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Can’t ‘Let It Go’: Why India’s Shrinking Glaciers Are A Cause For Concern

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Signs of climate change are visible all over the world, from rising global temperatures and melting glaciers which is, in turn, increasing the sea levels. The melting of the glaciers in Uttarakhand is also increasing the risk of the deterioration of the ecosystem, and disturbing the life in and around the Himalayan range.

The fourth report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts the extinction of Himalayan glaciers by 2035. Since then, there has been a stir not only in India but all over Asia. This reaction is natural because if there are no more glaciers, then the existence rivers like the Mahanadi, Ganga, and Brahmaputra cannot be imagined. This further endangers the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Due to increasing pollution and changes in the habitat, along with changes in the glaciers of the Himalayas, the vegetation of the Himalayas is also being affected and is now growing at a higher altitude than before. It is also important to talk about the changes in the treeline and snowline.

A study last year revealed that the shrinking rate of glaciers in the Himalayas doubled between the years 2000 and 2016.

Glaciers Of The Himalayan Region

Nearly seven hundred-years-old, Okjökull was a glacier in Iceland, which finally melted down enough for it to lose its status of a ‘glacier’. It is claimed that this is the first glacier which has been completely removed from the world map due to climate change.

There have been reports of melting of glaciers in our country and natural disasters due to this, but considering it as a major threat, the attention of the courts has also gone here. Three years ago, the Nanital High Court took an initiative in this matter and declared all the hill stations and glaciers in the state as ‘eco-sensitive’ in three months and prohibited all types of construction work in an area of ​​twenty-five kilometres of glaciers.

Changes In The Snowline And Treeline Are Affecting Habitats

If you are not from any Himalayan region or do not know about the Himalayan forest area, then you need to know what treeline and snowline are.

Mainly in the hills, the extent and the height to which trees grow is called treeline. The height from which the glacier or snow cover starts is called a snowline.

Scientists at the University of Exeter published a research paper in a journal titled ‘Global Change of Biology’ which said that the number of grasses and shrubs that flourish in Mount Everest and other high altitudes of the Himalayas has increased. For this, images obtained between the years 1993 to 2018 by the NASA’s Landsat satellite.

In the pictures taken during the last few years on the Himalayas, there has been a change in the vegetation at an altitude between 4150 m to 6000 m. The maximum difference is seen at altitudes from 5000 to 5500 meters.

More than 10% of the total species of flora and fauna living in the world are found in the Himalayas. More than half of these species are endemic.

A study last year revealed that the shrinking rate of glaciers in the Himalayas doubled between the years 2000 and 2016. Asia’s 10 largest rivers originate from the Himalayan glaciers and the 1.4 billion population is dependent on these water sources. The area of ​​grasses and shrubs found between the tree line and the snow line is important and its area is 5 to 15 times higher than the snow-covered area of ​​the Himalayas.

From 1990 to 1999 the change in height was only 10 meters, But in the decade that followed, the gap reached 350 meters. The Himalayan blue pine was not found until more than 3,000 meters until two decades ago, but now it can be easily seen even at 4,000 meters altitude.

This is the condition of a bush called Parthenium and also of some flora that grows in water. The condition of apple and pear orchards is the same. Now they are being cultivated on areas at a higher altitude than before. When their range is expanding, some vegetation may also be extinct, and if this happens then we will never know about this flora.

The wealth of the Himalayan flora is incomparable. More than 10% of the total species of flora and fauna living in the world are found in the Himalayas. More than half of these species are endemic. That is, they are not found anywhere in the world except in the Himalayas.

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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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