A national workshop in its study has concluded that MGNREGS is generating multiple environmental and socio-economic benefits, leading to improved water availability and soil fertility resulting in increased crop production. It said that increased area under plantations and orchards potentially contribute to alternate incomes, increased employment generation and reduced migration. Further the implementation of MGNREGS works has contributed to reducing vulnerability to climate risks.
A synthesis report on Environmental benefits and vulnerability reduction through Mahatma Gandhi NREGS was launched here by the Minister of Rural Development Shri Jairam Ramesh.The report is the study of environmental benefits accrued under MGNREGS in 10 villages each in the districts of Medak (Andhra Pradesh), Chitradurga (Karnataka),Dhar (Madhya Pradesh) and Bhilwara (Rajasthan), involving 2057 direct beneficiary households impacted by MGNREGS assets. Also, a case study of 5 villages in South District (Sikkim) with same objectives was separately reported.
The synthesis report was prepared by Indian Institute of Science (IISc, Bangalore) in collaboration with Ministry of Rural Development and German Development Cooperation and is based on the five state studies conducted by different institutions. Sh airam Ramesh complimented the study team for the relevance of the study findings, based on scientific methods including bio-physical measurements of the effects of MGNREGA works on the environment.
He also pointed out that the study findings and the new Indo-German bilateral project will contribute to sustainable development in rural areas. This will gain importance in an era of transition from Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). He remarked that SDG for India is a matter of livelihoods and this project can contribute to sustaining livelihood security.
The major results of the study are as follows;
- Under MGNREGS, bulk of the works (about 80%) implemented in the 4 study districts are linked to natural resources such as surface water, ground water, cropland and wastelands including forestry.
- Works such as check dams, percolation tanks and desilting of water bodies have contributed to increased ground water levels, increasing the area irrigated by borewells and open wells in the range of 0.2 to 57 ha in the studied villages.
- Several MGNREGS works have contributed to an increase in crop yields in 30 of the 40 study villages in the range of 46 to 100% across districts and crops.
- Works pertaining to surface water harvesting like desilting of water bodies and check dam construction has resulted in increase in area under irrigation between 0.5 and 58 ha in 21 out of 30 study villages in the districts of Chitradurga, Bhilwara and Dhar.
- Increase in Soil Organic Matter, an indicator of soil fertility, was recorded in 72% of 899 beneficiary sample plots, as compared to control plots not subjected to MGNREGS works.
- A reduction in soil erosion was estimated in 82% of 779 beneficiary sample plots, as compared to control plots, potentially increasing soil and crop productivity.
- In study villages of Chitradurga, Bhilwara and Medak, previously uncultivable land is now cultivated due to implementation of land development works. The range of such land brought under cultivation is from 0.9 16.9%.
- In 31 of the 40 study villages, forest and fruit yielding tree species have been planted.
- The average number of days of employment (direct and indirect) increased in all the 40 study villages by 34 to 73%.
- Migration of landless or unskilled laborers has reduced in 29 out of 40 villages (by 8% to 100%) due to increased employment availability locally in the villages as a result of MGNREGS implementation.
Overall the study concludes that MGNREGS works have contributed to improving Adaptive Capacity of the beneficiaries and Reducing their Vulnerability to Climate Risks.
The major recommendations of the study include the following;
- Enhance capacity of Gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas for decision-making and monitoring MGNREGS works™ implementation & assets created. There is a need for generation and access to information and knowledge to enable informed decision-making.
- Harness MGNREGS works for vulnerability reduction to climate risks and main-stream adaptation to climate change in the MGNREGS works by focusing on conservation and restoration of natural resources; soil, water, forests and grasslands.
Building on recommendations of the study carried out in five states, the joint MoRD / GIZ project will focus on strengthening core processes of MGNREGA relevant for generating environmental benefits, including planning, technical implementation of MGNREGA works, monitoring and asset maintenance. The five intervention areas of the project are:
– Awareness creation on environmental benefits
– Capacity building and training
– Showcasing technically sound MGNREGA works & Climate Proofing
– Monitoring of environmental impacts
– Maintenance of MGNREGA works
In the three selected partner states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, best practices will be evolved and show-cased at demonstration sites, to be mainstreamed into MGNREGA processes at state and national level.