The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is a national poverty alleviation programme that provides 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural households whose adult members demand unskilled manual work. The scheme includes more than 260 activities (called ‘works’) that are categorised into natural resource management (NRM)-based and non-NRM-based rural development works.
Almost 60% of the MGNREGS budget (amounting to INR 3,60,000 million) is spent on NRM works. While job creation is the targeted outcome of the scheme, the NRM works and assets constructed under it—by virtue of design—have significant potential to mitigate carbon emissions and help rural households adapt to current and future climate hazards, while increasing their climate resilience. These constitute the climate co-benefits that accrue from MGNREGS works. However, at present, the climate co-benefits are neither quantified, nor monitored or reported.
The Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) conducted a rapid field-based assessment to quantify the climate co-benefits arising from Usharmukti, a river rejuvenation programme implemented under MGNREGS in West Bengal. The programme is implemented across six districts in the state and comprises micro-watershed-management works, such as construction of water-harvesting structures and irrigation canals, and horticulture and social forestry plantation works. For the study, nine different types of works implemented in four of these districts—mounting to a total of 541 works—were assessed through primary surveys and field measurements to quantify the climate co-benefits arising from them.
While the study quantified the climate co-benefits of works implemented through MGNREGS under Usharmukti, the insights from the surveys and field assessments helped to formulate a three-step framework for quantifying, monitoring, and reporting the climate co-benefits from MGNREGS works.