Tag Archives: Drought

Earth Day 2017: Are we doing enough for our Mother Earth?

This year’s theme is ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy’ which seeks to “empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.” Decide your own contribution when you celebrate ‘Earth Day’ on April 22

Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) institutionalized an innovative system for the betterment of environment in 2016. It officially promoted and made available cow-dung cakes for cremation at one of the ghats. It is almost one year since the facility was adopted by the NMC and the number of families choosing to go green when bidding good bye to their dear ones is increasing day by day. Using cow-dung cakes has not just proved to be cost-effective but also saves trees from being cut.

The brain behind this was Vijay Limaye of the Eco-friendly Living Foundation (ELF), who has been propagating the concept through his NGO at various ghats. In about 10 months, when more than 300 persons were burnt using the eco-friendly materials such as cow-dung and/or briquettes made from agro-waste. The initiative has received a huge response from Nagpur residents and the facility is in the process of being replicated at other cremation sites in the city.

Far away from Nagpur, in drought-prone Marathwada, a bunch of Jain people, mostly from Mumbai, were striving hard to bring relief to the drought-stressed farming community across 60 villages. Samasta Mahajan, an organization of few individuals from the business community, poured in its heart to de-silt scores of lakes, deepen hundreds of ponds and help large number of farmers dig farm-ponds in their land. This was followed up by plantation of lakhs of indigenous varieties of trees such as banyan, neem, peepal, mango, tamarind, baheda and karanj etc. to alleviate the drought related problems faced by the farming community.

Our Mother Earth

Recognising and acknowledging that Mother Earth is a common expression for the planet earth in a number of countries and regions across the globe, which “reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit”, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate April 22 as the International Mother Earth Day in 2009. The United Nations believes that “the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development holds the power to transform our world.”

The theme for 2017 campaign – Environmental and Climate Literacy – is an apt step to club the two major plans of action agreed upon by world leaders. Top leaders from 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement wherein they all agree to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and given the extreme urgency of the situation, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. The changing climate has already started manifesting as there has been a steady rise in the number of climate related disasters.

Governments of the world, including the government of India, have announced to take several measures to combat disasters that are wrought on the humanity due to changes in the climatic conditions. India’s federal structure makes participation by the state governments necessary in all such endeavours. Maharashtra government too has charted out its Action Plan for combating Climate Change.

Rivers are important water resources and need to be conserved

For instance, among other sector-wise issues, the 300-plus page document mentions possible impact of climate change on water resources in the state – such as ‘projected increase in rainfall in the form of heavy precipitation events’ and ‘increase in surface run offs in certain catchments’. It then goes on to recommend ‘conservation and re-naturalisation of rivers and water bodies’, ‘enhancement of water storage and groundwater recharge’ and ‘improvement of water use efficiency’ and charts out a proper action plan for steps to be taken for mitigating this problem and also in adapting to the situations arising out of it.

Individual’s contribution

But more than what the governments are doing, it becomes imperative for each one of us to contribute in whichever way we can. (See box for what you can do?) Not just adults but even children/students need to be aware of what can be the consequences of the changes in climatic conditions, of its unprecedented threat to our Mother Earth. Awareness will come from education and empowerment through knowledge. Knowledge will inspire people to take adequate action. “Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs,” the United Nations has declared.

Each one of us is duty bound to first gain knowledge about causes that lead to rise in global temperature which in turn brings about disastrous climate changes. Next, we need to empower others with that knowledge so that each one of is aware of the pitfalls and can take a conscious decision to improve chances of a better world for our tomorrow.

“Ensuring adequate public participation is central to the design and implementation of any SAPCC,”, the Maharashtra state action plan to combat climate change states and declares: “Effective climate action on adaptation requires general public awareness and community involvement. There is potential for key roles to be played by women, the youth, NGOs and community leaders.”

Perfect opportunity for spreading ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy.’ Remember, you need to work to save yourselves, your future. Are you ready?

What can an individual do for his bit for Mother Earth?

Some simple and some not-so-simple steps for ordinary citizens

** Adopt sustainable lifestyle – e.g. reduce energy consumption as much as possible
** Build green buildings rather than opting for glass facades
** Cycle to your office or take public transport, discard your own polluting-fuel vehicle
** Make online bill payments, reduce paper usage
** Do not pollute the rivers and the mountains as citizens, as tourists
** Save every drop of water – in your kitchen, bathroom and in open/common areas
** Harvest rainwater falling on your roof top, in your garden, in your farmland
** Plant trees as often as you can and in as many numbers as you can
** Recycle things to reduce garbage/waste, turn waste into energy
** Shift to solar and/or other renewable energy

This write up was carried by Maharashtra Ahead, the official publication of DGPIR of Maharashtra Government in its April 2017 issue. The following images show how it appeared in the print edition.

Maharashtra Ahead April 2017 – Page 1-2

South Asia slow to act on water threats

The Ganges river delta in Bangladesh and India Image NASA World Wind via Wikimedia Commons

Satellite image of the vast Ganges river delta in Bangladesh and India
Image: NASA World Wind via Wikimedia Commons

A study of the five countries sharing and relying on the Indian sub-continent’s great rivers shows that Bangladesh is the only one that is taking climate change seriously

Even before this year’s delayed and inadequate monsoon recently brought some relief to the Indian sub-continent, researchers discovered widespread concern by local experts that their governments are mismanaging the water supplies on which a billion people depend for survival, and giving insufficient attention to climate change.

A new report, Attitudes to Water in South Asia, explores domestic water management and transboundary water issues in five countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It focuses on two river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Indus-Kabul basins, which are vital to the lives of a vast population.

Chatham House – the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs − worked on the report with India’s Observer Research Foundation, and similar partner organisations in the other four countries. Their findings are based on evidence from almost 500 interviews conducted in the five countries in 2013 with a range of water experts, government officials, policy-makers and decision-makers from NGOs and the private sector.

Observing that water is “highly politicised in the region, with strong links to food security and the livelihoods of the large proportion of the population dependent on agriculture”, the report underscores the relation between the domestic mismanagement of water in each country and the failure to address transboundary water relations.

Few agreements

“In spite of the shared river system and the interdependencies, South Asian governments have signed few bilateral water agreements and no regional ones,” the report says. “Those transboundary water treaties that do exist face criticism on a number of grounds: for time periods too short to too long; and for their lack of provision for environmental factors or new challenges, such as climate change.”.

Yet the ability of countries in South Asia to deal with the possible effects of climate change will be in part determined by their ability to manage water, and also how they deal with weather events such as floods and droughts.

“The majority . . .  expressed concern that their governments
were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention”

While many respondents across the region felt that other immediate concerns were more pressing, the majority of those interviewed expressed concern that their governments were giving the issue of climate change insufficient attention,” said Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at Chatham House and lead author of the report.

For instance, in Afghanistan, even where respondents had some knowledge of the body responsible for setting government-wide policy on climate change, they were equally certain that the amount of practical action on ground was virtually zero.

In Bangladesh, where most respondents were acutely aware of climate change and its possible effects, many said their government was doing better. There was a general consensus that ministers had made climate change a priority by setting aside funds for adaptation and mitigation.

However, Afghani and Bangladeshi respondents noted the lack of availability of important policy documents − currently available only in English − in local languages..

And Indian respondents felt that climate change was not a major priority for the government, although it was widely recognised that it could wreak havoc on the country.

“Inadequate water storage leaving farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of weather suggest an urgent need for appropriate investment in such facilities in order to not just increase agriculture production, but also to ensure farmers have an option to adjust to changing climate,” the report says.

Food security

Climate change could also have a big impact on the transboundary water relations, the report warns. Some respondents from India and Bangladesh feared that a variation in the timing and intensity of monsoons could affect agricultural production and weaken food security, “driving tension between the two countries over access to water in a dry period”.

Interviewees from Nepal perceived climate change as a “future threat”, in comparison with immediate challenges and the need to increase access to water and electricity. Most respondents felt that Nepal’s approach was “inadequate” and pointed out the gap between national plans and local implementation.

Pakistani respondents believed their country’s approach to climate change lacked “urgency”. They particularly pointed out that a Ministry of Climate Change had recently been reduced to a mere division of another ministry, and had had its funding slashed by 62%.

Brink of cataclysm

The report quoted a climate change expert working with the Pakistan government, who said his country stood on the brink of an environmental cataclysm, with the seasonal monsoon shifting away from traditional catchment areas towards Afghanistan. “This trend, reinforced by climate change, [has]increased the likelihood of extraordinary rainfall patterns, cloudbursts, and flash floods,” he said.

The researchers’ recommendations Include: improving domestic water management, and rainwater harvesting; enhancing data collection, data sharing and discussions between the five countries, particularly in relation to floods and droughts, and the management of watersheds and river basins; easing water demand through less water-intensive crops and irrigation methods.

They also stress that existing treaties should be revisited, ensuring that they address technological advances, environmental factors and climate change. – Climate News Network

(This was first published by Climate News Network on July 7, 2014 and it can be read at http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/2014/07/south-asia-slow-to-act-on-water-threats/ )