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Kerala Is Paying A Heavy Price For Destructive Development

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The issue of development has become de rigueur to every political manifesto, campaign, and debate. Unfortunately, for India, none of her current leaders, whether using development for jingoism or demagoguing, have the vision of  sustainable development. For our leaders, development is limited to the ‘built environment’. They call only building roads, toilets, resorts, buildings, hospitals as development. But isn’t developing biological corridors that facilitate increased fecundity of wildlife also a form of development? Isn’t sustaining biodiversity also a kind of development? Isn’t increasing food production by increasing the fertility of soil without chemicals also a type of development? Isn’t maintaining the health and vitality of our mountains, rivers, and forests also a form of development?

Massive funds are allocated for those types of developments which destroy natural resources of the country, whereas  sustainable development doesn’t even find mention in parties’ manifesto. Such destructive development that ostentatiously ignores the harm that is caused to nature comes at a very high cost than what the estimated budget set for the project is. In May 2017, the CPI-M led LDF government in Kerala proposed to spend about Rs. 20,000 crore for various development projects which included construction of big roads, bridges, IT parks and welfare schemes,  out of which promoting tourism was the priority. In August 2018, the government pegs losses at Rs. 1,9512 crore due to this man-made disaster. The indiscriminate construction of resorts with unchecked quarrying and mining in ecologically sensitive areas by felling trees on the mountains has led to the soil erosion which has led to the unprecedented landslides. The unrestrained check dams built across most of Kerala’s rivers affect the water flow upstream which proves dangerous during floods. To mend the loss, CM of Kerala has requested Rs.2000 crore relief package from the central government. Kerala flood is a great example that shows the cumulative financial burden such destructive development loads on the country.

Image result for kerala floods

The development projects for Mumbai mirror Kerala’s destructive development process. The government proposes Rs. 3,800 crore Goregaon-Mulund Link Road bisecting Sanjay Gandhi National Park & Aarey colony, which are the only surviving green patches left in Mumbai. To implement the project, BMC will need to divert 21.5 hectares of forest land and chop around 625 trees. The destructive development doesn’t end here. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) floated tenders worth Rs. 328 crore for the construction of the depot, a metro station and workshop buildings at Aarey Colony. The colony is a biotope consisting of 77 species of birds, 34 species of wildflowers, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 46 species of reptiles, several of these being listed under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, and 16 species of mammals, including leopard. To implement this project as many as 3184 trees will be chopped at the cost of Rs. 3.2 crore. WHO’s global air pollution database has ranked Mumbai as the fourth most polluted megacity in the world surpassing even Beijing. But there has been no concern about Mumbai’s deteriorating air quality, let alone any action being planned to tackle it. Instead, the government is aggressively pushing the destructive development which will disrupt the groundwater table leading to drying of freshwater lakes of Vihar and Tulsi that supply water to entire Mumbai. It will also increase the city’s temperatures, cause loss of catchment areas, irregular rainfall, besides inevitable air quality crisis. Should we not call these leaders visionless who couldn’t foresee the enormous financial implication of destructive development projects that blatantly destroy natural resources of the country?

While Kerala will go in for a new phase of ‘development’, it should learn from its previous mistakes and so should all the other states of India that are set for destructive development. Steps that should be taken to discourage destructive development:

  1. All types of development in the eco-sensitive zones should be strictly disallowed. And, the state should encourage expansion of eco-sensitive zones that are shrinking in the area due to confiscation under the pretext of development.
  2. An absolute ban on the felling of trees on the hills under the name of any form of development- tourism or transport.
  3. Make illegal quarrying and mining an unbailable offence.
  4. An absolute ban on construction of new check dams. Demolition of the many check dams.
  5. A team of environmentalists, scientists, ecologists, local stakeholders and government officials should come together and formulate a draft policy related to the sustainable development of the state.

In case the states want to continue their destructive model of development, they should decide who will bear the brunt of the disaster- resort lobby, mining lobby, real estate lobby or vision-less government officials. It certainly shouldn’t be the taxpayer who always becomes the scapegoat to either the greed of humans or nature’s fury.

 

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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.

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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.”

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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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