India is projected to face severe water challenges as a result of climate change. With a large population tied closely to natural resources, this will undermine human development in several ways. The hills in north-eastern India, representing one of the least developed regions of the country, have already been exposed to climate change impacts. Once known to be one of the wettest places of the world, access to water for domestic as well as productive uses is becoming increasingly difficult.
Gendered impact of these problems is evident as women and children (notably girls) face increasing difficulties in procuring water for domestic use. While earlier enough water used to be available in the vicinity of the village settlement for a greater part of the year, now the situation stands reversed, thereby enhancing their vulnerability in water-procuring tasks, with serious negative implications for their health and economic well-being and development, besides hindering children’s education.
A number of innovative local strategies are being adopted to address these challenges on the basis of traditional knowledge and technology. For example, women and children venture further and further down the hillslopes in search of new water sources. Another example is community tanks for storing rainwater to be used in the dry season. Roof-top rainwater harvesting is yet another traditionally designed strategy. However given the constraints of context and resources, only some of these innovative strategies turn out to be sustainable that can really help women adapt to the increasing water stress. There is a need to think more deeply on these local options & support women (as well as men) in developing more sustainable adaptive strategies based on their traditional knowledge & experiences. The proposed presentation will discuss the empirical findings of an in-depth field-based participatory research conducted in the region, which will help enhance knowledge and understanding for guiding policy on the issue in the context of hilly and mountainous regions.
Conference on 'Gender & Climate Change: Women , Research & Action', Prato, Italy,15-16 September, 2011