Janaagraha – Unlocking Environment Governance in India’s cities and towns


Here comes our very first post on Grove, beginning with setting quick context and background.

About Janaagraha

With a vision of transforming the quality of life in India’s cities and towns, Janaagraha has been working for over 20 years with citizens and governments to improve the quality of Citizenship and the quality of Infrastructure & Services.

Empowering the city-level institutions is at the heart of our mission. Strengthening of local governance and active community participation have driven multiple strands of work over the last 20 years. Our theory of change can be best summarised through our city systems framework and its four key components – Urban Planning and Design; Urban Capacities and Resources, Empowered and Legitimate Political Representation and; Transparency, Accountability and Participation. We shall be elucidating these components moving forward from our learnings and work as we firmly believe all the problems faced by our cities, are rooted in one or more of the City-Systems components.

Our work with Rainmatter Foundation

With our collaboration with Rainmatter Foundation, Janaagraha began its deep dive into applying the systemic lens we’ve developed over the two decades on issues specific to environmental governance and working towards localisation of climate action and environment sustainability in urban India.

Our key stakeholders are local governance institutions and communities. Advocacy and policy reforms are a critical tool and strand of work that we work for strengthening local governance and enabling community participation.

Highlights and reflections from 2023 will be posted soon. Looking forward to engaging with the community on Grove!

Looking back on the year – Highlights from Localising Climate Action Roundtable

In our largest event yet, as part of the 6th Annual Conclave co-hosted by Janaagraha and Rainmatter Foundation, the roundtable for Localising Climate Action in India’s cities and towns, we were able to bring together 50+ sectoral experts and stakeholders to discuss a shared vision of localised climate action in Indian cities.

The following insights stood out from the roundtable:

The “Climate” Narrative: There was an emphasis and agreement on the significance of “climate” and climate action beyond just net zero emissions. There is a need for stakeholders, including levels of government to expand their climate vocabulary to include the interconnection with livelihoods, public health, ecosystem services, natural resources, basic service delivery and more. Furthermore, the criticality of educating citizens and communities on how climate affects them on a daily basis and orienting elected representatives and government officials on applying the climate lens across their functions, and not in isolation was also discussed.

Strengthening Local Governance: Local governments have a key role to play in enabling, facilitating and implementing localised climate action. Strengthening local governments must begin with building the capacities of city officials and departments to carry out these tasks. Governance of data at the city level to enable decision-making and for monitoring and evaluation of actions is another key technical capacity that is yet to be developed across city governments. Governance should also include elected representatives and providing training and sensitisation on localised climate action and participatory mechanisms that they can undertake.

Hyperlocal Action: In our shared visions of localised climate action, there was recognition of how the localisation ideally does not just end at the city level. There is merit and consensus that it is more than just an urban centre and in fact, community engagement and planning are essential at the hyperlocal level. This can be neighbourhoods or wards and via platforms such as RWAs, ward committees, or area sabhas.

Holistic Approach – Balancing Top-down and Bottom-up Actions and Initiatives: There was major agreement on enabling bottom-up governance through policies and other government initiatives. Top-down and bottom-up approaches are to go hand in hand and the balance is critical for effective climate action across levels of government. Union and state laws, policies and initiatives are critical, but they should concur with the principles of place-based governance and enable city governments to plan for climate action locally and actively engage communities in the decision-making processes.

Disproportionate Impacts, Vulnerability and Understanding of Intersectionality: Across the board, there was consensus on recognising barriers, vulnerabilities and marginalisation and how that aggravates the climate impacts experienced by various groups and communities. Failing to acknowledge and recognise the disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups and communities will inevitably undo any progress we make. Our efforts, be they policy-based, action-based, sectoral, systems-based, or technology-based will remain ineffective without the intersectional lens on the effect of the same on people and communities.

Empowering Communities – Knowledge, Participation, Accountability: In the shared visions of localising climate action, across the room, active community participation was emphasised. The nuances of understanding what this active participation looks like are linked to the lenses used to understand current barriers faced by communities. This may start with including something as basic as providing information and educating communities on climate action and planning undertaken and setting the expectations for what and who they can hold accountable for it. Additionally, understanding how to effectively develop/design participation at the local level, across sectors and types of initiatives and planning.

Acknowledging Interconnections: All efforts and impacts of climate action interplay with and critically link to other sectors such as livelihoods, public health (including mental health), urban planning and design, city infrastructure, food security, technology, natural resource management, etc. Furthermore, a key factor that needs to be considered across intersections and diverse initiatives is ensuring that these efforts are planned and designed with a future orientation.

Collaboration: There was unanimous excitement for the potential for collaboration with other participants identifying synergies, creating shared resources and working together at intersections, specific sectors and specific geographies. Dialogue and active sharing within the sector are important to avoid repetition of efforts and include diverse perspectives.

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