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What Stops Us From Uniting To Curb Forest Fires Across The World?

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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.

In the last few years, the world have seen ravaging incidents of forest fires like the Amazon forest fire. The Australian bush fire is the most recent incident of such devastation.

Firefighters tackle the Gospers Mountain fire outside Sydney.

The Amazon rainforest, which has highest biodiversity in the world, is home to around 30% of the world known species, and around 390 billion trees of around 16000 different species. It is shared by eight countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. But 60% of region comes under Brazil. Interestingly, it produces 20% of the world’s oxygen.

In the Amazon, forest fires are a seasonal incident. It happens every year in dry summers due to slash and burn techniques used by farmers to occupy forest land for cultivation, but it went out of control last year, burning approximately 906000 hectares (9060 sq km). The data available about the Amazon was totally based on satellite imagery. So, an estimation of loss of animal species wasn’t conducted. The world didn’t do anything to deal with it, should such incidents happen again.

And unfortunately, it happened again. In the case of the Australian bush fire, the figures were more heart-wrenching. According to ecologists from the University of Sydney, 29 people are dead and approximately 1 billion animals have been estimated to be killed. Around 1 million hectare of forest land and thousands of homes have been destroyed.

We all saw pictures of burnt animal bodies and videos of animals running for help.

Firefighters saving koalas, an image that has now gone viral.

The scenes were apocalyptic, and it happened all due to rise in global temperature, it was 1.4 degrees Celsius in the Australian region in 2019. Scientists have warned that if this rise in global temperature continues and reaches 2 degrees Celsius, the results will be more catastrophic and irreversible.

The amount of CO2 emission from these wildfires will result in an instant increase in global temperature. As nations, we all have made boundaries with each other but the environment and surrounding air which we all breathe has no boundary. Directly or indirectly, such atmospheric destruction in one region will surely affect lives of all the humans, animal species living on this planet.

The need is to take such incident of forest fires seriously and discuss this matter extensively at United Nations Climate Change Conferences that happen every year. It is required to make an organisation at a global level, comprising officials from various countries to deal with the climate crisis.

Each and every country has to realise that these incidents will not end, it will continue to happen. As the temperature continues to rise globally, we will see many more such incidents in the coming years. The need of the hour is to unite and solve the problem with responsibility.

Forest Fires In India

In February 2019, a massive fire broke out in Bandipur National Park, Karnataka. With the help of an ISRO satellite, it was found that 4400 hectares of forest was burnt, no estimation of animals being killed was done so far.

In Uttarakhand, fire breaks out in the dense pine forests of Kumaon every year but it came into notice in 2016, when 4100 hectares of forest land was burnt.

In both incidents, the state government called in the NDRF and IAF Mig-17 helicopters were used to drop water in the burning areas. The problem here is that our National Disaster Relief Force is not enough equipped to deal with forest fire like situations and dropping water from helicopter doesn’t help much when you have deal with such vast swathes of land.

We need to take forest fires seriously and after assessment, invest more in our National Disaster Relief Force and State Disaster Relief Force, to give them modern equipment and training. Perhaps, doing so with other countries which have expertise in such situations and conducting it on a year on year basis will help.

The 747 Supertanker during the 2010 Carmel forest fires in Israel.

State governments and the central government can buy Boeing 747 supertankers, which have a capacity of carrying 74,000 litres of fire retardant or water, which is being used by several other countries like Australia, USA, Israel, etc. in controlling forest fires.

We must have one such supertanker aircraft. I hope this reaches to the authorities and they will learn from fires, which are now global incidents, to take decisive steps in this regard.

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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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