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Is The Bihar Deluge A Sign Of What The Climate Crisis Will Bring?

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

There has been an appalling deluge in Bihar over the past few days. I came across some 29 trending images of the 2019 Bihar floods and they are absolutely heartbreaking. It seemed to me as a combination of both natural and flash flooding, especially in the urban areas. More than 100 people have been reported dead in UP and Bihar. Being dubbed as a national disaster, this following video that I came across on Twitter compelled me to pen this piece down.

Floods are sometimes considered to be a boon as it leaves behind the silt and minerals that are required for cultivation of food crops. But floods are definitely a bane when they wash away everything compelling the government to shut down schools, colleges, offices and power supply. Some of the major rivers like Ganga and its tributaries are swelling up and making the situations worse. Patna, the capital city is under water. In this hour of grief, one can only pray and hope!

According to public alerts issued, there is a severe flood situation for the Ganga River at Kahalgaon in Bihar. The water level of Ganga River at Colgong/Kahalgaon was measured at 32.16 meters at 09:00. This exceeds the danger level of 31.09 meters, but is below the previous highest flood level of 32.87 meters recorded in 2003. It is expected to rise to 32.2 meters by 22:00 hours today. The flood forecasts have been extremely worrying.

Almost all of South Asia is now reeling under various natural calamities because of climate change and it is going to become worse in the coming years! Every such event should be a warning sign for all of us as we all have a stake when it comes to protecting the environment. In some of the pictures that I had come across, I saw a sea of plastic cups and cutlery which highlights the low awareness levels and an absolute apathy among the general public.

River Politics In South Asia

In my previous articles that I had written on floods, I have continuously focused on the upstream and downstream riparian rights. Be it in the case of the Transboundary River sharing between India and Bangladesh, India and Bhutan, Nepal and India, India and China or India and Pakistan, all these water rights holds true for all the countries.

Bihar faces extreme floods every year as it lies downstream of neighbouring Nepal. Recent climate change activities suggest that relations between the countries are not very good. India and Nepal share an open border that stretches for nearly 1,800 kilometres. More than 6,000 rivers and rivulets flow down to northern India from Nepal and they contribute around 70% of the flow of the Ganges River during the dry season.

Bihar is hit the hardest when major rivers such as the Kosi and Gandaki – which are tributaries of the Ganges – flood, and Nepal is often blamed for opening floodgates and jeopardising settlements downstream. But it’s actually the Indian government that operates the barrages on both the rivers even though they are located in Nepal.

The Kosi River is also known as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’ and is known for wreaking havoc every year which affects millions of people in India and Nepal. One must not forget that these areas are seismically very active thereby making them even more vulnerable to disaster.

Mahakali Treaty And The Indo-Nepal Water Conflict

The Mahakali Treaty was signed in the year 1996 between India and Nepal concerning the integrated development of the Mahakali river including Sarada Barrage, Tanakpur Barrage and Pancheshwar Project. All of this in the sensitive Himalayan ecology. Many experts say that the signing of this treaty between the two countries was done in extreme haste.

The treaty provides 50 million units of electricity to Nepal from the Tanakpur powerhouse and barrage over and above the 20 million agreed between Girija Koirala and Narasimha Rao. It also provides more water for irrigation as well as environmental needs below Sarada barrage but wrests from Nepal the consent to build the Pancheshwar high dam which would generate nine billion units of electricity that would be consumed mostly by India. This very treaty needs to be renegotiated in the changing geopolitics of both India and Nepal.

Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project (PMP) was the center of attraction of the project, but up until now, not even the detail project report (DPR) has been finalized which was agreed to have been completed within six months of enforcement. Even after two decades of the implementation of the agreement, there is no progress in the agreed terms in the treaty; instead, it has created a deadlock situation in Nepal-India water relations.

PMP is proposed to have installed hydro-power capacity of 5040 MW, which is several times higher than installed capacity of any existing hydro-power project in India. The largest capacity existing hydro-power project in India is the Nathpa Jakhri Project with installed capacity of 1500 MW and largest capacity under construction hydro-power project in India is the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project, which has remained stalled since December 2011 due to agitation in Assam. Among many reasons why Lower Subansiri project remains stalled is the shoddy Environment Impact Assessment, including non existing downstream impact assessment or disaster impact assessment and violations in public consultation process and shockingly poor environment appraisal.

In recent times, the areas near by the Himalayas are facing the wrath of nature be it in the forms of landslides, floods, Himalayan tsunami and earthquakes which measure at least 7 on the Richter scale. Just last week, PoK suffered from an earthquake and aftershocks killing scores of people. Along with that, massive reservoirs also have the capability of causing Reservoir Induced Seismicity (RIS).

The 1967 Koynanagar earthquake was a result of RIS. Are these dams really meant for development in the wake of climate change? These big dams seem to have the highest potential for wiping away human civilisations completely. A country like Bhutan which is tucked in the Himalayas between two gigantic countries is extremely worried by both the countries ambitious projects which have arisen mostly due to prevailing tensions between India and China.

We have altered our ecosystems so much that even the micro climate of a particular area is changing at a pace much faster than we can even imagine. Do we really need these mega structures?

Featured image source: ABP News/Twitter.
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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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