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What Is A Green Economy And How Can It Help India?

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We have seen how the global economy has been paralysed even after liberalisation and globalisation. Ecological causes have forced us to look at green economic models. We need corporate environmental responsibility to change.

Picture Credit: Jayanta Kumar Das

The corporate-carbon-consumer axis has been the design of the global economy for the last 20 years following the Earth Summit, 1992. Corporate houses use carbon as a resource, selling products in the market as ‘low-carbon’ and ‘eco-friendly’. This increases the concern regarding usage of carbon.

The developed world and some of the most powerful developing economies stand committed to cutting down on carbon emissions. The great global carbon politics has detracted from the basic meaning of sustainable development. Corporate accession has induced a great carbon market which has created a shift to corporate imperialism. Over the last 20 years, we have witnessed a series of natural disasters despite the global agenda for sustainable development. Therefore, the focus of green economics is to generate jobs by introducing low-carbon emissions for large corporations. And to design better public-private partnerships to use and transfer green renewable technology.

The Nagoya Protocol of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and other emerging environmental regulatory frameworks like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are innovative financing systems designed to incentivise conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. The core of the green economy paradigm is a two-pronged approach;

  • The conservation of common chain resources granting rights to the indigenous people and the local community of the ecosystem and ensuring that they are incentivised.
  • This is ensured by creating a flow of monetary and non-monetary benefits from the commercial and research use of the resources for the community, in the form of genes or carbon stocks.
Picture Credit: Jayanta Kumar Das

The green economy is defined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as one that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing the environmental risks and ecological scarcities” or “a low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive economy.”

UNEP in its extended version, defined a green economy as one in which “growth in income and employment should be driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

However, the success and failure of a green economy will depend on green governance. While a green economy seeks to be an innovative financing mechanism that will incentivise the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the challenges lie in identifying rights and sharing benefits with communities that are actively involved in conservation and sustainable use. It is vital that it’s not left to the market (green, or otherwise) to devolve rights. Rather, it is critical that a green governance framework is in place that will clarify the rights of communities before embarking on a green economy.

For a green economy to work, it needs to incentivize communities who are effectively engaged in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity through traditional ways of life. In fact, the only way a system of incentives can work is by ensuring that the rights of communities who need to be incentivised are clarified through a strong green governance system at the outset.

Putting economic value on nature as the green economy does, without clarity on the right holders and beneficiaries could lead to an elite accession and the exclusion of communities who ultimately are the absolute stewards of nature. There is a paradox when the potential of green profits could lead to the denial of rights for community beneficiaries in a market driven process. Hence, the green economy will further destroy green governance thereby leading to further ecological degradation.

It is important at this stage to transition into a green economy by firmly grounding it in the principles of green governance. One concern is the need to figure out how the public and the private sector can invest in a green economy while ensuring robust green governance. Ironically, while the green economy is being hailed as the economy of the future, this enthusiasm is not matched by an implementation of the principles of green governance. This is not from a lack of frameworks for green governance in law and policy.

The Nagoya Protocol takes the first step to secure green governance in a multilateral environmental agreement by recognising four key rights of communities. They are the rights of communities to:

  • Traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
  • Genetic resources.
  • Self-governance through customary laws and community protocols.
  • Benefit from the utilisation of their traditional knowledge and genetic resources by third parties.
Picture Credit: Dimple Dimp

The green economy sees nature as natural capital and its use as the monetary value of biodiversity. The natural capital flow is equivalent to the estimates under the economics of ecosystem and its biodiversity. Effectively, what a green economy does is put an economic value on biodiversity. We must consider the green economy in terms of public goods and services that nature provides, like clean air, water, carbon sink system, pollination, rainfall, food, medicines, etc.

When one overlooks the access of natural benefits and services from the ecosystem and transforms it into other land use for short-term economic gain, the community associated with such ecosystems have to pay a massive economic cost both directly and indirectly. We must consider the provisioning services, the regulating services, habitat and supporting services and cultural services as the gross ecosystem services to estimate the economics of an ecosystem. The green economy specifically relies on the diverse nature of services the ecosystems are providing.

Provisional services comprise of rendering food, raw materials, fresh water and medicinal resources. Regulating services include climate and air quality regulation, carbon sequestration and storage, moderation of extreme events, waste-water treatment, erosion prevention, maintenance of soil fertility, pollination and biological control. Habitat or supporting services comprise of habitats for species and maintenance of genetic diversity. Cultural services include recreation, mental and physical health, tourism, aesthetic appreciation and inspiration for culture, art and design and spiritual experience.

The green economy specifically relies on the diverse nature of services the ecosystem provides.

Picture Credit: Dimple Dimp

Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis of the conversion of mangrove vegetation into a shrimp farm in southern Thailand. The conventional economist estimates the mangrove forests as unprofitable since it assists only around $600 per hectare per year based on the wood for fuel extracted by the community. It suggested transforming this mangrove ecosystem into a shrimp farm with expected profits of around $9,600 per hectare per year. The green economy estimates don’t include only the potential economic profit but it also considers the government subsidies of about $10,000 per hectare for rehabilitation due to salination and leaching of chemicals after five years of exploration.

The approach also considers the monetary value of benefits of the mangrove forest to the local communities in the form of ecosystem services such as wood, fish and coastal protection against storms and cyclones that amount to about $12,000 per hectare per year. After evaluating the gross economic and ecological values in terms of its monetary benefits, it is far better than shrimp farming, not just in terms of the market value of shrimp but also in terms of costs of the ecosystem services it provides. It clearly illustrates that the shrimp farm makes a significant net loss compared to the services provided by the mangrove forest.

The poorest of the poor and the marginalised are the most affected community due to massive destruction of the ecosystem and its biodiversity. Transforming the land use of the ecosystem for short-term economic gain heavily affects the natural capital flow and the biodiversity of the ecosystem. In a recent estimate, if all the forests in India, Brazil and Indonesia were destroyed, the impact on the GDP of the countries would be 16%, 10% & 21% respectively. But the impact on the GDP of the poor by 47%, 89% & 75% respectively.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, (Rio de Janeiro 2012) draft, ‘The Future We Want’, stresses adopting a ‘green economic’ model. It considers the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty alleviation as one of the significant instruments available for achieving sustainable development, recognising that it could provide options for policy formulation but should not be a rigid set of rules. The green economy should work to alleviate poverty, sustain economic growth, enhance social inclusion, improve human welfare, explore employment opportunities and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of our earth’s ecosystem. The document affirms that policies for a green economy in the context of sustainable development & poverty eradication should be guided by all the Rio Principles, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Picture Credit: Amrish Kumar Joshi, Gaya, Bihar

The north-east of India has a great potential to harness the green economy. The entire region has an abundant natural capital flow, rich biodiversity and an abundantly rich, diverse, ethnic, tribal community. Each ethnic community extracts diverse ecological benefits for its distinct crafts. They craft distinct products, but they hardly extract the potential profit. They need technical and financial assistance with access to credit and markets. There is an abundant opportunity to develop this region into a sustainable eco-tourism destination. The green economy is in need of a modern global community and a set of robust green governance principles to establish a climate-resilient natural capital flow, so that the poorest of the poor and the marginalised have access to the potential economic and ecological benefits. The green economy is about bridging the gap between robust development and inequitable resource benefit sharing. It will bring the most marginalised sections of society into the mainstream.

It is a paradigm shift for the development-versus-environment dichotomy.

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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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