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Are We Heading Towards “Day Zero” In Bengaluru?

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Cricket is not the only reason South Africa is in the news. Parts of South Africa is in severe drought. So much so that each citizens is allotted only 50 litres of water per day in Cape Town! The situation is grim and April is believed to be the ‘day zero’, the day when the taps will be turned off. It may very well be the first modern city to run out of drinking water. Climate change and mismanagement of water resources are attributed to the situation. Back in India, the situation is more or less similar or at least going to be similar if concrete steps are not taken.

Water is the bare minimum essential for survival. Yet we have treated our water bodies with nothing but apathy. Bengaluru, is a prime example of this apathy. Bellandur lake catching fire  has made it to the headlines around the world. Lakes were a natural way of preserving ground water. Bengaluru, despite being blessed with many lakes, meets its drinking water needs by pumping water from Cauvery water, situated hundreds of kilometers away. The reason for this is Bengaluru lakes are polluted and most of them are unfit for drinking or even bathing.

It is not just the lakes that face our apathy but also our rivers. Vrishabhavati river, a minor river of Bengaluru is no longer a river, it is essentially sewage water flowing. One can witnessed frothing as high as three-storey buildings in the Byramangala reservoir, into which Vrishabhavati flows.

All this has led to an over dependence on Cauvery for meeting our drinking water requirements . Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have historically locked horns over this lifeline. Considering the number of riots that have happened over this river and the emotional reverence to the river by the people of both states, one would expect that this river to be a source of good drinking water. But alas! Cauvery is the one of the most polluted (in terms of chemical pollution) rivers in the country, higher than even River Ganga.

Another popular source of drinking water is the ground water. Not all of Bengaluru has piped Cauvery water supply. Outside of core Bengaluru, citizens are left to depend on borewells (mostly private borewells). The depth of borewells that are being dug, runs into thousands of feet. There are enough anecdotes to show even these depths do not guarantee water! Bengaluru is over crowded and very little is being done to regulate a precious commodity like water. Concrete foundations and tarred roads have prevented the rain water from percolating and recharging ground water.

In order to deal with water shortage, Bengaluru made rain water harvesting compulsory (for newly built houses and those that measure over 30 x 40 feet) in 2009. However, the efforts are being negated by apathetic citizens, with less than one-tenth of the household  adopting rain water harvesting. A study by researchers at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), have already predicted that Bengaluru will be uninhabitable in a few years, A part of the reason cited by the researchers is water scarcity.

There have been civil wars fought over water scarcity. Bengaluru is heading towards a similar disaster, it is not a question of “IF” anymore, it is a question of “WHEN”. Citizens can still soften the blow that might hit us.   We need activism to rejuvenate Cauvery, rather than rioting over a dying river. As citizens, adopt rain water harvesting, prevent lakes being encroached by real estate industry. Actively report waste dumping in lakes and rivers in Bengaluru. At the governance level, a task force is needed exclusively for water and waste management.

This task force must have representation from bureaucracy, scientists, citizens and  engineers. The government needs to ration water judiciously so that we do not face what Cape town is facing. We need investments in rejuvenating our lakes. There must be concrete steps taken to drastically reduce our dependence on the already overburdened River Cauvery. One way to achieve this independence would be to develop artificial reservoirs in every ward of Bengaluru to retain rain water. This requires redesigning of our storm drains. A strong law which empowers residents staying in the vicinity of the lake to prevent garbage and sewage dumping the lakes. We might still not be able to avert the disaster which we have created, but at least we will buy some time to find a possible solution.

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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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