According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, India is the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change impact. The World Meteorological Organization in its State of the Climate in Asia Report 2020 estimated an average annual economic loss of $87 billion in India due to nine extreme weather events triggered by climate change. Apart from affecting livelihoods, these extreme weather events are uprooting lives and leading to displacements. A recent Global Report on Internal Displacement by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) finds that natural disasters, heavy floods and cyclones have internally displaced 2.5 million people in India in 2022.
UNICEF’s publication ‘The Challenges of Climate Change’ states that children are on the front line and among the greatest victims of a warming world. A recent study by Banaras Hindu University and Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi, which was undertaken from 2017-2020 with a cohort of 461 children under 16 years of age in Varanasi, established that climate parameters like temperature, humidity, rainfall, solar radiation and wind speed accounted for 9-18% of the total infectious disease cases. Whereas, upper respiratory tract infection (like cold and flu) and gastrointestinal infections constitute 78% of the disease burden. It also stated that if this is not dealt with wisely, present and future generations of children will continue to bear an unacceptably high disease burden from climate change. Not just that, a global study revealed that climate anxiety affects the daily life of nearly half of young people. The research, carried out by the University of Bath, was based on surveys of 10,000 young people across 10 countries – 75% of respondents said they believe “the future is frightening”.
Climate change is a reality and to mitigate its risks and prepare the future generations for it, Dettol has undertaken the project of building Climate Resilient Schools in India over the next few years. The mission is to create a cadre of environmentally conscious children who will act as catalyst in creating climate-resilient schools and communities. The project goals will integrate the objectives of Mission LiFE initiative announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.
About Climate Resilient Schools
A Climate Resilient model school will focus on introducing climate-friendly technologies as part of the school infrastructure and will develop an action based climate change curriculum to ensure various aspects of climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience building are encompassed.
Proposed Retrofit Measures
1. Energy-efficient lighting and fans will be retrofitted
2. Solar panels will be installed to enable the school meet its energy requirement for school’s electrical equipment and appliances
3. Battery backup system will store energy sufficient to cater to the power requirement of the school in case of power cuts
4. Low flow water fixtures will include low-flow flush, lavatory and kitchen faucets resulting in significant reduction in water consumption
5. Water meters will be installed to allow the school monitor and identify areas of high consumption and implement measures to reduce consumption
6. Energy meter will allow the school to monitor real time data of energy consumption of each building in the school
7. Waste segregation will enable composting of wet waste in the school
1. Integration of flora will strengthen local biodiversity
2. Reduced energy consumption and lower electricity bills
3. Cost savings for energy requirements
4. Reduced carbon footprint of schools, contributing state’s efforts to mitigate climate change.
5. Increased resiliency of schools to natural disasters and extreme weather events
6. Awareness and hands on education on sustainable living for a sustainable future
The Need For Climate Resilient Schools
Climate change is happening, the world is still on a path to a temperature rise of above 2 degree Celsius. However grim the situation might seem to be, a lot can be done to mitigate and adapt to the warming climate and place measures to protect the planet from the everyday effects of climate change.
The National Education Policy (Government of India) emphasizes the need to develop schools as places for holistic development and social change, and highlights the integration of climate change curriculum, including environmental awareness, as crucial for students to become successful and productive in today’s rapidly changing world. Recent research shows that nearly 19 gigaton reduction of carbon dioxide would be achieved by 2050 in high and middle income countries if 16 percent of high school students received climate change education. This indicates that leveraging the power of education is potentially more powerful.
It has also been very well established that more the children know, the more likely it is that they will adapt their behaviour to avert the climate crisis and build resilience.
The intervention designed for Dettol India’s Climate Resilient Schools project recognizes the threat of climate change to ensure a healthy life and well-being of future generations. The project aims to develop a sustainable school environment that reduces its carbon footprint, enhances energy efficiency, and promotes awareness and education about climate change among students, teachers, and the community. By doing so, the project seeks to empower the next generation to take collective action towards building a sustainable and resilient future.
Talking about the Dettol India’s project, Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs & Partnerships, SOA, Reckitt said, Young people need both a strong knowledge base around the causes of a warming climate but also a strong set of skills that will allow them to apply their knowledge in the real world, including problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, coping with uncertainty, empathy, and negotiation.
The project first will be implemented in three phases, starting this year till 2025. It will cover all 13 districts of Uttarakhand. Here is a phase-wise coverage of the 13 districts:
Year 1 – 3 districts: Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag & Chamoli
Year 2 – 4 districts: Champawat, Udham Singh Nagar, Dehradun, Haridwar
Year 3 – 6 districts: Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Almora, Nainital, Tehri & Paur
Why Uttarakhand Is Chosen State For Dettol’s Climate Resilient Schools?
The reason why Dettol has chosen the state of Uttarakhand is because the state is specifically vulnerable to climate change owing to geological reasons like melting glaciers, increased population pressure, over-exploitation of natural resources, unchecked planning in the name of development etc. According to an analysis released by the Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in 2021, 85% of the districts in Uttarakhand are hotspots for extreme floods and associated events. The state has registered 7,750 extreme rainfall events and cloud bursts since 2015, which has increased fourfold since 1970.
The Himalayan state is also known for its high seismic vulnerability. The 13 districts of the state fall under high earthquake-risk region. As per a seismic vulnerability assessment of educational infrastructure in Uttarakhand (part of a World Bank project in 2019) 50.15% of the total state-owned school buildings would go non-functional after a major earthquake incident. The study highlights the issue of non-compliance with seismic safety codes and engineering norms and the lack of maintenance of school buildings.
Therefore, owing to the high sensitivity of Uttarakhand to climatic disasters it is important to analyse its effect on children’s education and plan Climate Resilient initiatives like Climate Resilient schools. This will help mitigate climate change effects and create leaders of tomorrow, who will help protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity.