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Carbon Neutral Agra: How Do We Make It Happen?

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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.
Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it, and those who have not seen the Taj Mahal and love it. I would like people to watch the Taj Mahal and fall in love with it.” – Bill Clinton, former President of the U.S.A.

Agra has a semi-arid climate. It features mild winters, hot and dry summers and a monsoon season. Monsoon in Agra is not heavy. The average monsoon rainfall from June to September is 628.6 mm. In summers, the daytime temperature increases to around 46–50°C. Winters are a bit chilly. Agra is not safe from the impacts of anthropogenic climate change, which is making the situation worse.

Ecological Challenges in Agra

Polluted River in Agra
Pollution in Agra||Credits: India Today

Agra’s ecological balance, which was maintained due to ponds, wetlands, lakes, trees, forests ecosystems and river Yamuna, is destroyed due to increasing population pressure, agriculture pressure, urbanization, un-sustainable development, transportation, tourism and industrialization. This situation is leading Agra towards ‘climate emergency’.

As per census 2011, Agra’s population increased at a decadal growth rate of 32.2%. Settlements along the Yamuna river bed have been spreading fast. Agra has more than 400 informal settlements which accounts for about 56% of the urban population.

Drainage channels and carrying wastewater from the city are causing water pollution and making the situation worse for the river-ecosystem, its biodiversity and dependent population. Water pollution is making the holy river Yamuna contaminated and unfit for drinking.

Agra is facing rising mean temperature, heat waves, and flooding. It shows a stronger trend of warming than surrounding cities and districts like New Delhi, Jhansi, Bharatpur, Jaipur and Ajmer; temperature is increasing at 0.18°C/decade annually. Increased surface temperature causes ‘urban heat islands’ which results in heat stress, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope and cramps.

With adverse topography, erratic rainfall, rapid urbanization and overused groundwater, drought is a real concern in Agra. Groundwater level is steadily declining throughout Agra especially in the summers.

In the near future, Climate Change and global warming will provide favourable conditions for the vector borne-diseases like COVID-19, skin irritation, respiratory problems and other similar diseases.

What Can Be Done?

No action to ‘Change Climate Change’ will have adverse effects on ecosystems, biodiversity and human lives. Forest loss, extreme weather, drought, flood, stronger hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, habitat loss, migration of species, damage to the ecosystems, eutrophication, algal blooming, spread of diseases are some of the climate impacts.

‘Carbon Neutrality’ is a ray of hope to cope with Climate Change. Carbon Neutrality refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal or simply eliminating carbon emissions altogether. It is used in the context of ‘carbon dioxide releasing’ processes associated with transportation, energy production, agriculture, and industrial processes. The concept may be extended to include other greenhouse gases (GHGs), in terms of their ‘carbon dioxide equivalence’.

The ‘Future Developed Nations’ will have high ‘Green Governance’, ‘Carbon Negativity’, ‘Forest Cover’, ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Household Size’, ‘Education’ and ‘Health’.

Achieving Carbon Neutrality is very important for all of us because it will help make an eco-friendly and sustainable future. We cannot change our past, but we can change our future. We have two primary choices at present: either to accept the conditions as they exist and wait for the worst future or accept the responsibility to ‘Change Climate Change’ for the sake of a livable, better and more sustainable future. It is upon us, i.e. current generation, to choose a future, for better or worse.

If residents of Agra want to cherish every precious moment, then following ‘climate action’ should be taken for a better future:

  • Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels-based energy.
  • Ban on unsustainable logging.
  • Forest area should not drop below 33%.
  • Alternative sources of energy like solar energy should be given priority.
  • Conservation of parks and wetlands.
  • Promoting ‘green schools’.
  • Water Conservation to save every drop of water especially through rainwater harvesting, soak pits andrenovation of water bodies like ponds and lakes.
  • Water budget should be promoted in every household and office.
  • Plantation of local species should be our priority and will be helpful in biodiversity protection.
  • Care After Plantation (CAP) should be ensured at grassroot levels by officials.
  • Pond Forests (Micro-Forests) should be promoted.
  • Pooling, cycling and walking should be part of our daily life.
  • There should be a Pollution Emancipation Force (Pradushan Mukti Bal) in every school, village and urban area with the help of local residents and students. This force will help in sanitation and cleanliness.
  • A good traffic management system helps reduce air pollution. The projected population of Agra for 2021 is expected to be around 2.3 million. Traffic will be the main challenge in the near future.
  • Promote awareness through ‘Climate Movement’ at grassroots level.
  • There should be a provision of compulsory plantation in new societies, because these are built by destroying the ecosystem of the area. Plantation in urban areas will help reduce at least 5°C temperature and will help cope with ‘urban heat island effect’.
  • Health systems should be made advanced to cope with epidemics due to climate change.
  • Every household and office should be encouraged for energy conservation.
Greenery in Taj Mahal area

The IPCC 2018 report said that global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and be net-zero by 2050 to have a 50% chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C in the 21st century. Since the industrial revolution in the 1750s, CO2 levels have risen more than 30%; this level is higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years in the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases have already raised global temperatures by around 1°C since pre-industrial times.

According to the UN Environment, the Carbon dioxide emissions account for 82% of global warming, and the rest comes mainly from other potent greenhouse gases. Global average concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 410 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, up from 400.1 ppm in 2015.

This World Environment Day, it’s time ‘for nature’. Globally, nature is declining; one million species are at risk of extinction. Carbon neutrality is the need of the hour and can be achieved by reducing our dependence on fossil energy.

If we are dreaming about Agra as a beautiful city of heaven, having ecosystems, forests and biodiversity, then we should not limit the beauty of nature only around the Taj but should also spread such beauty around Agra. People of Agra can achieve ‘Carbon Neutrality’ and can transform the historical city into ‘Carbon Neutral Agra’.  Let’s stay home and rise for the ‘voice of the mother earth’.

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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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