by Maria Prebble -- June 10th, 2014
Namaste, नमस्ते, from Udaipur, India!
Udaipur is in the Indian state of Rajasthan, in the northwest part of the country. The city of Udaipur is known as the “Venice of the East” for its shimmering lakes, labyrinthine streets, colorful markets and lavish palaces and temples. Although the city is nestled between the purplish Aravalli Hills and dotted with lakes, the temperatures at mid-afternoon can still reach as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit. To cool down, I sip mango lassis and take multiple cold bucket showers.
In Udaipur, I will be working with the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) an organization working towards the ecological restoration and conservation of land and water resources in some of the most environmentally degraded and impoverished regions, and socially marginalized communities of India. FES focuses on promoting equitable participation in environmental decision-making by working with local level governance institutions. As marginalized groups—notably women—are dependent on natural resources, it is imperative that environmental decision-making is both inclusive and accessible to all community members.
Many of India’s—and the world’s—poorest people live in Rajasthan. Poverty is particularly endemic in rural areas. Although it is difficult to measure the number of people living in poverty, according to India’s poverty headcount ratio indicator, approximately 25 percent of Rajasthan’s population lives in poverty. At this measure, 16 million Rajasthanis—as many as two New York Cities—live below 2$ a day (in PPP).
Poverty is most pervasive among scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribal communities (STs). The caste system in India is a method of hierarchical social stratification, and the SC communities and ST communities are, most vulnerable to the risk of being in poverty. In addition, these marginalized groups are also disproportionately adversely affected by climate change and natural disasters. For example, a study revealed that lower-caste communities receive less aid and relief in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
As part of my work with the Foundation, I will be visiting the rural village of Vishma and its surrounding hamlets, which are 40 miles outside of Udaipur. While in Vishma, I will stay with a host family. I will travel with two project partners, who are both development-sector professionals in India. Over time, we plan to conduct interviews with local residents of various livelihoods, age, gender and caste. The residents’ shared experiences will ultimately aid FES in providing programs that the deserving people of Vishma both want and need.
Thank you for reading!