Stakeholders’ perceptions of climate change and its impact on mountain communities in central Himalaya, India

Photo by Markus Spiske on


The Himalayas are undergoing rapid climate change with a myriad of implications that shape prospects for water security, agriculture, and livelihood (Gentle and Maraseni, 2012). There is increasing evidence that climate change critically impacts the hydrological system, water sources, access to water, and quantity (Dhakal et al., 2016), escalating the vulnerability of water-dependent activities for mountain communities. Moreover, the rate of increase in temperature and precipitation variability is significantly higher in the Himalayas (Panday et al., 2015), which poses severe implications for its inhabitants and further aggravates the problem at the local level (Byg and Salick, 2009). In comparison to other sectors, the agriculture sector in the Himalayan region is more vulnerable to climate change (Khanal et al., 2018) and poses a challenge to agricultural output by causing unpredictable rainfall (Bhatt et al., 2014). Therefore, it is necessary to understand the climate change impact at the community scale. The Himalayas are home to indigenous communities such as the Bhotiyas (Kala, 2005), and Jaunsari, who are primarily reliant on natural resources and whose subsistence economy is based on climate-driven activities (Shrestha et al., 2012).

Furthermore, indigenous communities are least responsible for climate change but their resources and culture are under direct threat of climate change impacts (Bardsley and Wiseman, 2012). Despite this fact, indigenous communities are extremely resilient (Bennett et al., 2016). It was observed that many indigenous communities foster and maintain multifaceted and intricate interactions between humans and nature (United Nations, 2009). The indigenous communities lead the way in innovative climate adaptation strategies using traditional knowledge and novel approaches necessitating the collection of climate perceptions from tribal populations (Stigter et al., 2005). However, indigenous communities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of their dependence on the natural environment and making it difficult for tribes to relocate and adapt to future changes (Sujakhu et al., 2016).

The most important problem in the Himalayan region among the various water-related issues is the gendered nature of an emerging water crisis (McCright, 2010). The differential consequences of climate change are largely due to the roles and duties that men and women have at the household and the community level (Agarwal, 2009). Climate change does not necessarily result in disadvantages and detrimental impacts on women (Bhattarai et al., 2015). However, due to the unequal distribution of power, assets, and rights, women typically have higher obligations and fewer educational opportunities than men, which has a disproportionately greater impact on them (Gururani, 2002). The gender dimensions of climate change perceptions play an important role in emphasizing the disparities in knowledge regarding the prevalence of climate change and their experiences with adverse climate change impacts (Assan et al., 2020). Women are primarily responsible for gathering, storing, and distributing water for domestic and agricultural purposes (Singh and Singh, 2015). Women’s drudgery during times of water scarcity is made worse by the hours spent walking long distances to get water (Arora-Jonsson, 2011). In order to combat climate change, gender-sensitive adaptation strategies must also be incorporated.

Climate change has caused widespread concern because it has the potential to cause socio-economic disasters. As a result, assessing economic vulnerability is the first step in addressing climate change (Zhang et al., 2011). Climatic change may have a significant impact on household access to assets and income (Devkota et al., 2017). Farmers’ risks and attitudes toward climate change adaptation are significantly influenced by household income (Khan et al., 2020). According to Mendelsohn and Dinar (1999), climatic conditions have a relatively smaller impact on farmers’ income than on crop productivity, but crop yields influence farmers’ income. It was observed that effective management and adaptation can significantly reduce the potential impacts of climate change and variability on crop yields and farmer income (Reidsma et al., 2010). Climate change and variability impacts are largely determined by farm size and land practices through changes in land and water regimes (Kahsay and Hansen, 2016). Landholding and the economic status of the farmers may lead to a distinct understanding of the water-agriculture nexus (Imran et al., 2020). Large landholding farmers are more likely to be able to experiment with and invest in climate risk mitigation strategies (Iheke and Agodike, 2016).

The level of climate vulnerability varies across geographical, temporal, and social aspects within the same region. The intensity of climate change perception is highly correlated with residents’ age and the elevation gradient of the region (Shijin and Dahe, 2015). Longer local residency periods of individuals believe that new technologies can cope with climate change impacts on natural resources (Vaske et al., 2001), however, this perception does not apply to indigenous communities. Given the residency period, it is expected that longer local residency periods of individuals must be adequately aware of the impact of climate change on their physical environment. There is still a lack of tangible research focusing on what people (policymakers/managers and other stakeholder groups) do to mitigate resource scarcity within specific areas (Funder et al., 2012). Climate change has also been observed at local scales. Therefore, understanding the perspectives of policymakers/managers and other stakeholders in the climate change context is important.

Perception of climate change and its adaptations varies among people and societies (Arbuckle et al., 2013). Local perceptions reflect local concerns (Danielsen et al., 2005), they focus on the actual impacts of climate change on people’s lives, which are based on local factors and cannot be estimated through regional and global models (van Aalst et al., 2008). Local perceptions differ by capacity and by geography based on previous experiences and learning under local climatic circumstances and environmental stress (Alam et al., 2017). Therefore, local opinion on climate change causes and indicators (Kloprogge and Sluijs, 2006), must be examined to create appropriate policy actions that help alleviate climate change effects (van Wesenbeeck et al., 2016). Further, they must be carried out at the micro level to understand local concerns and formulate and implement region-specific policies with ease and public support (Vignola et al., 2013).

The present study focuses on understanding the perceptions of the stakeholders based on stakeholder characteristics through ethnic aspects, gender, income, size of landholding, and residency period. In this study six hypothesis tests were performed as follows: 1) Are indigenous communities more resilient? 2) How do gender roles affect perception? 3) Does economic background (income and landholding size) affect perceptions? 4) Whether the residency period of the stakeholders causes a difference in perceptions? And 5) Do different stakeholders have similar perceptions? Based on their opinions and perspectives, the research targets to understand the local adaptation strategies to cope with the consequences of climate change on water and agriculture. Lastly, the stakeholder responses were validated with geospatial datasets.


The study used a perception-based approach to assess the indicators and determinant factors in understanding the stakeholders’ perception of climate change and associated impacts on the water resources and the agriculture sector in Central Himalaya. Different stakeholder groups such as water resource managers, tribal communities, and the local people were surveyed in 253 locations covering the entire state of Uttarakhand. The socio-economic, agricultural, and biophysical characteristics of the

Declaration of competing interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


The authors are thankful to Uttarakhand Jal Sansthan (UJS) for providing support facilities during the fieldwork for this study under the “National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS)” project titled “Water Resource Management through Spring and Catchment Rejuvenation in Uttarakhand for Improving Water Security” funded by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF& CC), Government of India (GoI) (Ref. No.: GBPNI/NMHS-2018-19/MG2). The authors are grateful to the anonymous…


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: