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Why It’s Better For India To Let Its Fossil Fuels Remain Buried

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By Shaan Suhas Kumar:

A chimney is reflected in a puddle polluted with chemicals at an industrial area of the western Indian city of Surat November 25, 2009. Just next to India's west coast, Surat is learning to live with big upheavals and now wants to become a front-runner in preparing for the impact of climate change in a country with fast-rising emissions but generally low environmental awareness. The picture was rotated 180 degrees. Picture taken November 25, 2009. To match feature INDIA-CLIMATE/ADAPTATION REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files (INDIA ENVIRONMENT POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTXRLAS
Image credit: Reuters/Arko Datta.

Last year the whole world watched wide-eyed when India, which was seen to take the back seat in former Climate Change conferences, took up a strong stand and chose not to blindly adhere to drastic carbon emission cuts that were expected of it by the rest of the world.

India remained unmoved on its agenda as it made it clear to other countries that it wasn’t going to be forced into compromising on its ambitious plans of growth and development keeping its people at the centre of its decisions. It also firmly stated that it was not going to pay the price for the problems it did not create.

At COP21 in Paris last November, the country emphasised the fact that even after being the world’s third largest carbon emitter, it produced less than 5% of the world’s emissions and its per capita carbon footprint accounted for less than 1/3rd of the world’s average. With these facts, India urged developed countries to think about ‘differentiation’, being ‘fair’ and upheld the concept of ‘Climate Justice‘ where it propagated that the developed world, responsible for more the half the world’s carbon emissions, should take the lead in radically cutting them down. This would leave some room for the developing nations to now be the ones to thrive on fossil fuels as long as they do not cross the 1.5 degree Celsius limit in temperature rise.

Since the conference, though, India has slowly come to terms with the fact that the concept of asking for ‘wiggle room’ to use fossil fuels is flawed and its own susceptibility to the effects of climate change is immense.

In the past, the country has been highly reliant on fossil fuels and about 70% of its current energy is coal generated. Continuing to tread on this path to ensure economic growth will come with enormous side effects. While in the past it has focused on development for people’s welfare, it has cost the country immensely by taking away from people, well-being in its very basic sense.

The extraction of fossil fuels to meet energy demands over the years has resulted in a large-scale destruction of India’s earlier abundant forest cover, lessening its own capacity to combat pollution caused by the burning of these resources. Today, the country’s ecosystem lies in a dilapidated state, with air highly polluted, biodiversity brought to its knees and erratic weather patterns, reaching extreme temperatures resulting in cities flooded on one end and a dreadful water crisis on the other.

Continuing with fossil fuels will lead the country into taking two steps backwards with each step forward by costing people their health and safety while paradoxically promising them a ‘better standard of living’. As per current predictions, the amount that India will gain in exports through growth and development this way, would be far less than the amount that it will lose in healthcare, relocation, and providing for loss from natural disasters.

The responsibility on India’s shoulders is huge. Being the world’s fastest growing economy, en route to becoming the world’s most populated country, which aims to provide electricity to another 300 million people who are currently deprived of it and India’s high dependence on fossil fuels to meet these demands has put it in the limelight. People are hoping for the country to indulge in responsible decision making, as the effects of its actions will be felt worldwide in the coming years.

After rethinking its actions post the conference, the country has finally decided to take the path less travelled. Just last month, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar changed his stance from what was said in Paris, to stating that even though it wasn’t a part of the problem, the country looks forward to being a part of the solution.

On April 22, 2016, India will go ahead with ratifying and formally signing the Paris Climate Change Agreement along with 100 other countries on the occasion of Earth Day at the UN headquarters in New York.

India has opted to be the game changer, keeping ‘Sustainable Development’ at the core of its activities by planning to build its capacity and draw 40% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030. With more than 300 clear and sunny days it has set a grand target to ramp up its Solar Power Generation Capacity to a mammoth 100 GWs by 2022 while its current capacity is only close to a mere 5 GWs. Cutting down its fossil fuel imports and looking to leaving its own fossil fuel resources in the ground, moving away from subsidies to levying heavy taxes on carbon has also become an important part of the plan for India’s attempt at a green future.

You must be to comment.
  1. Manudev Jain

    Concise yet consolidated.
    News paper op-ed worthy work.
    Kudos, Super-lady.

  2. Aarti Kumar

    Very proud of you. Very well researched and written????????????????

  3. Suhas Kumar

    A well researched and meticulously penned article. I am so proud of you Shaan.

  4. Suhas Kumar

    Excellent Write up Shaan. Keep it up. We are proud of you.

  5. Suhas Kumar

    Excellent write- up Shaan. Keep it up. We are proud of you.

  6. Suhas Kumar

    Excellent write- up Shaan. Keep it up.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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