Interview with Samrat Deb, State Climate Fellow, Tripura
Tell us about your work as a State Climate Fellow in Tripura. What are the most exciting aspects of work you are involved with?
I’m currently engaged with the Directorate of Biotechnology under the Department of Science and Technology, Tripura. The project that I’m working on is an ambitious pilot initiative of the government called “Bio-Village”. In Tripura, close to 75% of the population rely on agriculture and the allied sector. The bio-village concept was first introduced by the Directorate of Biotechnology in 2018 with the primary objective of promoting organic farming, and delivering sustainable development. Since then, the project’s scope has broadened to include components such as biogas, improved breed of livestock, solar equipment and energy-saving electrical gadgets.
My primary role has been to improve the project’s design, to make it climate-smart, and to be a flag-bearer for the state’s climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. I’m also working to climate-proof other policies and schemes of the state government.
I’m most excited at the opportunity to interact and brainstorm with the top bureaucrats of the state and to understand how public policy design works at the field level, especially to address issues like climate change.
What unique opportunities does Tripura present in terms of climate action work? What are your biggest challenges?
Tripura has the potential to become the “Gateway to South-East Asia” and can play a significant role in the Government of India’s Act East policy. The state’s economy is largely driven by the primary agricultural sector. More than 96% of farmers are small and marginal farmers. Apart from agriculture, Tripura is blessed with a rich diversity of natural resources – it’s one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. This offers a unique opportunity for climate action. Due to its crucial geopolitical position, the state has the potential to act as a bridge between India and Bangladesh for joint action on climate change issues.
I think more focus needs to be placed on strengthening the primary agriculture sector, engaging in cross-border actions to address climate issues, and promoting local-level adaptation and mitigation actions, rather than standardised actions.
In terms of challenges, I think the biggest one is the lack of acceptance of the fact that climate change is real, and it’s impacting everyone’s day-to-day life. I think the first step should be to sensitise people about the severity of the issue. We will then face the challenge of uniting all stakeholders under one agenda, to come up with a conclusive decision.
As a young professional, how has your experience been working on climate action at the subnational level with the government?
Although climate change is a broad and global issue, it’s local and subnational level interventions that matter when addressing it. In a vast country like India, I think that subnational government intervention holds the key. Getting an opportunity to work with one such, is a unique experience in itself. This has not only taught me how the government operates at this level, but also how passionately officials work towards making their policies effective. They do this by coordinating effectively with ground-level officials - driving analysis and developing proper solutions.
However, I have experienced limitations – particularly relating to people’s knowledge, attitude and practice towards climate change issues. Most people have the knowledge about climate change issues, and in most cases, have the right attitude as well. However in practice, they act in a way that is unhelpful towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. We need to positively align knowledge, attitudes and practices to tackle the issue.
How do you think your fellowship is contributing towards Tripura’s subnational climate action goals?
As a State Climate Fellow, I’m mostly working on designing and redesigning policies to make them climate neutral in the long term. I’m currently working on the Bio-Village project with the Directorate of Biotechnology, where I’m looking at each of the project’s components to ensure they offer efficient adaptation and mitigation measures. My work is used to climate proof the project in the short-term and strengthen its components in the long-term.
Alongside this, I’m also engaged in various capacity-building initiatives. I’ve had the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise through different state-level workshops. In one of these events, I met with government school teachers. We spoke about the small steps that can be taken at the school level by the authorities and the students to address broader issues, like climate change. I also delivered a workshop to college professors, using a similar approach of knowledge sharing and discussions to look at college-level interventions.
Overall, my fellowship is helping to instill climate mitigation and adaptation principles across various government projects, helping to broaden the overall climate action goals of the state.
How has your journey of learning been so far and what do you look forward to as a State Climate Fellow working on subnational action on climate in India?
In the last few months of this fellowship, I’ve gained immense knowledge. The way policies and schemes are being designed at the higher level - by taking inputs from the ground zero level - is something which I admire the most. The most significant learning for me has been around stakeholder engagement, particularly in terms of how to unite different stakeholders on one common goal.
I look forward to becoming more proficient in stakeholder engagement, particularly to educate and convince people about the broader climate change picture. I think this is vital in taking collaborative action. My next goal is to take the Bio-Village concept to the national level, so more states can use it to advance socio-economic development across their rural communities.
Lastly, I want to contribute more to youth capacity building across the state, to make this generation climate sensitive. And I would like to design a policy to promote entrepreneurship and business across the state, with a focus on climate-friendly models.