Uttarakhand, an ecologically fragile and disaster-prone state, has been experiencing climate change impacts such as changing seasons, less snowfall, flash floods, and unpredictable rainfall over the last few years. Large scale anthropogenic pressures have been rising as a result of development activities such as construction of roads, bridges, mining, hydro power units, which have increased the vulnerability of the region to disasters and have endangered ecological sustainability. Nearly 70% of the population in mountain districts are dependent on agriculture for its subsistence and face issues due to small and fragmented land holdings. They also rely on traditional crop varieties, lack market and technological linkages, and are prone to crop depredation by wild animals. Due to limited livelihood options, youth migrate out of the state in search of work. Additionally, since most of the secondary and tertiary sectors’ economic activities are in plains, there is a strong regional imbalance leading to inequitable development in the state. These issues highlight the acute need to adopt a holistic development model that not only ensures economic viability, but also safeguards environmental sustainability in order to reduce the risk of climate change.
To tackle these challenges, SBI Foundation has designed a project in collaboration with Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation (HESCO) that aims to promote equitable economic and ecological development in 10 disaster-prone villages in the Joshimath Block of Chamoli District. The project aims to achieve this crucial balance by promoting diversified livelihoods, including horticulture, ecotourism, bio farming, agriculture, and environmental protection measures, such as construction of check dams, protection walls, and water holes, to mitigate the risk of climate change. The ‘Climate Resilient Livelihoods for Disaster Prone Region of Uttarakhand‘ project is receiving funding support from SBI General Insurance Company Limited and will be implemented over a period of 3 years, until May 2025.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister launches SBI Foundation’s Livelihood Project for 10 villages of Chamoli District
The project was inaugurated by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. Speaking at the Dehradun event, he shared “I am happy that HESCO, SBI Foundation and SBI General Insurance have come together to build and pilot a climate resilient livelihood model in 10 vulnerable villages of the disaster prone Chamoli district. I am confident that this robust model that integrates environmental, economic and social sustainability will be scaled up further to reach more such vulnerable villages across the Himalayan landscape.”
Dr. Anil Joshi, Founder – HESCO & Padma Bhushan Awardee emphasised on the urgent need to ensure preparedness at the local level to combat climate change. “I am confident that through this unique project’s structured interventions, we can not only sensitize and empower the local communities in the 10 remote villages but also build their resilience to overcome the ill effects of climate change,” he said.
Mr. Lalit Mohan, President and COO, SBI Foundation stressed upon the foundation’s commitment to contribute to India’s sustainable and equitable economic growth by developing holistic and innovative models that build the resilience of vulnerable communities. “Our project with HESCO has been designed to address the 3 core pillars of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental resilience. It is our hope that this project will be an important milestone in the state’s journey towards climate resilient development,” he stated.
Mr. Anand Pejawar, Whole-time Director, SBI General Insurance, said, “Being an insurer, we at SBI General certainly understand the criticalities of the situation caused due to natural catastrophes, and we strive to support lives, property and businesses through our insurance solutions. Taking this commitment, a step further and being a responsible corporate, SBI General recognizes and understands the need to extend support to those impacted by natural catastrophes through its initiatives under the CSR umbrella as well.”
Officials from SBI Foundation, SBI General Insurance & HESCO with members of the beneficiary communities at the launch event
The launch ceremony was also attended by Mr. Digvijay Singh Rawat, General Manager – SBI, Mr. R.K Singh, Deputy General Manager – SBI, Ms. Shefali Khalsa, Head, Brand & Corporate Communications – SBI General Insurance, Mr. Aman Bhaiya, Asst. Vice President & Program Head – SBI Foundation, other officials from the stakeholder organisations, as well as members of the beneficiary communities.