning needs to unfold and its point of entry on the ground, there are differing perspectives including:

  1. Initiating work directly with communities facing a common set of vulnerabilities, in order to test approaches intensively but on a small scale and then take those learnings to scale.
  2. Placing premium on first working closely with an identified vulnerable sector, building capacities of the service-providers from the top down and then engaging with the communities with this ‘capacitated’ support structure.

Both the above approaches have their pros and cons; the former providing a more grounded approach but expecting the ever-evasive convergence from multiple stakeholders, and the latter providing the necessary institutional framework without the guarantee that the capacities will actually get created on the ground. It is important to find the most optimal path that could ensure adequate community involvement in identifying challenges, the mandate to plan for those vulnerabilities, the right institutional support mechanism and finances to implement those participatory plans through the regular developmental planning process.

Another larger question that also needs to be debated is the overall planning process in the country within which adaptive planning needs to be embedded. With issues like lack of local participation in the planning process, lack of convergence among stakeholders, scheme-based responses to village needs, multiplicity of plans (village/district plans, plans for flagships, departmental plans) which do not necessarily dovetail into one another, ‘transmission losses’ of local priorities at each higher step towards aggregation of plans and the limited capacities of mentoring institutions and functionaries at the local level, any step towards adaptive planning needs to factor in these limitations of the current planning process.
It is about time planners in India began thinking about how planning could be  used as an effective tool for creating resilience among vulnerable communities.


published date:September 12, 2014
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