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Melting Glaciers In Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region: A Looming Crisis For South Asia

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The first ever assessment of the impact of climate change and global warming on Hindu Kush Mountain Region (HKMR) by The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional inter-governmental body was released on February 4, 2019. It has raised serious concerns about the drastic negative impact that climate change will have on Asia.

Hindu Kush Himalayan Region known as the world’s “Third Pole” is source of about 10 major rivers including Indus, Brahmaputra, Ganges, which are a lifeline for more than 2 billion people of this region (India, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar Pakistan and China). So about 33% of the world’s population depends on it. From these numbers itself we can know about the seriousness of the issue that lies ahead of us.

This region is home to Mount Everest, K2 and many others, and is a water, carbon and energy source and is also a biodiversity hotspot. According to the ICIMOD Report, if current emission rate continues, HKMR will lose most of its glaciers, which will cause serious floods, loss of livelihood and income, erosion, landslides, biodiversity and crop loss, etc. The HKMR region has been facing the brunt of global warming since the 1970’s the region is fragile and vulnerable and is negatively impacted due to increase in pollution.

David James Molden, director general of Kathmandu-based (ICIMOD) said “The HKH region is warming faster than the global average. And would continue to do so for this century.” He also said that even if Paris Agreement (COP 21) of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is achieved, the mountain temperatures would still rise 2 degrees and current emissions will spike the temperature up to 4 and 6 degrees, which will have dire consequences, a point of no return as many scientists have claimed.

Under current emissions, we will lose more than two third of our glaciers by the year 2100. Many Indian cities for example have become so polluted , that breathing there is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes on a daily basis. China had to declare a emergency due to high level of pollution in its cities. Many biodiversity regions have been lost and already South Asia is home to millions of poor people, who don’t have access to food, water, health, education, clean energy and minimum basic facilities, and the fast melting glaciers in this region will further worsen the situation, as shown in these reports.

South Asia has been going through rapid change with growing population, infrastructure development, change in land use, rapid groundwater withdrawals, migration, natural disasters, etc. Eklabya Sharma, Deputy DG of ICIMOD said “Because many of the disasters and sudden changes will play out across country borders, conflict among the region’s countries could easily flare up. But the future doesn’t have to be bleak if governments work together to turn the tide against melting glaciers and the myriad impacts they unleash.”

What Can Be Done

South Asian countries are divided on many issues, but this issue must act as a catalyst that unites these countries to work towards a common challenge that is in front of them. They must work on regional cooperation, multilateral actions, cross border collaborations are needed; SAARC can be used as a platform for this. The knowledge of local communities can be used; along with it, technological and scientific knowledge must be used. Developed countries must come forward and provide the necessary help to the developing countries. Climate change denial must come to a halt.

Use of clean technologies and renewable energy should become a priority, Industries must be made to follow the necessary environmental norms as Climate change is a challenge that effects us all. Governments of the world, NGOs, MNCs, IGOs must work together.

As Gandhiji once said “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed .”

In the last 250 years or so since Industrialisation, we have drastically increased global warming, which is contributing to climate change. The Doomsday Clock is only 2 minutes away from midnight. Doomsday Clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.” These major threats are nuclear weapons and climate change. Speaking about climate change, MIT scientist Susan Solomon said, “if we don’t start reducing emissions in this next decade, it’s pretty clear we’ll have a world we don’t want to live in. This coming decade is absolutely critical, and we’re running out of time.”

So, it is high time that we must come together to face our common challenges. Sustainable development should be our motto, cooperation and sustained efforts are needed, as we have more in our similarities than our differences. As Charlie Chaolin once said: “We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity; more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

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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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