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Differential vulnerabilities and adaptive decision making under changing climate: a study of Upper Ganga

Student Name: Ms Divya Sharma
Guide: Dr Kamna Sachdeva
Year of completion: 2021


Indian Himalayan region has been identified as a climate change hotspot. Additionally, Ganga basin, has been highlighted as one of the most affected river basins in Hindukush Himalaya due to climate change. Uttarakhand is one of the states nested in Indian Himalayan region and is a place of origin to river Ganga. Agricultural communities, in this region, are most vulnerable to climate variations as their livelihood is under direct threat to climate uncertainties. Thus, there is a need to understand vulnerability of these agricultural communities in order to suggest specific adaptation interventions and to steer them towards resilient livelihood pathways. Moreover, the vulnerability is differential among these communities due to spatial and socio-economic diversity. Therefore, a nuanced approach is required to understand the factors that can facilitate the unpacking of diverse adaptation requirements.

Considering the above issues, this thesis presents a layered approach for unpacking the factors that lead to specific adaptation decisions taken by agricultural community of Upper Ganga Basin in Uttarakhand. This thesis focuses on the paradigm of ecological resilience of vulnerability, which emphasizes on complexity, cross scale variables interactions and heterogeneity of a system under study. Furthermore, adaptation decision is seen as a manifestation of underlying vulnerabilities. With this paradigm, the Sustainable Livelihood Framework is used to analyze differential adaptation decisions in the study area. Also, diverse tools (agent-based modeling, cluster analysis, multinomial logistic regression, social network analysis) are utilized to analyze a specific adaptation choice, with case study approach, in accordance with the nature of the choice, based on both primary and secondary data which is collected as part of the research.

First case study results show that migration cannot be steered with policies focused only on economic perspectives and the second cases study results show that there are six cluster of crop choices in the village and theses clusters are dependent attributed due to land size, soil type and caste of the farmer. Therefore, the overall research concludes that prominent factors which shape adaptive decision making, and hence the differential vulnerabilities, in the agricultural community of Upper Ganga Basin, Uttarakhand are: 1) State level: Elevation, 2) Local level: Access to education and health facilities, 3) Community level: land size, caste, and a farmer’s individual network characteristics.

Keywords: Climate change, Vulnerability, Adaptation decision, Agriculture communities, Agent based modelling, Cluster analysis, Multinomial logistic regression, Social network analysis Uttarakhand, Himalayas.