Although 9000 miles apart, the states of Himachal Pradesh (India) and Quintana Roo (Mexico) have one thing in common: a vision and mission of promoting an economic growth that reaches as many people as possible while respecting the environment and the natural resources. This is what we call inclusive green growth.
Both the states are endowed with nature’s bounty and its curse: rich in biodiversity and the ecosystem services that it provides but highly vulnerable to the climate change and natural disasters and environmental degradation that development impacts bring.
Environmental sustainability and climate change resilience are thus a top priority, and it is no surprise that both the states are leaders and frontrunners in formulating green growth and development strategies in their respective countries.
It was therefore very apt for a delegation of senior officials from the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh to visit Quintana Roo to exchange ideas, share knowledge and best practices with their counterparts.
The visit was a part of the South-South Exchange Program between the governments of India and Mexico, facilitated by both the World Bank Institute and Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Unit of the South Asia Region of the World Bank. The Indian delegation also visited Mexico City and the State of Oaxaca.
The exchange provided the Himachal Pradesh officials an enhanced understanding of technical and policy responses taken both at the federal and state level to the dual challenges of climate change and inclusive green growth.
While a visit to Cancun alerted the Himachal Pradesh officials to challenges of managing explosive tourism growth, a visit to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve exposed them to the experience of local communities of developing successfully and promoting sustainable ecotourism.
The team also witnessed in Mexico City the demonstration of commitment of the federal government to an environmentally-friendly economic growth and continued efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change by promoting the use of clean technologies.
Meeting of officials in informal settings such as swimming together through the lagoons in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve or visiting community forestry enterprises, provided ample opportunity to learn from each other and understand closely the mechanics of sustainable development on the ground which seldom happen in formalized workshops and conferences.
The visit also provided Indian officials to share the experience of their ambitious efforts towards promoting sustainability across the key engines of economic growth, namely energy, watershed management, industry and tourism.
Knowledge exchanges like this can benefit both the recipient and the provider. It can be said the Mexican officials learned as much from the visiting Indian officials as the Indians did of experiencing the Mexican paradigm first hand.
Also, as practitioners engage in direct exchanges with peers who are or have been struggling with similar challenges, they find the inspiration to enrich the analysis and understanding of their own circumstances, opportunities and constraints.
Thus, irrespective of the distance or language, development solutions can come from countries and regions that have confronted the same issues and solved them. This not only helps them to take better decisions but also facilitates the design and implementation of difficult reforms. Above all, knowledge exchanges like this build inspiration, foster learning, and inform policy.