India

Planting trees, managing plastic waste helping this Kerala village to become carbon-neutral

Planting trees, managing plastic waste helping this Kerala village to become carbon-neutral
A plastic waste shredding unit in Meenangadi, Kerala. (Express)

Months after countries adopted the Paris Agreement of 2015 to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming, a self-governing civic body in Kerala’s Wayanad district wanted to set an example for community-based climate change adaptation initiative. Bouts of drought for successive years prompted Meenagnadi village panchayat to go for carbon-neutral village, an experimental intervention to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The carbon-neutral Meenangadi project that began in 2016 has gained momentum over past three years and involved several initiatives. Over two lakh tree saplings have been planted and nursed to provide green cover to several patches of barren land; plastic waste is being collected, shredded and used for road surface work; traditional firewood kitchen stoves are being replaced with lower-emission stoves; and households are being paid annuity for growing trees.

Meenangadi is on the long path to become a first carbon-neutral village, which will eventually lead to Wayanad becoming the first such district in the country.

Says panchayat president Beena Vijayan, “climate change had reduced the yield from agriculture in the district. Hence, we were mulling to change our approach towards development. When the state government wanted local bodies to take up projects to tackle climate change, we took the initiative to make the village carbon-neutral”.

The panchayat roped in the expertise of several institutions — such as M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Thanal (an NGO), IISc (Bengaluru), IIT-Delhi and the Government Engineering College (Kannur) — to analyse the greenhouse gas emissions and evolve steps to reduce them.

An emission audit conducted by Thanal, based in Thiruvananthapuram, found carbon equivalent of 14,500 tonnes (including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane) had to be balanced in Meengangadi. As carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, expert agencies designed strategies for the local civic body.

A major step was to increase the green cover in the region. Planting and upkeep of the new trees was paid out of MGNREGA funds.