UN & Sustainable Development

FAO: Organic Agriculture & Biodiversity 1

After half a century of high intensive input agriculture, the yield gap between best practices and farmers’ fields remains large, agricultural lands continue to shrink and global environmental threats are a reality, e.g. erosion of biodiversity, desertification, climate change and other trans-boundary pollution. Agriculture intensification contributes to over 20 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural activities affect 70 percent of all threatened bird species and 49 percent of all plant species. Uniform cultures have dramatically reduced the number of plants and animals used in agriculture; currently, 1 350 breeds face extinction, with two breeds being lost each week. Biodiversity erosion is exacerbated by the loss of forest cover, coastal wetlands and other wild relatives, important for the development of biodiversity and essential for food provision, particularly in times of crisis.

Hunger. Despite FAO’s and other institutions’ efforts for global food security, the benefits of increased agricultural production often bypass the poorest sections of the world population. Over 450 million farmers have never had access to Green Revolution technologies such as mechanization, irrigation, improved seeds and breeds, and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The World Food Summit stressed that hunger is a problem of access to means of food production or means to purchase food.

Dependence. Although agriculture remains the world’s single largest employer, rural economies suffer from sharp decline in real food prices and loss of entrepreneurial capacity. The terms of international exchange favour importations at the expense of local production. Developing countries, which traditionally have had a net surplus in agricultural trade, increasingly depend on food imports. The conventional food production model ties farmers into conditions of dependence on large corporations to buy agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) and to sell their produce.

The need for a paradigm shift

Nature conservation. Protecting biodiversity at genes, species and ecosystem levels through germplasm banks and protected areas is not sufficient. The maintenance costs of gene banks are high, up to half of the material collected is in need of regeneration, and “freezing” genetic resources denies their evolution. Biodiversity is best maintained through sustainable utilization and selection by food providers. Animals move across boundaries and ecosystems are not immune to air and water pollution. The 12 percent of global land areas “fenced” for nature protection are located within or around a 40 percent land surface used by agriculture and forestry. Food systems should be viewed as an integral part of the ecosystem.

Rural livelihoods. Rural communities need land to derive livelihoods. National parks and protected areas have always had local culture as components of the landscape. Ecotourism management by local residents generates supplementary income for both management of protected areas and rural livelihoods. Agritourism creates new opportunities for farm employment, specialty foods and safe agro-ecosystems. There is a need to reconnect farmers to the land by linking their productive activities with nature conservation. A symbiotic relationship between agriculture and natural landscape exists in the presence of ecologically managed systems.

Food self-reliance. Poor farmers and market-marginalized communities need a food production model that relies on local natural resources and ecological management. Where food surpluses are generated, markets should guarantee “fair” prices. Managing local resources without having to rely on external inputs involves substituting purchased (private) goods by (public) knowledge of natural processes that optimize competition for nutrients and space between species within the agro-ecosystem. By stressing diversification and adaptive management, agricultural systems can improve soil and water quality and the ecological services that support agriculture, while significantly decreasing vulnerability to weather vagaries or other factors.

Organic agriculture and biodiversity

Organic agriculture offers a means to address food self-reliance, rural development and nature conservation. The common thread in this ambitious goal is the sustainable use of biodiversity; in terms of both agriculture contribution to biodiversity and biodiversity contribution to agriculture.

In organic agriculture, biodiversity is both instrument and aim. Natural ecological balance, below and above ground, is key to its success. A healthy soil is the base for food production and a diversity of plants and animals on land prevents pest and disease outbreaks. Soils contain enormous numbers of diverse living organisms assembled in complex and varied communities. Soil biodiversity reflects the variability among living organisms in the soil – ranging from the myriad of invisible microbes, bacteria and fungi to the more familiar macro-fauna such as earthworms and termites. Plant roots can also be considered as soil organisms in view of their symbiotic relationships and interactions with other soil components. These diverse organisms interact with one another and with the various plants and animals in the ecosystem, forming a complex web of biological activity. Environmental factors, such as temperature, moisture and acidity, as well as anthropogenic actions, in particular, agricultural and forestry management practices, affect to different extents soil biological communities and their functions.

FARMING SYSTEM FOOD CHAIN:

There are several hundred millions of small farmers in the world who do not have the economic means to buy high yielding seeds or the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides necessary for conventional cultivation. Many of these have opted for the maintenance or re-introduction of organic systems based on traditional forms of agriculture. These promote the use of varieties and breeds that are better adapted to local stress conditions and do not require unavailable inputs

There are also farmers who have opted for organic agriculture, in part because they wish to produce healthy and environmentally-friendly food, and also because they are attracted by the strong demand for organic products and the related premium prices. Market driven farmers should, as a minimum, rotate crops as the first step towards improving agricultural biodiversity. This is one of the methods required by organic certification bodies as well as by financial programmes. These farmers have also opted for sowing locally-adapted species and varieties that are more resistant to diseases and local environmental conditions because synthetic fertilizers and pesticides cannot be relied upon.

The adoption of organic agriculture methods requires farmers to follow a series of agronomic practices (e.g. crop rotations, crop associations, green manure and maintenance of vegetation between rows) that make organically managed systems biologically much more complex than conventionally managed systems. Organic farms make use of larger numbers of plant and animal species than conventional systems. As a result, the large pool of genetic resources for food is maintained and other useful organisms, such as predators, pollinators and soil micro-organisms are increased – for the very benefit of the agricultural system.

The continued cultivation of crop species within their centres of diversity plays a fundamental role in the maintenance of genetic diversity. Preserving the integrity of centres of diversity through ecologically-sound agriculture is an indispensable inheritance for agriculture and as such, for food security for future generations. It is the genetic variability that allows populations to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

In the past, agriculture has played an important role in the maintenance of genetic diversity. The substitution of a large quantity of species for only a few and the adoption of high yielding and uniform varieties from a genetic point of view, has caused a significant reduction in the genetic inheritance of cultivated species. Many agricultural species, varieties and breeds which have played an important role in the human diet and traditional cultures have practically disappeared over the last century. Organic farmers breed varieties for quality, nutrition, resistance and yield, in reduced input growing conditions. In particular, open pollinated varieties and indigenous breeds offer diverse and regionally adapted characteristics that are better suited to organic agriculture.

THE ECOSYSTEM FOOD CHAIN: WILDLIFE BIODIVERSITY

According to the IUCN Red List of 2000, approximately 70 percent of all endangered species of birds and 49 percent of all plant species are spoiled by agricultural activities and approximately 25 percent of the world’s wild animals and plants is running the risk of extinction by the middle of this century.

Agricultural productivity depends upon the maintenance of ecological balances and the natural properties of plants and animals. The fundamental role of maintaining (or restoring) biodiversity is demonstrated through ecological services such as pollination of crops, predation for biological control of pests, micro-organisms’ maintenance of soil fertility and other services vital to the food web.

On the other hand, agriculture has the same important role in wildlife conservation, provided it avoids the use of substances (e.g. pesticides) that could have a harmful effect on natural species and maintains food and shelter through a diversified landscape and permanent vegetation (e.g. trees, hedges and fields margins). Finally, a type of land use that provides suitable biological corridors is essential for wildlife conservation.

Nature conservation has traditionally consisted of geographically targeted efforts. While this approach has resulted in a number of successes for rare species or key locations, worrying declines of protected species have occurred. A healthy environment is a prime objective for the conservation of vital terrestrial ecosystems and the wildlife in it. Natural faunal and floral species have strong connections with agriculture, whatever their habitats are, especially as agricultural fields occupy much of the earth’s land surface.

There is no doubt that farmers are the most important managers of natural resources. Several studies indicate that organic agriculture safeguards non-agricultural biodiversity and offers a viable alternative in protected area categories where human activities are allowed. Most importantly, the huge land surface surrounding protected areas requires an agro-ecosystem management that preserves the safety and integrity of the landscape

Organic agriculture enhances people’s ability to live in harmony with nature and to derive economic benefit from their land. Considering that most protected areas traditionally belonged to local villagers, organic agriculture allows local people to maintain some control over their land, protect land and biodiversity through their farming practices, reap its benefits for themselves and, at the same time, conserve and improve the natural environment.

CONCLUSIONS

Farmers and forest dwellers are the main users and managers of the earth’s natural resources. Land management, including its domesticated and wild biodiversity, relies on agricultural activities that build self-regenerating food systems. The sustainable management of farms and the appropriate agricultural and environmental policies have a great responsibility with regards to the linkages between agriculture and nature conservation.

Meeting food needs while protecting the natural heritage is a challenge shared by all countries of the planet. Organic agriculture can meet this challenge head-on by:

* promoting market-based incentives that compensate farmers for their stewardship efforts, thus maintaining their economic viability;

* replacing polluting agricultural practices with approaches that can reverse the dramatic trends in biodiversity loss;

* thriving on community participation in land conservation.

Organic agriculture has demonstrated its ability to not only produce commodities but also to “produce” biodiversity at all levels. However, it is logical to assume that in wild areas, organic agriculture is a disturbance to natural habitats by the very fact of human intervention. In any case, it offers an important step towards a solution to many of the threats that conventional agriculture has on biodiversity. Organic agriculture should be considered simply as the most appropriate starting point from which additional conservation needs, where they exist, can be built. Its widespread expansion would be a cost-efficient policy option for biodiversity. If organic agriculture is given the consideration it merits, it has the potential to transform agriculture as the main tool for nature conservation.

 

UNDP-supported livelihood based renewable energy interventions proposed for Kutch 2

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is planning to initiate a four-year project in the Kutch district of the State of Gujarat to promote productive uses of renewable energy technologies for supporting livelihoods of the vulnerable communities. The Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan, a network of non-governmental organizations will have the responsibility to implement the project with support from the Department of Rural Development of the Government of Gujarat. Abhiyan would catalyze the strengths of network partners from within the organizations and use external linkages with other NGOs working in renewable energy sector in other parts of the country, which would lead to accelerated use of renewable energy technologies.

There is an increasing understanding that disaster prone areas such as Kutch need to have decentralized basic services like drinking water, electricity, availability of food and fodder, as centralized systems tend to collapse in disasters. It is also economically prudent to service these remote, low density areas with renewable, stand alone energy systems. This model will demonstrate the possibility of reconstruction in the area of electrical energy and the energy based economic activities for livelihood generation immediately after any calamities in India or elsewhere.

The demand for renewable energy technologies by integrating energy and livelihoods would be central to the project design. The technological options and innovations would draw upon the experience gained from the national renewable energy programme. A preliminary study in the project area shows the viability of renewable energy applications for productive uses, particularly among the Dangas, (the fishermen living in islands in the ocean typically 3-5 kms away from main land), salt pan workers , farmers and handicrafts workers.

The overall strategy would be to develop institutional capacities at the grass root level to address livelihoods by adopting renewable energy for various productive applications. This would entail identifying ongoing development programmes with potential renewable energy applications for productive uses.

The project, which is under consideration of the Global Environment Facility for partial funding, would establish a network of service providers at the local level. The quality performance of renewable energy technologies would be ensured through these local capacities, which would provide timely support services including installation, operation and maintenance. Key strategic interventions for institutional capacity building would cover development of local entrepreneurs and service providers and upgrading skills towards integration of RE with end use systems.

The project would lead to setting up of Energy Knowledge Centres, which would trigger innovations in the area of energizing livelihoods. The project seeks to create opportunities for mainstreaming energy into livelihood strategies. Further, this Centre would act as a platform for assessing energy needs and planning for livelihood requirements. The establishment of Energy Knowledge Centre would serve as a base for project management and a vehicle for information dissemination leading to formulation of major renewable energy-based livelihoods projects.

 

UNESCO and Sustainable Development 3

As an international agency, UNESCO was one of the earliest to recognize and highlight the links between environmental conservation and socio-economic development. UNESCO, under its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, strives to apply the ecosystem approach for integrated management of land, water and biodiversity and promote conservation and sustainable use in an equitable manner. It tries to build institutional capacities and enhance the scientific and socio-cultural basis for an integrated approach to conservation and sustainable management of water and biodiversity.

Amidst growing global concern over the depletion of biodiversity through indiscriminate removal, UNESCO-New Delhi has undertaken several activities both through field-based studies and training programmes/workshops centred around sustainable rural development and sustainable management of natural resources through community participation. Main objectives of such workshops are capacity building of the participants and building better interaction between scientists and grassroots level NGOs.

In the South Asian countries, due to population pressure there are conflicts over natural resources. There is an urgent need for activities that can help diversify the economy, provide alternative livelihood opportunities for locals and promote biodiversity conversation _ promoting well planned ecotourism is one such way for providing and strengthening livelihood opportunities for local communities. In this context, UNESCO is organizing a South and Central Asian MAB (SACAM) Network Meeting of Experts from South and Central Asia with a focus on `Sustainable Ecotourism in Biosphere Reserves and Similarly Managed Areas’, which will be held in Zibakenar, Islamic Republic of Iran, from 25-28 September 2004, to promote sharing of knowledge, best practices and experiences for designing and management of sustainable eco-tourism in biosphere reserves and similarly managed areas.

In the Indian context, UNESCO-New Delhi, over the last few years, has built capacities in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve(NDBR), a World Heritage Site, for promoting conservation and sustainable use with the participation of the local communities. UNESCO, in recent times, supported a study for documenting best traditional practices for developing agro-techniques for potential medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) in the NDBR, and this `package of practice’ using MAPs developed by farmers and traditional societies was disseminated through farmer to farmer training jointly with the G.B. Pant Institute for Himalayan Environment and Development, Garhwal. Additionally, training courses for user groups were conducted with an aim to encourage potential farmers from the region to embark on large-scale MAPs cultivation. A documentary film “Invocations to the Mountain Goddess” has recently been produced by UNESCO, which used the Garhwal and the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve as a microcosm to look at some of the issues thrown up by UNESCO’s “Man and Biosphere” Programme, and explored possible ways of reconciling conservation priorities with the development needs of local communities in this area of high bio-diversity. It is hoped that through the film’s deliberation of these issues, conservation managers throughout the world will gain insights that will enable them to implement the goals of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme more effectively in their own social, economic and cultural contexts.

UNESCO has recently initiated jointly with the G.B. Pant Institute for Environment and Development, Garhwal, a pilot project on “Assessment and promotion of eco-tourism in the buffer zone areas of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve: An option to resolve policy-people conflict”. The aim of this project is to contribute to strengthening national capacity building of local communities for participation in local tourism development for income generation and for improving human-environment interactions in order to help reduce poverty and biodiversity loss. Another pilot project has recently been initiated with the Centre for Environmental Education, Lucknow, for conservation of non-timber forest product (NTFP) resources in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, using alternative media. This project will help identify, document and promote awareness of traditional knowledge and strengthen conservation of plant genetic resources in the wild, using alternative media, particularly among rural women, for strengthening their livelihoods.

Another very important multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional long-term research programme, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, USA is in the last phase of its execution. This project aims at finding a meaningful solution to the problem of shifting agriculture (jhum), linked with conservation of natural resources and sustainable livelihood of local communities in the State of Arunachal Pradesh. Work is underway for producing a documentary film on the Apatani Cultural Landscape in Arunachal Pradesh. It was felt that this initiative would be highly significant from the point of view of biodiversity conservation linked with sustainable development of the Apatani community, particularly, since the concept of cultural landscape is deeply embedded in the psyche of the people living in Arunachal Pradesh. Also, this concept of cultural landscape has immense potential for the promotion of eco-tourism in the region, as an additional option for development of the region as a whole.

Ford Foundation on “Land-Use Change, Watershed Services and SocioEconomic Impact in the Western Ghats Region

Given the background of humid tropics hydrology and Western Ghats IHP/UNESCO started a pilot project headed by Dr. Mike Bonell, Chief, Hydrological Process and Climate, International Hydrological Programme, way back in 1994 in collaboration with National Institute of Hydrology and Karnataka Forest Department. The pilot study was completed in 2000.

Subsequent to this pilot research a major project is being carried out under UNESCO-Ford Foundation Grant on “Land-Use Change, Watershed Services and Socio-Economic Impact in The Western Ghats Region” (Forest Hydrology). This project is being carried out jointly by IHP-UNESCO, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, National Institute of Hydrology and Karnataka Forest Department.

This is a multi-institutional multi-disciplinary and stake-holder-linked research project which will carefully examine the poorly understood link between land-use/land-cover changes and watershed services at the local and regional scale in the Western Ghats region.

The overall objectives of this project are:

1. Quantifying the watershed service impacts of two major changes in land-use/land-cover changes in the Western Ghats relative to existing land-used in physical and socio-economic terms.

2. Conducting an overall assessment of the trade-offs between these various land-uses in terms of gains/losses in watershed services vis-à-vis those in other forest ecosystem goods and services, thus improving current understanding of the nature of the synergies and conflicts between biodiversity conservation, watershed services and people’s livelihoods.

3. Initiating a process of bringing together the actors, stakeholders and scientists engaged in these issues so as to ensure better framing of the problem and dissemination and acceptance of the results of the research at the local and regional levels.

In each of the two regions i.e. Uttar Kannada and Mysore region of Western Ghats, attempts will be made to select four sub-watersheds within which all the treatments will be identified. Thus there will be four replicate blocks for each treatment.

CD on `Ensuring drinking water security through rain water harvesting’

It is well known that the total amount of water on earth has remained virtually constant. The rapid growth in population, extension of irrigated agriculture and industrial development, are putting stress on the natural ecosystem. Society has begun to realize that it can no longer subscribe to a “use and discard” philosophy-as regards natural resources such as water are concerned.

UNESCO, through its International Hydrological Programme (IHP), an inter-governmental scientific co-operative programme in water resources, has joined hands with Vikram Sarabhai Centre for Development Interaction (VIKSAT) and British Geological Survey in preparing this multimedia CD. This presentation is in a simple format, understandable by children, rural and urban people without any need for higher education. An interactive session has been included in the CD, which explains to the audience as to how much water can be harvested, given the size of their plot/flats.

CISED Project

Pilot research project on `Influence of forest cover on watershed functions in the Western Ghats: A coarse scale analysis’ is being carried out at Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Institute of Socio Economic Changes, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.

The relationship between forest cover in river catchments and the quantity of water yield, partitioning into quick, slow and base flows, its seasonal distribution and sediment load in the river is a controversial one. Popularly it is assumed that forest cover enhances total water yield, increases lean-season flows and reduces sediment load. However, research over the past several decades has shown this relationship to be much more ambiguous, depending both on subtle variations in land cover and on the hydro-geological context. Given that forest cover is changing rapidly in both quality and quantity, and that substantial public funds are being invested in forest conservation and afforestation, it is necessary to arrive at a better understanding of the actual relationship between forest cover and these watershed service variables. This research will examine the effects of changes in forest cover and land cover in general on the runoff and sediment load in the east-flowing rivers of Karnataka that originate in the Western Ghats region. They will do so through a statistical analysis of extensive time-series data on runoff and sediment load gathered by various agencies. These will be analyzed in conjunction with time-series and cross-sectional data on land cover in the upper catchments of these rivers. Sophisticated statistical techniques would be used to control inter-annual variability in rainfall and landscape heterogeneity. This will enable an understanding of how and to what extent land-cover change influences hydrological parameters and sediment load. This work would make a significant contribution to current scientific understanding in the areas of Land-Use/Cover Change, Forest Ecosystem functioning, and Ecosystem Service Assessment.

Putting ICTs in the hands of the poor

UNESCO has concluded the establishment and operational phase of the cross cutting theme project to innovate and research Information Communiction Technology (ICTs) applications and conceptual models for poverty eradication. Innovation sites were fully operationalised in eighteen locations in South Asia in cooperation with UNESCO’s Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) programme in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.

The initiative featured a close and strong collaboration with the National Informatics Centre of India in the development and field-testing of eNRICH, a new software solution for information management at the local community level. eNRICH is a web-based application that provides ICT users with a one-stop solution to organise and manage online locally stored information resources, both indigenous and global. eNRICH also features bulletin boards, opinion polls, daily messages and a zone to upload multimedia-learning tools. For more information
go to http://enrich.nic.in or write to [email protected]

Research, documentation and networking of findings are now ongoing in over ten sites, supported by a regional network and a wide range of local and national level partners, including major development organisations, universities and government departments.

Ethnographic action research has been integrated into project development across a series of different sites in a variety of settings and environments. The integrated approach is designed to guide both local project developments as well as provide a greater understanding of what role information and communications play in poverty and how the poor can use ICTs. Researchers from the London School of Economics, Oxford Internet Institute and the Creative Industries Research and Applications Centre of Queensland University developed the methodology.

UNESCO’s research website, a virtual workspace for lead and local researchers alike has grown significantly with the participation of 30 researchers and local team members with over 600 postings of research material and discussion. A second training for 12 local researchers and local team members was conducted in July 2003 in Bangalore focusing on data analysis.

Ethnographic Action Research: A User’s Handbook to Innovate and Research ICT Applications for Poverty Eradication was published in September as an introduction to the methodology and practical guide for local researchers, media, development and other organisations.

In order to share preliminary research findings with stakeholders, a consultation was held in New Delhi in December. The meeting was organised thematically around key issues that emerged over the course of the research. Researchers presented their findings to about fifty academics and researchers, representatives of government and development agencies, technology and media groups. Presentations were also made in Geneva at the World Summit on the Information Society by two of the project’s partners.

www.ictpr.nic.in, a website to share research findings, profile innovations and sites and to link to related networks was launched in December following the consultation on research findings. Case studies of sites and central themes emerging from the research will be released as separate publications along with special issues of the journals `Information for Development’ and `Voices for Changes’.

The CMCs are part of UNESCO’s international project on CMC sponsored by the Swiss government. Project sites have been established through partnership with NGOs, local governments, universities, government departments and agencies, private sector companies, media and technology groups as well as marginalised women, youth and their families. Some of these are as follows:

* Namma Dhwani Local ICT Network; Budikote, Kolar District, Karnataka, India

* Youth-Led Digital Opportunities; Sitakund, Chittagong District, Bangladesh

* Nabanna: Networking Women and Indigenous Knowledge; Baduria, North 24 Parganas District, West Bengal, India

* Empowering Resource Poor Women to Use ICT, Tamil Nadu, India

* ICT Learning Centre for Women, Seelampur, East Delhi, India

* Darjeeling Himalaya Internet Railway, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India

* Tansen Local ICT Network, Tansen, Palpa District, Nepal

* Jakar Community Multimedia Centre, Jakar, Bhutan

* Uva Community Media Network, Uva Province, Sri Lanka

The World Heritage nominated Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, capacity building project

The project aims at conserving the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, designated as World Heritage by UNESCO. The DHR connects Jalpaiguri to the hill station of Darjeeling. Situated in eastern India, this heritage train is a part of the cultural heritage of Darjeeling.

The project seeks to address issues pertaining to poverty alleviation, empowerment of women and rural and urban development. This is, therefore, a multidisciplinary project adopting a holistic and integrated approach towards heritage preservation and community development. Two stakeholders workshops were held in June and November 2003 to bring partnerships together.

The participants at the stakeholders workshop comprised the Ministry of Railways and the DHR administration, the State government of West Bengal, the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council, the District Administration; a representative from the Embassy of France in New Delhi, the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, representatives from the France/UNESCO Cooperation Programme in Paris, the National Rail Museum New Delhi, the Tea Board, the Darjeeling Planters Association, concerned representative from the private sector, the Post Master General of North Bengal and Sikkim, the Chief Executive Officer of the DHR, representatives from NGO’s, members of the Stakeholders’ Committee & Working Group and the Project Management Teams.

The meetings succeeded in identifying 7 core areas of action, comprising macro level issues, besetting the Darjeeling Himalayan Area, viz:

A Master Plan that should include: A Geographic Information System (GIS) and Environment Information System (EIS), cultural and environment resource management, master plan, synergy, post project management and coordination between various agencies working in the region.

Environment Protection including area, treatment, community rehabilitation, sanitation, water supply (drinking/irrigation) and waste disposal.

Infrastructure Development – especially roads, including highways, to ease traffic congestion and pollution

SAHAYATA, for community development, poverty alleviation, education, skills development for cottage industries, livelihood, women’s empowerment and employment generation.

Conservation of cultural heritage, forests and wildlife, heritage regulations, regeneration of DHR, technical upgradation, viability of the DHR.

Sustainable Tourism and the romance of the DHR Train.

Relief to the Tea industry as the biggest employer of the region.

A France UNESCO cooperation programme is also in place to explore possibilities of preparing the Master Plan, under the EU’s Asia Urbs Programme. UNDP’s endogenous tourism development programme for India is also being explored for promoting sustainable tourism.

This project, which has been funded under the UNDP’s support for Policy Programming and Development (SPPD) Programme, has succeeded in getting all stakeholders together. It is now important to ensure that the stakeholders stay together and work together to take this project forward.