One of the great challenges facing India is the provision of public services effectively and efficiently to its 1.2 billion citizens. This is particularly critical for India’s rural population, especially women and children, who are disproportionally affected by poor health in the country. With an extraordinarily dense population, adaptation to climate-related risks also is a key priority for the government.

The Earth Institute’s experts advise on socio-economic and climate risk-related policy issues, collaborating with state governments around the country.

India offers an array of sustainable development opportunities and challenges. Our teams are working at the request of government agencies around the country to support public policy and applied research. We apply scientific expertise and evidence-based knowledge for the development of national and regional strategies that support stronger health systems, education programs, and climate resiliency. Our efforts primarily fall within the scope of the Model Districts project and two projects on enhancing climate resiliency in Assam.

Model Districts Program

The Model Districts program is a collaborative, five-year demonstration program funded by IKEA and implemented by the Columbia University Global Center | South Asia, the Government of India, and key health and education stakeholders in states throughout the country.

At the request of the Government of India, since 2006 the Earth Institute has been convening an International Advisory Panel that meets biannually to review the progress on the country’s National Rural Health Mission, which committed to increased health spending with the aim of improving quality of care, particularly in rural areas. The Earth Institute has since tracked progress, conducted evaluations, and made relevant policy recommendations.

The Model Districts project was created to implement the recommendations from the mid-term evaluation of the National Rural Health Mission, conducted by the Earth Institute in Mumbai. The project was commissioned with the specific aim of helping India achieve Millennium Development Goals 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5: for health, improving the nutrition status of women and children, and reducing maternal and child mortality; and for education, addressing issues of universal access to primary education, gender equality, and the prevalence of poverty by 2015.

Please click on the [ + ] to learn more about our health and education programs.

Health Program

Our health team works with state and district officials to improve the delivery of maternal and child health services in the five districts of Assam (northeast), Bihar (east), Uttar Pradesh (north), Rajasthan (west), and Andhra Pradesh (south), for a total population of about 10 million, by providing implementation research, technical advice, monitoring and evaluation, and policy advocacy to help ensure the successful scaling up of services, and coordination of efforts in these districts. By 2015, the goal is to achieve lower rates of maternal, peri/neonatal, infant and child mortality.

Please contact Ranu Dhillon for more information on health initiatives.

Education Program

The Model Districts education program focuses on the Morigaon district of Assam and the Medak district of Andhra Pradesh. Our goal is to improve the quality of primary education – specifically the quality of student learning and lowering grade repetition and dropout rates – by developing and testing a primary education program that is locally owned and managed, yet readily adaptable for other locales. Our program demonstrates that a relatively modest, targeted set of innovations and resources can significantly improve the quality of education, even in low-resource rural settings.

Currently, we are developing a pilot program geared toward community building, teaching and learning. We also contribute to educational policy research in India, building the government’s capacity for teacher training, curriculum analysis, and the development of model schools. This approach is meant to address and target educational issues in policy and interventions; governments and communities; and theory and practice. Core to our program, we have advocated for international best practices and strategies to improve primary education in India, and to set examples for effective public-private partnership models in education.

Please contact Radhika Iyengar for more information on education initiatives.

Managing Climate Risks in Assam

Assam is one of the most hazard prone states of India, being vulnerable to multiple natural hazards including floods, landslides, cyclonic storms and earthquakes. Guwahati, the state capital, is the largest city in northeastern India with a population close to one million. Despite its critical importance to the governance and economic well-being of the state and region, Guwahati does not have a systematic adaptation strategy to help assess climate risks, dynamically map vulnerability, and plan/design infrastructure and land use to enhance climate resiliency of the city. Rapid and unprecedented urbanization and the threats posed by climate change are creating new challenges for city authorities and residents.

With the Assam government providing funds, our team is working with the Assam State Disaster Management Authority and Indian partners to develop contextualized solutions to enhance the resiliency of Guwahati to the impacts of climate extremes. The goal is to assist decision-makers at a variety of levels including state, metropolitan, and city levels to better manage climate and disaster risks.

In addition, the Columbia Water Center at the Earth Institute is advising the state government on Brahmaputra River flooding from the impacts of climate variability and change.

Please contact Kye Baroang for more information.