Community and youth led action on climate change and conservation

UNICEF India is working towards creating a sustainable environment for children by promoting community-led conservation initiatives, working together with state governments, partners and communities.

Kavya Raman
A woman in Uttar Pradesh carries a bucket of water from a near by sanitary well created by UNICEF
04 June 2021

This World Environment Day, 5 June 2021, calls for urgent action to revive our damaged ecosystem with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global mission running through to 2030 to protect and revive billions of hectares of valuable and much needed natural capital.

With the awareness that climate change and environmental degradation are a direct threat to a child’s ability to survive, grow, and thrive, UNICEF is working towards creating a sustainable environment for children by promoting community-led conservation initiatives.

Much of UNICEF’s focus has been on amplifying the voices of young people and their leadership. UNICEF India has successfully tapped into the potential and passion of young people who want to act responsibly towards their environment and their futures.


Youth champions present ‘Climate Charter’ to the Vice President of India, demanding environmental protection

In 2020, UNICEF India and NGO PRATYeK conducted a Climate Parliament with young climate champions from across India who presented their ‘Climate Charter of Demands’ to the Hon’ble Vice President of India Shri Venkaiah Naidu, the Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development Smt. Smriti Irani and Members of Parliament. “We may not be voters, but we believe that children’s voices are stronger than votes of adults”, declared the children as they presented their request for a clean and green environment. The children also committed to doing their bit by using public transport, segregating waste, and protecting plants and animals. They also shared solutions with the parliamentarians and their peers.

An online orientation of teachers and students on water budgeting
An online orientation of teachers and students on water budgeting.

Gharna Pani Nu Budget (Water Budgeting) campaign supported by UNICEF Gujarat teaches water budgeting from an early age

To increase awareness on the need for water conservation among children, the Water Supply Department, Government of Gujarat, in collaboration with UNICEF, first implemented the Gharna Pani Nu Budget (Water Budgeting) campaign in October 2017. Through the campaign, students from government schools (classes 6 to 8) learnt and practiced water budgeting for their households. 

In total, 10,500 schools participated, with some 65,900 teachers trained and 1,626,000 students prepared household water budgets. These children are now strong advocates for water conservation and agents of change in their communities.

A group of Youth4Water volunteer standing around a small water body, understanding traditional water conservation methods
Youth4Water volunteers on a visit to Gundalba village in Puri to understand more about traditional water conservation methods

I feel blessed and enthused being an active member of the Youth4Water Campaign from the beginning. This Campaign has given me an appropriate platform to raise issues concerning water, environment and climate change among policy makers, as well as  fellow young people.

Subhashree Sethi, Youth4Water youth volunteer, Baripada, Odisha

Youth4Water campaign in Odisha engages 5,000 youth in water conservation

The Youth4Water programme promotes young people’s actions towards securing water for the future and combating climate change. Started in 2019 by UNICEF Odisha and Water Initiatives, the programme has engaged 5,000 young volunteers and aims to reach 50,000 youth by 2025.

As young ‘WASH ambassadors’, the volunteers form Youth4Water clubs under the guidance of mentors from local civil society organizations to raise awareness on Water, Sanitation and Hygeine (WASH) and climate change in their colleges. They also gained knowledge on traditional water and mangrove conservation practices during visits to tribal and rural communities. In 2020, Youth4Water also became a crucial platform for dissemination of COVID-19 awareness campaigns.

Hon'ble Chief Minister, Udhav Thackerey takes the first e-pledge to promote environment conservation. He is standing with three other people and holding the pledge in his hands.
Hon'ble Chief Minister, Udhav Thackerey takes the first e-pledge to promote environment conservation in Maharashtra

Supporting state governments 

In Maharashtra, UNICEF is supporting the Majhi Vasundhara Mission for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Majhi Vasundhara Mission, launched on 2 October 2020, focuses on sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaption in the state of Maharashtra. This mission is a unique, integrated first-ever exercise in India, which focuses on all five elements of nature, e.g. “Panchamahabhuta” or Bhumi (earth), Jala (water), Vayu (air), Agni (energy) and Akash (enhancement).

Majhi Vasundhara Abhiyan, one of the six initiatives of the mission, experienced enthusiastic participation from 686 local bodies who  organized around 18,000 awareness events to sensitize people on nature conservation, enhancement of natural resources, environmental improvement and the impacts of climate change. Under the mission so far more than 200,000 trees have been planted, 63.983 tonnes of CO2 has been sequestered due to wet waste composting and they have created rainwater conservation potential of 11,145 million litres per year, which is the capacity equivalent to one day's water supply for the entire State of Maharashtra.

 #CleanAirForAll Campaign in Madhya Pradesh 

The Department of Public Health and Family Welfare, Madhya Pradesh, along with the National Centre for Disease Control, Government of India and with the support of UNICEF took up a massive air pollution awareness campaign across the state.

The campaign saw enthusiastic participation from print media, social media and various radio channels. Engagement with various stakeholders resulted in outreach to approximately 7.5 million people  and more than 70,000 health personnel including frontline health workers being trained. To ensure sustained efforts, the State Government included adaptation strategies in the State Action Plan on Climate Change and Human Health, the first of its kind initiative in the country.

Supporting West Bengal with uninterrupted rural water supply during cyclones

In the aftermath of Super Cyclone Amphan in 2020, the Public Health and Engineering Department (PHED) of the Government of West Bengal innovated to ensure effective ways of uninterrupted availability of potable water to affected communities. In this context, UNICEF joined the Department to develop a plan to build capacity across the state and districts on climate risk resilience and disaster preparedness, with a special focus on disaster prone districts.

UNICEF conducted a state level workshop, and several Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were prepared in consultation with state and district stakeholders. The PHED also developed a compendium of best practices for rural water supply management to serve as a reference document for all districts.

UNICEF continues to strengthen the Department’s efforts using the prepared SOPs in ensuring uninterrupted drinking water supply to communities in vulnerable habitations in the Sundarbans area, specifically in South 24 Parganas District.

Beyond the programmes mentioned above, UNICEF Gujarat has been working with the state’s Climate Change department and has supported the development and revision of the State Action Plan on Climate Change in Gujarat. Subsequently, the Gujarat team is working with the Health Department and Rural Development Department on waste management in priority districts.

UNICEF Rajasthan has also been supporting the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation on water conservation in the water scarce state through the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, with an added focus on building sanitary twin pit dry toilets in water stressed Barmer district of Rajasthan.

UNICEF’s work with schools across India

In addition to the above programmes, UNICEF is supporting the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on the School Safety Programme to build perspective of students, teachers, and institutions towards understanding, analyzing, and addressing disaster risk. The programme is directly implemented in 16,000 schools across 9 states of India, and in nearly 1.5 lakh schools under the ‘Chief Minister School Safety Programme’ in Bihar.

UNICEF Bihar and Rajasthan have initiated work towards building ‘Climate Smart Schools’ and ‘Green Schools’. UNICEF Rajasthan is also pioneering child-friendly, gender-sensitive and geo-climate responsive WASH in the schools and pre-schools of desert dominated Barmer and tribal dominated Dungarpur districts.

UNICEF Maharashtra has been engaging youth in advocacy events across the year to bring out their voices and opinions on climate change and environmental sustainability. The Maharashtra office is currently developing lesson plans for Classes 1 to 8 to integrate WASH and Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability topics into the curriculum.

UNICEF Telangana implemented a first-of-its-kind School Innovation Challenge to engage government school students in design thinking and problem solving. With close to 25,000 students participating in the challenge, close to 40% of the 7,000 ideas submitted were based on climate change and environment, giving students a chance to identify and solve an environmental problem in their communities.