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We Need To Think About Environmental Problems Such As Stubble Burning

Environmental law is a branch of law that is not talked about a lot, but it is one of the emerging branches in today’s world. This branch deals with a collective term encompassing aspects of the law that provide protection to the environment.

Lawyers strongly influenced by environmental legal principles, focus on the management of specific natural resources, such as forests, fisheries etc.

Representational image. Photo credit: Inc. Magazine.

Levels Of Environmental Law

Most environmental laws fall into a general category of laws known as “command and control”. One of the most important  and understandable environmental laws in India has to do with stubble burning.

According to it: “Any non-compliance or contravention of any rules and order of the Commission with respect to this issue, will be an offence punishable with a jail term up to five years or with a fine up to ₹1 crore, or with both.”

The three different levels of environmental law are:

  1. Identification of a type of environmentally harmful activity.
  2. Imposition of specific conditions or standards on that activity.
  3. Prohibition of forms of activity.

What About The Stubble Burning Season?

Considering the stubble burning laws in India and after watching the television, what I inferred was that India needs more than laws to stamp out farm fires. With only a couple of weeks between the rice-harvesting season and the start of wheat-sowing, farmers burn the debris to clear their fields quickly for the new crop.

For them, every single day matters.

One of the major challenge caused by stubble burning is air pollution, that has turned from low to severe over the course of the past few years. Burning of crop stubbles is done in violation of bans by state governments.

The worry has to do with the smoke and ash spewed by these fires, a phenomenon that has been gradually choking the national capital even though the vehicle load has somewhat eased because of Covid-19.

Indeed, this is one situation that requires strict action for the benefit of the society because it hurts us in multiple ways. It virtually buries Delhi under a cloud of haze every year, as well as destroys beneficial soil bacteria. Huge quantities of paddy straw converted to manure and many other recycled resources, simply go to waste.

Burning Crop Residue Is A Crime

Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Air and Pollution Control Act (1981). In 2015, the NGT (National Green Tribunal) had banned the burning of crop residue in states like Punjab and Haryana, where the practice is prevalent.

After all this, the court realized that regulatory action won’t be enough to resolve the problem because the majority of the farmers are small ones, who struggle to afford the equipment required to clear stubble from their fields.

Therefore, the court has directed that a sum of ₹100 per 100 kg to be provided, along with farm machinery free of charge, to prevent them from burning crop stubble.

Representational image. Photo credit: NDTV.

However, such a measure would amount to states having to pay ₹2,000 per acre, to support such operations, besides the additional cost of providing the machines.

Therefore, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed the hope that a new technology should be developed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and other scientific labs.

For instance, a chemical that when sprayed, will convert the leftover crop into manure; or the conversion of rice straw into bricks to use as biogas, which can substitute pollution-causing substances such as  diesel etc.

Can We Come Up With Green Solutions?

To elaborate on one such solution, I would say that green fuels are hyped up since the European Union and Japan started moving towards zero-emission. What nobody sees is that India is sitting on a potential goldmine. Thousands of tons of paddy straw can be converted into compressed natural gas.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) already has the storage infrastructure for different crops and should be able to cope with this demand as well. The government is boosting its ethanol blending program, which can go a long way in trimming India’s bloated crude oil import bill.

With respect to India, it has been constantly working to improve its environmental problems as it has signed the Paris Climate Change accord.

Who Are Climate Refugees?

Moving on to climate change refugees, there are people specially trained to help environmental migrants i.e., people who are forced to leave their home regions due to sudden changes such as increased drought, a rise in the sea level, disruption of seasonal weather patterns etc.

Currently the major issue these people are facing is climate-induced migration in the Pacific island cities. According to reports, it is said that many small island inhabitants need support in order to adapt to the changing climate; and help to migrate.

The Paris Agreement represents an important opportunity to access such assistance.

The Paris Agreement presents opportunities for countries near the Pacific to put adaptation on an equal basis to curb greenhouse gas emissions, thereby increasing the likelihood of Pacific Islands and being able to access resources.

The Paris Agreement also addresses various other issues and talks about a task force to develop recommendations to avert, minimise and address displacement, related to the adverse impacts of climate change. It also talks about the loss and damage associated with climate change.

Regional integration, with a stronger collaboration on climate change, could strengthen the island’s ability to adapt and facilitate migration in the future.

One more such example is the problem of climate in Syria. Researchers agree that climate change can not be ignored as a reason the once-blossoming country has become a parched, war-torn place.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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