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Top 10 Environmental Issues Plaguing The World

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By Tadrash Shah:

The environment can, very generically be defined as one encompassing all living and non-living things occurring naturally on the earth or some region. This can be literal definition of the environment, the natural environment to be specific. But today this definition does not prevail. The term has to widen to explore the unprecedented and unanticipated factors and agencies that have moved into the setting. Enlisting them is very difficult, but these are too obvious to be mentioned.

The setup that was formed to help humans sustain has been rendered so unsustainable that it is not just a matter of concern but has now turned into a subject of anxiety for survival. The environment cannot just be confounded to nature; it also includes the economy and the society, which collectively call for preservation and sustenance of the environment.

climatic issues

Choosing the top ten environmental problems from a plethora of the same has been a herculean task as for me. However, here we have a few:

Population: It is the first and perhaps the only issue that has given birth to a socio-economic and natural imbalance. If the resources available and demanded are accounted over a balance sheet, the credit we have taken is a lot more than what we have returned. Hence, all other social, economic and environmental issues stem from the fact that we over-populate our planet. Statistics say that world’s population has tripled in last 60 years. This has led to a huge amount of stress on all the resources that nature has blessed us with. I reiterate, all. Also socio-economic factors like poverty, illiteracy, housing, food consumption, fuel, sanitation, health etc suffer because of this explosion.

Climate Change : Climate Change was always too mild a term and this clearly is evident to all the residents on this globe. We can all see that the season cycles have changed in past few years. We see some regions facing drought and other being alarmingly flooded. Summers get hotter and hotter and winters are bone-chilling. The reason for worry is the fact that this change is not undoable in a brief span of time. This also encompasses the problems like, Ozone Depletion, Green House Effects, disrupted Nitrogen and Oxygen cycles, inherent birth of epidemics among others.

Biodiversity Burden : There is of course a loss in biodiversity which is pretty evident. There are several plants and species that are on verge of extinction. Those small sparrows that we used to see in our houses each morning are no more to be seen and the radiations from the mobile towers is the reason for the same. Some plantations and berries that could be cultivated easily in our backyards are dying and new cultivations are failing. Deforestation is the major cause and the uproar of urbanization compounds the problem. Urbanization is destroying the habitats of these species. Also unplanned growth of cities, apart from a few like Delhi, have caused fragmentation in these habitats and hence, at times the jungle animals are seen in cities, confused and wild. Else why would tigers and leopards attack humans. The nuisance of monkeys is also well known in certain cities. This loss of biodiversity is termed ‘The Sixth Extinction‘. This reminds me of a book by Rachael Carson titled ‘A Silent Spring’ where the spring is silent due to the death of birds as a result of industrialization.

Water : Said to be the cause of third world war, water is the scarcest natural resource. Let’s hope we do not see the nightmarish bloodshed once more! There are other resources getting depleted too, but there exists some or the other alternative source for them, however water cannot be substituted by anything else. Water cannot just be selfishly thought of as potable for humans. It also should be fishable, swimmable and even irrigable. Over-exploitation of ground-water has led to the depletion of the same and intrusion of salty water into the grounds near the coastal areas. Haven’t we all heard of the case of Aswan dam? What is the plight of Ganga? The river is not even swimmable now due to disposal of industrial wastes and dead bodies. Statistically, one third of humans do not have access to clean and fresh water, thanks to water pollution, water depletion and climate change.

Ocean Acidification : This is a lesser known issue. Due to the excessive emission of CO2 the oceans have turned acidic and thus are posing problems for the aquatic life forms and the food chain. About 1/4th of CO2 produced every year by human activities is dissolved in the oceans. This decreases the amount of carbonates in water and hence creates similar effects in marine life as osteoporosis does in humans. The shells and skeletons dissolve completely. Now, the point for our concern is the fact that if oceans also turn acidic our ideas of processing ocean and sea water to make them fit for human consumption would go to waste.

Pollution : Air, water, soil and other lesser known forms of pollution have the most adverse effects. There are a few toxic substances that pollute these environmental components. What is even worse is that these toxic substances conveniently flow across the environmental components. Industrialization and urbanization is the prime source. I shall give you an example here: In a particular area in Ahmadabad, which is close to the sewage treatment plant, the amount of acidity in the air is so high that people are faced with respiratory troubles and pure metals like copper are known to get rusted and dissolve easily. Improper waste disposal is also another cause of concern.

Deforestation : On a historical note, it has been recently found that the cause of fall of the Mayan civilization and the Khmer Empire was singly due to the effects of deforestation. Since 1990, half of the rain forests have been cleared. Increasing the suburbs of all the cities causes deforestation. Thousands of trees are cut down to broaden the highways to accommodate the ever increasing traffic. It should be noted that there efforts made towards tree plantations, but the method has not shown any substantial positive results. Agricultural lands are also converted to industrial lands at cheaper costs and are thus getting depleted. If this continues for a prolonged period of time then the problem of food would arise. There are techniques like green houses for agriculture being adopted for better and greater crop yield but the initial investment in these techniques is so high that a farmer can seldom afford them.

Energy : This is one area where a lot of entrepreneurial options are coming up and the future seems not all that doomed as of now, provided the opportunity is grasped firmly. Conventional sources of energy are no more sustainable so we need to turn towards renewable sources of energy. But the major drawback is the initial investment. Petrol, these days, is no less than a priceless possession of gold and diamonds. I still remember my school textbooks where petrol was nicknamed ‘The Black Gold’. Either we need to change our outlook towards the usage of fuel or the fuel itself. If we change both, prosperity is bound to follow.

Health Care and Sanitation : With the ever increasing population and the shortage of housing, there is this major challenge of providing proper sanitation to the citizens. More so in the rural sector where the construction is typically unstandardized. Also due to pollution there are number of diseases which have made their way owing to the mutation of viruses in an unstable environment. Who had heard of H1N1 flu, Chikungunya, and other such diseases in the past? There is certainly a lot of development in the health care industry but we have failed to contain health problems because we have not been able to provide proper sanitation.

Us : This is actually out of context. But yes, we are the ones who have by far been negligent towards the environment. The commitment to do our bit would be the greatest gift ever. We have always believed that nature is at our command to fulfil our needs and have always ignored the call for co-existence. The Government and United Nations policies are merely guidelines and abiding by those is at our disposition.

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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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