If you don't know about Sustainable Development Goal 13, you must live under a rock. It is about combating climate action and its impacts. The key tasks include making children and child voices/solutions the centre of climate change and environmental strategies and plans and recognising children as agents of change.
Here's the story of 18-year-old Utpal Hazong from Assam, who's brought about community-level changes and has joined his peers in the youth-led international climate movement #FridaysForFuture.
Assam is highly vulnerable to extreme climate events, and Dhemaji and Nagaon districts in the state are vulnerable to extreme floods, droughts and cyclones, research conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) had said. The study also said that the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events in India has increased by almost 200% since 2005, reported The Times of India.
Utpal is from Azarbari village of Dhemaji district. He lives with his parents and three siblings. His father is a migrant worker who barely earns ₹ 6,000 per month; his mother works as a cook in a school, getting ₹ 1,500 per month. Utpal and his friends are no strangers to extreme climate events.
Every year, Assam faces the fury of the Brahmaputra, bringing heavy floods and disrupting lives. Annual floods have also eroded the topsoil, making the surrounding land infertile and increasing the risk of floods. Azarbari is one of the locations where Save the Children has been responding to annual floods.
Save the Children is also engaged in Child-Centered Disaster Risk Reduction (CCDRR) related activities. The team has worked towards resilience-building interventions among youth and groomed them as climate champions. Utpal has been one of the key stakeholders and is also an active member of the School Disaster Management Committee.
Utpal is the president of the newly formed AK-Young Star Youth Club in his village, where he leads the youth to take action against the usage of plastic and any other hazardous material. To prevent soil erosion, Utpal and his youth club members have initiated tree plantations in and around the village. He also motivates his friends and the people of his village to celebrate occasions like birthdays by planting saplings. This has yielded results. Taking inspiration from Utpal, the Panchayat leader announced during one of the village meetings that people should give each other saplings instead of giving valuable gifts. The youth club now wants to plant saplings around the river banks to prevent soil erosion in future.
"Due to alarming extreme climate change events, we have taken steps and acted locally to plant saplings in the villages and river banks to reduce soil erosion and increase green cover," says Utpal.
Apart from plantation drives, Utpal and his friends have conducted cleanliness drives in the village. They also promoted the practice of adopting locally available materials, such as homemade bags for shopping, etc., and organic manure in backyard kitchen gardens.
He also wants to leverage social media to generate awareness of the club's work. He believes generating awareness, and building capacity on climate change adaptation at the district, block, panchayat and community level are essential to building a mass movement towards limiting global warming and climate change. The much-needed impetus towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions status by 2070 has to come from the country's youths, he says.