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The Indian Water Crisis Is No More A Child’s Play

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By Mmrityunjay Nanda:

A class three question, ‘What are the basic requirements of a life?’, has been irrationally erased from the matured Indian minds. Air, Water and Energy are the absolute needs for a life to blossom on the green planet but today, in the space-age, are we forgetting to care one of the prime necessities and thus endangering our existence?

Yes, I am talking about the famous inorganic matter, when two atoms of hydrogen chemically combine with one atom of oxygen to formulate the precious water (H2O). In the race of globalization and modernization the consciousness ‘Jal hi Jeevan i.e. Water is life’ has vanished somewhere midway. Now while the crisis is at peak, people searching for alternatives rather than solving the issues concerned with the existing problems. The human needs are growing at an alarming rate, subsequently the need for water too. But the supply or actions against crisis of water are not remarkable at all. Administrators, public and media have been only yelling about the issue but significantly no one still has a perfect approach. While addressing the crisis, a 2006 United Nations report describes “There is enough water for everyone” and “Water insufficiency is often due to mismanagement, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia and a shortage of investment in both human capacity and physical infrastructure”.

Talking about India’s water crisis, it is absolutely a manmade problem. Neither India’s climate is completely dry nor is it lacking in rivers or groundwater. As a matter of fact India possesses around 432 bcm (billion cubic meters) of groundwater which replenished yearly from rain and river drainage, but only 395 bcm is usable. Out of that 395 bcm, a mere 18% is used by domestic and industrial purposes. Though overexploitation of aquifers in some areas and non-uniform distribution of rainfall have resulted in falling groundwater levels; unclear laws, industrial-human waste and damming of our rivers upstream by China have caused the water supply crunched and rendered. An interesting response from UNICEF’s report on Indian water crisis dictates “There will be constant competition over water, between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists, minorities living off natural resources and entrepreneurs seeking to turn it into a commodity resources base for commercial gain”

While accessing drinking water continues to be a headache, assuring its safety is turning into a huge challenge. The problem is even getting worse due to continuous unrestrained activities like bacterial contamination of water- a widespread problem across the country and a major cause of illness and deaths with 37.7 million affected by waterborne diseases annually. According to the World Bank, 88% of all waterborne diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. In contamination due to over-exploitation, 90% of the sewage generated by municipal councils and over 50% of sewage discharged by municipal corporations goes untreated. Effluents and industrial waste is another major cause for the pollution of ground and surface water as in increased use of fertilizer and pesticide in agriculture and industrial sectors. Where a report explains that in India, an estimated 200,000 tons of faeces load is generated every day due to open defecation there the industrial sector contributes 30729.2 mcb of effluent right in to our bodies. The World Bank has estimated that the total cost of environmental damage in India amounts shockingly to US$9.7 billion annually. Furthermore, cultural practice is yet another substantial cause of the pollution of water bodies. Water bodies have been used as dustbins for various offerings that have degraded the drinkability of surface water. Defecation on boundaries of water bodies results in bacteriological contamination and so the rivers have high fluoride content, which annually affects 66 million people nationwide.

It’s not completely true that requisite proceedings have not undertaken but a lot of those have been proved as daydreams. Though millions have been spent on pollution clean-ups, the public eyes have gone blind en route to the outcomes. In 2005, a government audit indicted the Jal Board for having spent $200 million on pollution clean-up but regretfully no tangible results were found. Despite of several honest attempts, the response of the Indian government on more big dams, hydropower projects, distance water transfer and desalinization on a grand scale is completely off the mark. The government has shown the greatest enthusiasm in only undertaking the formation of committees which make reports, more reports and only reports. These reports have been published, guidelines have been issued, laws have been passed and that’s all that has been done. It’s not too late for actions but if we still only plan on official papers sitting idly, expecting government’s assistance, then literally no one can save us from getting drowned in a drought. The only universal prerequisite is an impulsive action and its implementation.

At the end of the show, I am not going to throw any suggestions from my side. Instead of claiming on others’ faults, I would be doing my part of the job to ensure my responsibilities towards the society and mankind. What about you?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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