With a 720 km coastline and 750 km of mountain ranges, Maharashtra is also the most industrialized and the second most populated state in India. Since 1960, the state has seen a population growth of 216% taking the total to 112 million with 45.23% of them concentrated in urban areas, almost double in comparison with 1960. This has given rise to fast-growing industrialization, increasing number of factories, and resulting in high levels of contamination. As a consequence, the State of Maharastra is at the fore of climate impacts.
Thus, the regional government is taking action and raising ambitions aimed at building resilience for the most vulnerable communities. Recently, Maharastra State has joined Regions4’s flagship initiative, RegionsAdapt, which works closely with regional governments to catalyse ambitions and develop and implement innovative adaptation solutions through capacity building and annual reporting. Since 2021, RegionsAdapt is an official partner of the UN-led campaign Race to Resilience and brings the commitments and contributions of 76 regional governments impacting over 300 million people, to catalyse a step-change in global ambition for climate resilience by 2030, putting people and nature first.
Aditya Thackeray, Minister of Tourism and Environment for the Government of Maharastra, participated actively at COP26 and confirmed their commitments to develop, implement, report, and improve the impact of their resilient actions and adaptation plans: “Maharastra is achievingits climate ambitions through the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns.”
The state’s climate change mitigation and adaptation programs aim to build resilience and a culture of climate action across sectors, as he confirmed at COP26, during the Cities, Regions & the Built Environment Day: “Climate action is no longer confined to Environment Departments. We need multilevel, multilateral deep collaboration within governments, partners organizations and citizens.”
The Majhi Vasundhara intitiative – My Earth Mission in English – is proof of that. The project started a year ago intending to achieve climate resilience in the state through six flagship initiatives that bring together local administrations, businesses, NGOs, and citizens of all age groups to enable climate action amongst all stakeholders. The six initiatives are aimed at raising climate literacy and awareness in the state, capacity building, supporting new and innovative technologies for climate adaptation and mitigation, and imparting green values to future generations.
The guiding principles of this program are the five elements of nature, prevailing in Indian culture – Earth, Air, Water, Energy, and Akash. This holistic approach aims to ensure the sustainable development of the state. Akash, the home of potential and possibility, is one of the five elements, which is focused on raising awareness of the general public about climate change and mitigation practices, that will help to achieve Maharashtra’s goal of going beyond systemic actions and living a sustainable lifestyle.
Together, these elements address the issues of: biodiversity, waste management, water conservation, renewable energy adoption, air quality monitoring, electric vehicle (EV) adoption, green building measures, energy conservation, and creating awareness among citizens.
Through the program, the local bodies are driven to implement progressive climate action which is driven by performance incentives. After its first year, the initiative had already awarded USD 7.4 million amongst all local bodies and the lessons learnt and experience have been incorporated into a toolkit for the program extension to 3500 + local bodies, representing almost the state’s entire population.
The initiative Majhi Vasundhara Abhiyan allowed saving 11.145 million litres of water in its first year of operation, the equivalent of one day of water supply in the state. It also registered a decrease of 370.978 tons of carbon emissions dioxide, representing the absorption of CO2 by 17 million fully grown trees. Water conservation measures included the installation of 5.774 rainwater collecting facilities, the construction of 1.455 extra rainwater percolation pits, and the cleaning of 775 water bodies.
In terms of electrification, 12.23 lakh LED lights and 70,000 solar lights were erected, as well as 736 biogas plants and 701 solar pumps in Maharashtra’s rural districts. So far, 130 green buildings have been certified, with 104 electric vehicle charging stations installed.
The program has evolved from a campaign gathering a total of 14 million people over the world, to a large-scale monitoring and evaluation framework to implement and measure the impact of multiple state and departmental policies like the Electric Vehicle Policy, the Tree Act, and other policies at all levels of government.
The Majhi Vasundhara Curriculum, which strives to raise climate literacy and awareness in the state, also aspires to instil climate-conscious and green ideals in the next generation of young minds. With a blend of traditional and local knowledge, the project aims to foster application-based understanding on concerns such as climate change in kids from grades 1 to 8. The MV Curriculum helps create an awareness of the natural ecosystem via projects and activities, moving away from the prevalent informational learning method. Biodiversity conservation, solid waste management – personal and community health, water resource management, and energy, air pollution, and climate change are the four themes of this curriculum.
Maharashtra is striving to establish a climate-resilient state by inspiring climate action with a whole-society approach: districts, local, and hyperlocal levels through Majhi Vasundhara, RegionsAdapt, and the Race to Resilience.