This project titled “India’s climate change hotspots” is the first of its kind journalism initiative that combined the use of data as well as scientific research with longform narrative writing to present irrefutable evidence of impact of climate change on communities across India. The project was published by IndiaSpend – India’s first data journalism initiative and a wire service. For this project I have travelled across India – from the Himalayas in the north to the mangrove forests of Sundarbans in the country’s east. Every story looks at a different aspect of climate change ranging from melting of glaciers to the rainfall variability. This is the first such large scale project attempted in India and, in my opinion, has successfully highlighted the disproportionate impact climate change has already had on vulnerable communities – including women and those living along the coastline – across India.
What makes this project innovative?
This project has used data from NOAH - an app that visualizes satellite data on the changing rainfall and surface water globally over the past three decades. But according to me what makes this project innovative is that I've used an end to end approach. Even if data was the starting point I've tracked down communities it has affected. I've been successfully able to put a human story to the numbers. The project also received support from international funders like the Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the Pulitzer Center of Crisis Reporting for individual stories in addition to the budget already provided by IndiaSpend. I have combined data with ground reporting and a narrative long form journalism writing style to tell the story of the changing climate - one of the biggest in the 21st century. Apart from data the stories also have extensive graphics, pictures and videos to highlight the sheer magnitude of the impact of climate change in India.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Several of the stories of this series have been carried by up to four publications in India since IndiaSpend is a wire service for data journalism. Two PhD students have reached out to me and are including some parts of the reporting in their research. I have been invited to speak at a think tank and an event with policy makers following this series. On twitter environmental NGOs including Water Aid and WWF have retweeted some of the stories. I'm also now part of several discussions on climate change in India. NOAH - the app that the team I am a part of created and was used for this series is now being used to tell stories about drought in India. One of India's top journalism schools invited me to speak to their students about the importance of science reporting and environment journalism following the series.
Source and methodology
I have used data from government sources, satellite data, data from the NGOs as well as scientific papers. My major source of data and estimates have been studies that I have come across during my research using the Google Scholar. I have also used tools like the Global Surface Water Explorer (https://global-surface-water.appspot.com) and satellite data visualized by the IRI to see trends in surface water and rainfall. I am also part of the team working on a tool to combine both the surface water and rainfall data sets (https://noah-water.appspot.com) and for two of the stories in this series I’ve used this tool as a guiding point for the data.
Data tools: https://global-surface-water.appspot.com/ https://noah-water.appspot.com Google Scholar Excel I would call my series an example not of using complex technologies but using data that was available and combining it interviews on the ground to tell one of the biggest stories of the century. This series is an example not of high-end technology but the difference using available sources of data and combining it with meticulous reporting can make. I've been able to demonstrate the impact of climate change on communities across India without a shadow of doubt for policy makers to now take it forward.
The reporting was done by me. However as with any journalism project, the entire editing team at IndiaSpend has played a role in helping me ideate as well as fine tune the stories.