The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and the YUVA Foundation, together with Plant a Tree India, Asia Pacific Youth Task Force on Rio +20 and SEED, organised a National Youth Forum on Green Solutions in India in Rishikesh from 9-11 December 2012. About 40 youth participants from seven mountain states of India – Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram - attended talks by various mountain experts, made presentations on issues facing their states, participated in team building and leadership activities, and explored their role in shaping the emerging green economy, culminating in the joint development of a youth declaration on green solutions focused on the Indian Himalayas.
Mr Shantanu Gupta, founder and director of the YUVA foundation, briefed the participants about the objectives and expected outputs of the NFYGS. Mr Tek Jung Mahat elaborated on how he saw the saw the event fitting into ICIMOD’s Youth Programme in the post-Rio+20 context. Speakers from various institutes - Dr. Pyar Singh Negi from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology,Abdhesh Gangwar from Centre for Environmental Education-Himalaya, Mr. L.P Semwal from Shri Jagdamba Samiti, Mr. Hemant Dhyani from the Ganga Ahvaan Aandolan, Mr. Anil Jaggi from the Green Earth Alliance and Ujol Sherchan from ICIMOD - spoke on a range of topics such as:
- impacts of climate change on mountain ecosystems,;
- need to change consumption habits to reduce carbon footprint and work in areas of mitigation to increase handprint;
- challenges facing mountain agriculture due to climate change and the need to work toward the sustainability of crops through various adaptation and mitigation measures;
- pollution of the Ganges river: issues, challenges and solutions;
- importance of corporate social responsibility, and its implications;
- linkage between the sustainable mountain development agenda and the movement toward a greener economy
An Academy award winning movie, The Inconvenient Truth, was screened to initiate a discussion on how the youth participants conceived of climate change issues facing their states. A leadership and team building exercise developed around a ‘bridge building contest: longest, strongest and most beautiful” brought out the creativity of the youngsters, and at the same time made them work as a team. The final outcome was evaluated on a few criteria, including leadership potential of team members, after which a winner was declared.
However, the main highlight of the event was presentations by youth participants on “Role of youth in the emerging Green Economy to address climate change challenges and opportunities facing the Indian Himalayas”. All the presentations were followed by aWorld Café session on the ‘Identification and prioritization of climate change and adaptation related challenges and issues in the context of of the Indian Himalayas from a youth perspective‟.
A SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of five key stakeholders with stakes in the climate change development, - namely the government, community, youth, corporate sector and academia – was conducted and discussed in groups and later presented at a plenary. This activity proved to be extremely helpful in the development of a youth declaration on green economy.
On the last day, a field trip to the river Ganges along the Rajaji National Park was led by by Dr. K. K. Upreti. A stop was made at the village where the participants got the opportunity to interact with the villagers that had led a participatory 37-day hunger strike to achieve their right to access various government services and amenities, which subsequently made an enormous difference in their lives.
Coincided with the International Mountain Day on 11 December, the event concluded finalizing the youth declaration on green solutions in India, which will be guiding the youth activities in across the Indian Himalayas. The event generated wide interest among the youth and media communities in India and beyond.