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The Rising Temperature Stands As The Most Perilous Environmental Concern For India

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According to the Statement on Climate of India During 2020, the year 2020 is the eighth hottest year in India since 1901. The country’s average temperature has risen by 0.62 degrees Celsius. The twin decades — 2001-2010 and 2011-2020 — has been marked as the hottest decades. The country’s average temperature increased by 0.23 degrees and 0.34 degrees during 2001-2010 and 2011-2020, respectively. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) report by the USA, every decade since 1970 has been warmer than the preceding one. Twelve out of the 15 hottest years from 1901 to 2020 have been in the 21st century between 2006 and 2020.

India has been maintaining its weather data since 1901. Records show that the first five warmest years of this century were 2016 (0.71-degrees Celsius), 2009 (0.55-degrees Celsius), 2017 (0.54 degrees Celsius), 2010 (0.53 degrees Celsius) and 2015 (0.42-degrees Celsius). Along with the rise in the country’s average temperature in 2020, the average maximum (day) and minimum (night) temperatures have also increased. The average maximum temperature has risen to 0.99 degrees Celsius, while the minimum temperature rose to 0.24 degrees Celsius.

The average temperature for 2020 has increased by 0.29 degrees Celsius, based on the average temperature of 1981-2010. Although the average temperature in 2020 is much lower than that in 2016, which has been the hottest year on record, this rise in the average temperature of 2020 is very worrying.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), temperature has been above average for 10 of the months of 2020, except March and June. The average temperature exceeded the normal level during September by 0.72 degree Celsius (warmest September), August by 0.58 degree Celsius (second warmest August), October by 0.95 degree Celsius (third warmest October), July by 0.56 degree Celsius (fifth warmest July) and December by 0.39 degree Celsius (seventh warmest) since 1901.

With a continuous rise in average temperature, natural calamities like heavy rains, floods, landslides, storms, lightning, and hot and cold waves are increasing rapidly in the country. These natural calamities claimed 1,565 lives in the country in 2020. Of these, 815 deaths were due to storms and lightning, and 600 people were affected by heavy rains and floods. Most of the deaths due to lightning were recorded in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The average temperature increase in 2020 is just 0.29 degrees Celsius, much lower than the rise in 2016. But it points out to a very worrying future as 2016 was the year of El-Nino, while 2020 is the La-Nina year. El-Nino and La-Nina are the two natural phenomena related to the sea surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean. Both phese phenomena have a profound effect on the earth’s average temperature.

During the El-Nino years, the Pacific Ocean’s sea surface temperature is above average, leading to increased rainfall and drought in India, Indonesia, Australia and South America. This causes El-Nino to increase the average temperature of the earth. At the same time, La-Nina year lowers the average temperature of the land and the regions mentioned above, but alas, the worry is that in the year 2020, India’s average temperature has gone up.

In 2020, businesses’ Covid-19-induced closure led to a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, industries, institutions and the like. Despite the nominal emissions of greenhouse gases during the lockdown in 2020, an increase in temperature means the effect of existing gases in the atmosphere will continue even after zero-emission.

It has been observed that the above-average rainfall from the monsoons in 2020 has failed to control India’s increasing temperature. The main reasons for this rise are the economic growth model and indiscriminate deforestation. According to the report India State of Forest Report 2019 by Forest Survey of India, forest cover has increased by 0.13% over 2017. Still, according to the Global Forest Watch, India’s forest cover has declined by 3.3% between 2001 to 2019, which has released 153 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 6,944,608 trees have been cut down during 2016-2019. According to Wetland International, a Non-Governmental Organisation, one-third of India’s wetlands have been depleted in the last four decades. Thus, rapidly depleting ecosystems are releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on December 27, 2019, was 412.80 ppm, which increased to 415.09 ppm on the same day in 2020 despite partial lockdown.

According to NOAA data, the concentration of carbon dioxide was 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution. NOAA considers 350 ppm of concentration of carbon dioxide as a safe limit. Scientists have been warning for more than a decade that a concentration of more than 450 ppm risk triggering extreme weather events and the temperature rises as high as 2 degrees Celsius, beyond which the effects of global warming are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.

With increasing temperature, our country faces enormous natural disasters each year. Council on Energy, Environment and Water of India, in its report, states that 75% of the country’s districts, which make up for the country’s half population, have been hit hard by natural disasters due to climate change.

According to a WMO report titled The State of the Global Climate 2020, Earth’s temperature rose by 1.2 degrees Celsius from January to October 2020 after the industrial revolution. Paris Climate Agreement stated the safe limit of increase in temperature to be 1.5 degrees Celsius. In view of all these empirical pieces of evidence, the increasing number of natural disasters and the severity of their impact, concrete planning and expeditious action should be taken.

However, our government is turning blind to these phenomena. The Indian government had not promised to increase carbon emissions cuts in 2019 at international conferences. While ignoring environmental issues, the so-called development of the country is also making efforts to make concessions in environmental regulations. Given the rise in average temperature in the country, the government should generate the required energy from natural sources instead of giving grants to coal-fired power generation projects.

The government should improve public transport and not claim an increase in forest area through manipulation. It should instead put practical efforts in this direction. It should not harm natural wetlands and wild vegetation in coastal regions by enacting new laws in the name of economic development. Protecting natural vegetation in these areas will safeguard people living there and other parts of the country from natural disasters. Climate emergencies like those declared by New Zealand is an example of climate-responsive action.

Gurinder kaur

Written by: Professor, Department of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala and Visiting Professor, IMPRI

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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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