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Climate CoLab Winners’ Spotlight: Swapan Mehra

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This spotlight is part of a series from MIT ClimateX about Climate CoLab 2018 contest Winners. Original post can also be found here: https://climatex.mit.edu/climate-colab-winners%E2%80%99-spotlight-swapan-mehra

In the Indian State of Assam, nearly 75% of the population (24 million people) use fuelwood for cooking energy. A significant share of this demand is met by the local forests, leading to environmental degradation. Continued dependence on fuelwood for cooking has also created worrying health concerns for the local population.

Swapan Mehra and his team, winners of the Climate CoLab Land Use: Agriculture, Forestry, Waste Management 2018 contest, have taken note of this social and environmental issue, and are attempting to address it using a systems approach. As the overuse of fuelwood contributes to environmental, healthcare, and gender issues in Assam. Mehra comments: “use of fuelwood contributes to poor indoor air quality, lung disease, eye diseases, and substantial drudgery for women.”

The AFDSS will analyze sustainability of the current fuelwood demand-supply and assess impacts of alternative technologies. Through this analysis, contextualized strategies for fuelwood plantations and fuelwood saving technologies can be designed. Mehra emphasizes the importance of acknowledging factors unique to regions using the AFDSS, to ensure long-term success.

Mehra and his team plan on compiling detailed socio-economic and ecological data to understand the fuelwood consumption dynamics in Assam and simulate multiple scenarios, including “business-as-usual”. This analysis will look at how fuelwood consumption scenarios materialize. By doing so, the hope is to identify various investment scenarios that can help detect potential technological, ecological, and social interventions for sustainable fuelwood management.

Mehra and his team plan on implementing the AFDSS in a few pilot sites in Assam within the next six months to demonstrate its impact. This will help in potentially unlocking significant private investments and international climate finance, which can support the scale up of AFDSS.  Mehra comments: “Our proposal received a great response from officials in the Assam state government, which is the host state for our project. Our project partners and supporters, the GIZ India team, supported the cause of this proposal and reached out to various national and global stakeholders to spread the idea and garner such an overwhelming support for it.” The model’s potential to improve Assam’s environment and help mitigate healthcare issues made it a clear Climate CoLab winner. Mehra and his team are excited to implement it on a larger scale. You can learn more about this project, including a specific timeline of their proposed work, on the Climate CoLab site here.