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Can Island Nations Save Themselves From Disappearing Due To The Rising Sea Level?

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Climate change has been an internationally recognised challenge since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, one of the effects of climate change that evades the eye is the rising sea level, which affects island nations. The rising sea level has two main factors — thermal expansion, which is the warming of the oceans, and the second being the melting of land-based ice such as glaciers and ice sheets.

Due to a rise in the sea level, the shorelines of island nations can be pushed back and nations can be engulfed entirely due to this phenomenon, forcing the residents to flee while their colonies are washed away. In January 2017, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted the rising of sea levels between 0.3 and 2.5 meters by the year 2100. This is an increase from their 2012 estimate of a rise of two meters.

To deal with the problem of rising sea levels, an Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was set up in 1990. One of the island nations that is already being severely impacted is the nation of Tuvalu, where fresh water supply is being contaminated by seawater. All island nations including Tuvalu will be impacted by the rising sea level in the form of coastal erosion and displacement of fish stocks, while the displacement of the inhabitants would be imminent.

Wealthy buyers snap up 'safe haven' private islands to flee pandemic | Financial Times
Image has been provided by the author.

One of the solutions being put forward is construction of small island states into expanded landmasses. This might be one of the only ways to save small island nation societies from becoming extinct. For this to happen, the small island states need to get into joint ventures with wealthier nations. In return, the island nations can grant tenure to partner countries to invest in an island nation for its development. Together, marine-based industries such as sustainable aquaculture can be improved upon and expanded, while the marine ecosystem of these reclaimed islands could act as a resource for drug research and development.

Moreover, newly improved island nations could serve as tourist destinations, thus adding to the income of these economically fragile nations. This is one way to quash the threat of rising sea levels for (AOSIS) nations. This can only happen if international organisations such as the United Nations and global financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), with the support of like-minded countries, pitch in with the sole purpose of environmental cooperation. To put the problem of the rising sea level into perspective for developed nations, globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the UN Atlas of the Oceans.

Global Effects Of The Rising Sea Level

Other effects of rising sea levels for small island nations are:

  • It will contaminate potable water resources. As sea levels increase, saline water will seep into freshwater resources in coastal areas.
  • It will interfere with farming practices as the same freshwater resource we use for drinking is also used for irrigation and saltwater can contribute to stunted growth of the crops and might even kill them in some cases.
  • Coastal plant life will get affected as more and more ocean water seeping into the coastline will make the soil saltier and change the soil chemistry. Plants and trees are really sensitive to this change. Trees will have difficulty extracting water out of saltier soil composition, and thus result in their stunted growth or even disappearance.
  • Wildlife populations near the coast will get affected as flooding of the coastal areas means eradication of the habitats of coastal animals. Many endangered species including sea turtles may get affected.
  • It will also tear down the economy as a direct result of all the above effects. Moreover, tourist destinations with recreational spots are being washed away or damaged due to increased flooding. This means less income from the tourism industry for the country.

While inland nations can afford to ignore the ill effects of global warming-induced rising sea levels, coastal cities and island nations do not have that luxury. They have to act immediately to save not only their livelihoods, but also their territories from being washed away, and to avoid a large-scale migration of their population, which soon, if not acted upon, will not have a place to call home.

Note: Featured image has been provided by the author. 

About the author: Yatish Kolli is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism from New Delhi, India. Believes that correct governance and policy can bring tangible change in the societies we live in, writes to raise awareness about relevant issues.

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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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