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How Frequent Visits To My Local Village Made Me More Curious About Climate Migration

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This post is part of theYKA Climate Action Fellowship, a 10-week integrated bootcamp to work on stories that highlight the impact of climate change on India’s most marginalized. Click here to find out more and apply.

Kheti?” (farming?) a local woman asks me with contorted eyebrows, hinting that my question wasn’t just unwelcome, but also ignorant of the obvious. Much has changed in the mountains in the last few years. Kamedi, my quaint little hamlet in Pauri, Uttarakhand that was once so cold that we were required to wear a sweater when we visited it, was now bristling with searing heat.

Khani barkha, khani hyun, khani gham!” (abrupt rain, abrupt snow, abrupt heat), she continued – her animated hand movements and dramatic pauses displaying distress. The woman was only telling me what has been unfolding in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand for nearly two decades – growing unpredictability in weather and change in rainfall and snowfall patterns.

Image provided by the author.

I still remember a night during the peak of summer 2015 when I was on one of the annual visits to my village, and a heavy downpour scattered people. A gush of water started flowing downstream with such intensity that it was difficult to even set foot on the ground. When the rain continued throughout the night, we were convinced that a landslide was coming. Fortunately, there was no landslide in the morning, but the crops were ruined by rainwater. A day later, the village witnessed scorching heat again and crevices, where streams and cascades were gurgling until a day ago, were suddenly parched again.

In 1990, The United Nations formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide regular scientific assessments on climate change and suggest mitigation strategies to policymakers. In 2014, a report released by the IPCC on the prospective effects of climate change discussed the danger it posed to human security in the form of forced displacements, pushing people outside of their geographies, making them more susceptible to economic vulnerabilities and possible social marginalisation.

It is predicted that by 2050, the world will have 200 million climate migrants. Today, this seems closer to reality than a fantastical claim, as dozens of recent reports solidify IPCC’s prognosis.

The Hindu-Kush Himalayas span eight countries hosting 240 million people and supporting 2 billion people in Asia, directly or indirectly. In September 2019, the IPCC launched a special report on climate change, with a focus on oceans and the cryosphere. The report warned about increased flooding, variability in rainfall pattern, and rapid glacial melting as some of the effects of climate change on high mountain areas. Needless to say, it affects agriculture, livestock, even developmental projects.

How does the issue strike home in the Western Himalayas (which are a part of the Hindu-Kush Himalayas), I wonder? Can all extreme weather conditions be attributed to climate change? When do we call a landslide climate-induced? How can we say that a specific migration journey is climate-induced when there are varied and complex reasons for the migration itself?

It’s important to understand that migration is both a livelihood and risk-mitigation strategy. With uncertainties as these looming over a population, temporary migration, therefore, cannot be ruled out as a likely response to climate change. At the same time, I feel that the assumption of alarmist words like “climate refugees” ignores the subtler, slower, way in which climate change impacts individuals’ lives.

Image provided by the author.

Hill regions of Uttarakhand have been grappling with floods, flood-related landslides, forest fires due to rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, and falling water tables, inviting worry from both the inhabitants and the state, who argue that climate change is an added factor that has forced able-bodied men outside of the Himalayan state. Locals do agree that the weather has gotten warmer over the years, especially in Pauri district, which has also invited worry from the state government. Uttarakhand is already facing a mass outmigration, with people abandoning villages in hill regions.

What does it mean for people of a village who suddenly stopped receiving snowfall twenty years ago, to witness snowy winter days in 2020? Do rising emissions have an impact on the mobility of mountain people? These are some questions that I wish to unpack and deliver by keeping the Himalayas – the periphery of the country – at the centre of my narrative.

You must be to comment.
  1. lalit kirola

    You have expressed it beautifully dear..
    I live in kumaon region of Uttarakhand..the situation is same there ..climate change is the only sole responsible factor of migration to cities and our inability to work towards betterment or solving the issue is what is making the situation more worse..

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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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