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India Desperately Needs A Clean Energy Mission. If You Still Want Reasons, Here Are 5

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By Krishna Kala Baskaran:

air pollution“How can we speak to those who live in villages and in slums about keeping the oceans, the rivers, and the air clean when their own lives are contaminated at the source?” asked Indira Gandhi in her address in the UN conference on Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972. The powerful statement formed the basis of arguments of developing countries which tread a fine line between poverty alleviation and environmental concerns. The industrialized countries cannot thrust strict environmental regulations upon the developing countries as it would prevent all measures that address social problems in the country.

The consensus among developing countries around the Paris agreement shows a change in the scenario. Developing countries like India have a lot more at stake due to climate change and it is reflected in urgency for such an agreement. India, China and most of the developing nations are large pollutants. For any measure to keep global temperature below limits, it is important for these countries to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. In addition to the international commitments, there are several issues that India can address by adopting renewable energy. Some of the pressing reasons for India to ditch fossil fuels are concerned with the protection its vulnerable communities. Hence here are 5 such reasons for India to adopt a Swachh Energy mission.

1. With increasing pollution, there is increase in health issues

A study in 2015 showed that there was a 30% increase in cases of acute respiratory infection in the country since 2010. The high levels of pollution in Delhi caused a nationwide furore owing to the imminent health effects. Reports suggested that about 2 million children in the capital would never attain full lung capacity. 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India and with the increasing urbanisation, same trends can be seen in semi-urban regions of the country as well. Pollution at such alarming levels is caused prominently by fossil fuel usage in vehicles and power plants. The increasing health hazards also take a toll on the health expenditure which could further denigrate the growth rate.

2. Untapped coal reserves are under some of the densest forests

A study shows that majority of the untapped coal reserves are in the Central Indian Landscape. The landscape is home to some of the densest forests in the country and houses about 30 % of the world tiger population. India currently uses open cast mining to extract coal which is the least expensive and requires low-level technology. Destruction of such forests comes with costs of destruction of forest cover, mass migration of people dependent on the forests and subsequent poverty and unemployment and increase in human-animal conflict.

3. Natural disasters could be worse; especially in the urban setting

There is ample scientific evidence to show that natural disasters have increased in frequency and intensity due to human activities. The imminent effects of climate change are being felt every day in cities like Chennai that saw unprecedented rains that crippled the city and killed hundreds, in Hyderabad where heat wave claims lives every year and Delhi where the cold winters kill several on the streets. The urban governments in general lag behind in providing required infrastructure for the low-income groups of the city which makes them more vulnerable to such incidents. Corruption, Flouting of norms and Regularisation puts thousands at risk since the population density is high.

4. Haphazard rainfall patterns deter food security

About 50% of the country’s workforce is dependent on Agriculture and agriculture is largely dependent on rainfall. Uncertainty in rainfall can impoverish thousands across the country. Moreover, failed rainfalls have been associated with an increase in farmer suicides and drop in food production. One failed monsoon in 2009has led to a drop in rice production by 15 million tons. India cannot achieve food security nor realise its demographic potential if half of the workforce is put out of work for a year. In the contrary, unexpected rains in the harvest season can destroy crops.

5. Environment-induced migrations and displacement exemplify all the problems

Migration to urban areas is on the rise over the years and the issues discussed previously is poised to displace more people. A Greenpeace study in 2009 showed a possible increase in migrations due to sea level rise along the Indian coast. This further increases the load on resources especially in urban areas which has been witnessing high population density. Any increase beyond the carrying capacity of the supporting ecosystem would lead to severe scarcity of essential resources like water which is being seen in cities like Bangalore.

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  1. Yusra Khan

    This is very well written and nicely researched.

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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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