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Are We Willing To Sacrifice Our Environment For A $5 Trillion Economy?

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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.

Carbon Pricing in India

By now it’s an undisputed fact that humans have irreversibly changed the ecological systems of the Earth for the worse. We’re all hurtling towards a future with increased average temperatures, frequent severe weather events, lower crop yields, and higher sea levels. If you’re still skeptical about whether this is actually a global phenomenon and not just a fad that we have imported from the west, check out these very exhaustive explainers by NASA and The World Bank.

Climate change has come about mostly because of the emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), etc. These gases trap the incoming radiation from the sun like in a greenhouse (hence the name) and make the earth warmer than usual. Therefore, controlling the emission of these gasses, and primarily CO2, is at the heart of the solution to save humanity from impending doom (to put it lightly).

The Economics Of Pollution

Why do people pollute? They pollute because it’s beneficial for them to do so. When you have a used wrapper, it’s convenient for you to dispose of it on the side of the road instead of holding on to it till you find a dustbin. There is no one to slap a fine, at least in India. So unless you have a moral imperative to do the right thing, you won’t think twice about it.

The same happens with carbon emissions. Polluters don’t get charged for the harmful gasses they emit. Every input and output in a production process is charged, except pollution. This helps polluters get away with causing damage to the society at large without ever compensating them in monetary terms. Since pollution has no economic cost polluters don’t have an incentive to reduce their emissions. This is the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) and is one topic that has been the subject of intense dispute worldwide. Economists stipulate that if we have an accurate number for the SCC that stems from this market failure (polluting without paying) and implement it across all sectors, we’ll eventually reach a market equilibrium where we get the maximum productivity in the market with the least pollution possible.

SCC In India

The SCC for India is the highest and stands at ₹6000 ($86 ) per tonne of CO2 emission. This means that India would stand to lose ₹ 6000 for each tonne of CO2 emitted. These emissions are costing us $210 billion every year which is around 8% of our GDP. India will suffer the highest economic damages because of climate change after the US.

Clean Energy Cess

India imposed a Clean Energy Cess on extraction and import of coal in 2010 and set up the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to use the funds hence raised. The prerogative of the NCEF was to invest in research and development (R&D) of clean energy sources. The funds raised from the cess were also used for the Ganga Rejuvenation Project in 2015. The cess currently stands at ₹400 per tonne which is woefully short of the ₹6000 we need to ensure a good future for our country.

Only ₹21 crores of the ₹86 crore collected from 2011-18 were transferred to the NCEF. Furthermore, from the funds transferred, ₹16 crores were used to fund clean energy projects. And if this laxity on the part of the government wasn’t enough, GST has rendered the fund completely ineffective.

GST

When GST was implemented, the Clean Energy Cess was abolished and a GST Compensation Cess was put in its place at the same rate, ₹400. So, now instead of the ad hoc carbon tax funding clean energy projects, it’s being used to plug shortfalls in the tax collection by the Center. The Center also attempted to divert the funds already collected from the Cess to compensate states for the shortfall in tax collection by states following GST. A Parliamentary Panel objected to the move and also expressed concern that despite a significant collection of funds, it wasn’t utilised, signaling poor implementation by the concerned agencies.

Ahead of the PM’s address at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23, we should question this government’s commitment towards stemming climate change. The current administration has fast-tracked environmental clearances and attempted to influence the appointment of the judges in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Hopefully, the Modi cabinet averaging around 60 years of age will realise the importance of having a world to live in versus a five trillion economy by 2020.

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program

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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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