What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


The Future Cost to Nation from Farmer Suicides

Economic Times

Source: Economic Times

Is Make in India complete without growing our own food? Isn’t food security linked to farmer security? Shouldn’t Indian Youth get a fair choice to practise farming and be compensated well for it? Who will feed the nation tomorrow?

On 22nd April 2015, a young farmer Gajendra Singh Rajput from Rajasthan, shocked the nation & the world by committing suicide in full public view in a farmers’ rally in New Delhi. Having been ruled ineligible for compensation, he had spent his last few days fruitlessly trying to convince government officials regarding due compensation for the loss of his wheat crop, ruined by unseasonable rain.

In January 2015, Ramesh Khamankar, a 57-year old cotton farmer in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district walked to his ruined fields and drank from a bottle of pesticide. He died a few hours later. Khamankar’s case was determined to be a ‘genuine farmer suicide’, and his family received a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh, months after he died. Reportedly due to rain impact, he owed about 2.5 lakhs to the local bank. For Shailesh Khamankar, his father’s death has ironically reversed his attempt to find a life away from the farm. He is a second-year engineering student at a college in Bhopal, but now doesn’t have the Rs.60,000 needed to continue his studies.

In the last two decades, over 290,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves. According to the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, in 2009, an Indian farmer took his life every 30 minutes. According to the 2011 census, the suicide rate for Indian farmers is 47 percent higher than the national average. Continue reading

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Environmental Justice and India’s Stand on Climate Change

by Manish Gautam*

The last past weeks have observed a slew of activities on the front of climate change discussions. IPCC released the Synthesis Report AR5, that basically syntheses and integrates the findings and recommendations of the three working groups of the fifth assessment report, entailing a ripple of negations and affirmations on the findings, and the mitigation targets. Almost at the same time, the world witnessed the historic China-US deal to cut their carbon emissions, an immediate and necessary step, ending a long stand-off between the two leading and the biggest polluting economies.

The Indian government has been giving mixed signals to take action against this lurking threat. Indian government has recently reconstituted the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change that will inform and advise the government on domestic actions on climate change, indicating that it is determined to combat and take measures against Climate Change. Beginning 2008, the National Action Plan on Climate Change, a scheme well-informed with IPCC findings and recommendations, has been evolving; it paved ways for several State level Action Plans, and the Indian government claims to pursue voluntarily set targets with commitment and conviction. Moreover, there are plans to boost up solar power capacity five folds to 100 GW by 2030, highlighting significant step towards adopting renewable energy.

India has been asked, along with other countries, to announce its GHG emissions peaking year, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, by the month of June 2015. Interestingly at the same time, the government has been avoiding any involuntary commitment to set up a mitigation agenda. The ministers reiterate the growth mantra at the global fronts stating that the priority is to eradicate poverty, although the Indian government claims to pursue an alternative pathway for its growth that will curb greenhouse gases emissions and asserts that this growth will be equitable and fair. Continue reading


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Importance of Education & Involvement of Youth in Climate Dialogue

Indian Youth Climate Network Policy Brief on Article 6 of UNFCCC

Climate change and its impacts would severely test the capacities of nations to curb the instances of loss and damage, and also of communities to continue to adapt to unpredictable and rapidly changing weather patterns. Thus, to prepare for a world that is dealing with climate change, capacities of the nations, vulnerable communities, youth, and individuals need to be enhanced. Role of education and training for developing both mitigation and adaptation action will become significant as the world tries to develop resilient, equitable and just systems.

Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change address this need and stipulates the promotion of education, training and public awareness on climate change. It defines activities under two sections in six priority areas, and lays emphasis on the participation at all levels and of all stakeholders in the climate change process.

Firstly it instructs the parties at national and regional levels to, ‘Promote and facilitate at the national and, as appropriate, sub-regional and regional levels, and in accordance with national laws and regulations, and within their respective capacities:

  • The development and implementation of educational and public awareness programmes on climate change and its effects;
  • Public access to information on climate change and its effects;
  • Public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses; and
  • Training of scientific, technical and managerial personnel.

Secondly, it emphasizes the need for international cooperation and promotion to:

  • The development and exchange of educational and public awareness material on climate change and its effects; and
  • The development and implementation of education and training programmes, including the strengthening of national institutions and the exchange of personnel to train experts in this field, in particular for developing countries.’

Article 6 delineates in detail the commitment of the Parties to UNFCCC as outlined in Article 4,  which, on the basis of CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibilities) underlines, ‘the need for promotion and cooperation on matter related to climate change education, training and public awareness.’ Article 4 also explicitly states that Parties ensure wide participation of the people including that of non-governmental organizations.

Article 6 can provide necessary impetus to the countries to develop and implement programmes that will educate their populations about climate change and how it will affect various sectors and constituencies. It, along with Article 5  (research and systematic observation), provides the blueprint for developing adequate responses on dealing with climate change, its prevention, along with disaster management and relief in the event of loss and damage.

Important Landmarks

New Delhi Work Programme: At the COP-8 in New Delhi, the New Delhi Work Programme (NDWP) was launched as an elaboration of Article 6 for better understanding and implementation of the different provisions of the Article in Decision 11/CP.8. NDWP was a five-year country-driven programme aimed at engaging all stakeholders in the implementation of Article 6 as well as in seeking recommendation on the activities that could be undertaken to meet the commitments under the Article.  NDWP’s mandate came to an end in 2007 with participation being its primary focus.

Amended New Delhi Work Programme (ANDWP): In 2007 at COP 13 in Bali, parties recognized NWDP was a good framework for action on Article 6 and a decision was reached to adopt amended New Delhi Work Programme (ANDWP) for another five years. (decision 9/CP.13). It was recognized that implementation of Article 6 was a long term process where national efforts need to be supported. In this regard, actions towards strengthening regional and sub-regional cooperation became important elements of the programme. It was extended for another five years with a scheduled review in 2012. The focus of the programme was public awareness, public participation and public access to information. Implementation of the stipulations was to be considered by the National Focal Points (NFP’s) with consideration for each country’s specific conditions and characteristics.

In 2010 at COP 16 in Cancun, an intermediate review on Article 6 was undertaken by parties to identify gaps in implementation and outline best practices and recommendations on improving the actions that need to taken. Parties to the UNFCCC and civil society organisations submitted their recommendations at Cancun. The Cancun mandate was thus to assess the, “progress in, and ways to enhance, the implementation of the amended New Delhi work programme on Article 6 of the Convention”.  Decision at Cancun recognized women, youth, indigenous and civil society groups as vital stakeholders, non-formal education and informal education as important part of educational training and public awareness. It also urged the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to increase access to funding for Article 6 related activities. Inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations were also encouraged to enhance efforts and share information on their respective activities on the information network clearing house CC:iNet of UNFCCC.

Doha Work Programme: At COP 18 in Doha in 2012, the COP adopted decision 15/CP.18 on eight-year Doha Work Programme. It was also decided to undertake a review of DWP in 2020 and an intermediate review of progress in 2016.  GEF was requested to provide continued financial resources to non-Annex I parties i.e. developing countries and least-developed countries for implementation of the article. All parties were asked to communicate actions taken and experiences on work programme for the 2016 and 2020 reviews. An annual in-session dialogue on Article 6 implementation was agreed to be organized under Subsidiary Body of Implementation (SBI).

Youth Intervention and participation: Article 6 provides youth along with women, indigenous group with an opportunity to intervene directly in policy and implementation process. The Youth Non-Government Organisations (YOUNGO), acting as the hub of the youth constituency, have a YOUNGO Article 6 Working Group that came out with ‘Enhanced Youth Participation and Education in Climate Change- The Article 6 Implementation Toolkit’ during COP 17 in 2011, Durban. The toolkit was made available at the CC:iNET and is an important contribution towards understanding the implications and stakes for youth in the process by way of the Article 6.

As observers and parts of the movements connected with grassroots, youth have been important agents in strengthening and democratizing the process under article 6. Their reflection on the representation of different groups and constituencies reflect a deeper understanding of the politics of climate negotiations. At the inter-sessional in Bonn, June 2014 at SBSTA-40 meeting, the youth highlighted the need for continued discussion and focus on Article 6 of the Convention, in particular on public participation. Thereby, they asked to enhance participation of the observers[1] and noted the under-representation of the youth from the global south at the negotiations.[2]

Significance and the Way Forward: The scope of interpretation of Article 6 is very large can help mainstream climate concerns as well as its complex inter-linkages with other environmental issues – like water availability, droughts, floods, food availability, livelihood questions- into national curriculum to prepare climate-resilient societies with necessary skills and capabilities to augment disaster preparedness and adaptation strategies.

It has the potential to create a more informed national and global community that better appreciates the challenges related to climate change. Education, training and public awareness create a much informed citizenry that can critically assess and feed into the developmental policy-making and implementation of actions on adaptation and mitigation.

Education and training can enable youth as agents to become empowered and assess governmental planning and implementation of actions (mitigation, adaptation, developmental) on youth and other vulnerable and marginalised groups. Through this, developmental and growth policy across the world can be subjected to greater scrutiny and decision makers reminded of precautionary principle when proceeding on important issues. Transformation to a world weaned off from fossil-fuels will need leadership and action by youth on matters of science, ecology and environment. Mainstreaming of environmental concerns into developmental policy will need trained and skilled people. Article 6 and youth involvement together can address this emerging urgent need.

Prepared by Reva Prakash after consultation with Indian Youth Climate Network members.

[1] Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Vol. 12 No. 598: pp6.

[2] Ibid, pp12.


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Water Status of Bangalore City – Maneuvering Through Space and Time

by Manish Gautam*

“Will Bangalore have to be evacuated by 2023?” ~ Firstpost, April 2013

“The land of a thousand lakes, now a sewage pit” ~ Deccan Chronicle, September 2013

“The City of Thousand Lakes is now home to a concrete jungle” ~ Deccan Herald, December 2013

Bangalore or Bengaluru, fourth metropolitan area in India and one of the largest cities in the world, is known by many monikers since it came into existing. From pensioners’ paradise to becoming a cradle for Information Technology in India, the city has accommodated a large population, and a thriving economy. Bangalore enjoys a salubrious, pleasant weather round the year, the air is becoming toxic due to heavy pollution, and the number of hot days is increasing day by day as the result of lurking climate change. Despite all this, the city is on the verge of collapse, as Firstpost in a related news published in April 2013 alarmingly states, “the Government of Karnataka will have to evacuate half of Bangalore in the next ten years, due to water scarcity, contamination of water and diseases”.

Water is one of the most important elements of the nature for human survival. Water is also essential for sustaining a city, and it has been noted that many historical cities had been perished because of the scarcity of water or by other ecological damage, either natural or man-made. Bangalore has always been water-scarce, there flows no river within the city to provide enough water to its resident as compared to the big cities in the northern India, and perhaps this was the reason that the early planners has devised a scheme to harvest the rain in form of network of ponds, known as ‘tanks’, and linked together by channels. As the city grew spatially and a huge influx of people, in quest of better employment opportunity, came in, the increasing water demand compelled the city administration to come up with other engineering solutions.

Launching a water extraction scheme from Cauvery River, situated about 100 km. far from the city, in year 1964 Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), a body to provide and manage water in the city came into existence. Being the first such utility in the country, the board have had to ensure the access of water far and wide city’s perimeter. The extent of growth can be perceived from this that water extraction from Cauvery River, through Cauvery Water Supply Scheme (CWSS), increased from 135 Million Litres per Day in year 1975 to 500 Million Litres per Day presently. This, however, points out to a significant issue with the present water status. Even if the city is equipped with a supply infrastructure, few locations in the city often cries about lack of adequate water supply. This inequitable water access is often glaring and shows that most of the poor people who are unable to seek other sources and modes of water (such as bore well, or private water supply) are at a very vulnerable position, as documented by many researchers and civil society groups’ findings.

Due to the intermittent and inadequate, and sometimes no access to water supply from BWSSB, the residents are either digging bore wells or hiring private water tankers to meet their water requirements. The city is dotted with a huge numbers (around 4 lakhs) of bore wells especially in those areas, mostly around outer ring-road, where BWSSB supply infrastructure is minimal, and as a result the water levels are falling down rapidly. In a city, due to higher extent of impervious surfaces, the groundwater system is unable to recharge itself even though the Bangalore witnesses a high amount of rain. This increasing depth to water levels is inviting other environmental dangers such as ingress of polluted water from nearby water bodies or leaking sewerage systems, and other contaminants such as leakages from industries and petrol bunks, into the groundwater system. This makes groundwater highly undrinkable in some locations, as highlighted in a recent report by Department of Mines and Geology, Karnataka. In addition to this, the booming, unruly ‘water mafia’ is hampering the city’s economy and ecosystem.

The tank systems, basically rainwater harvesting systems, are prominently seen in various part of southern India, are one of the important links to the human-ecological system. The tank system in Bangalore dates back to pre-British era, when these water impounding structures were dug to store the rainwater. The undulating terrain caused water to store in tanks and lakes, and this water was utilized for drinking purposes and irrigational usages. These structures play an important part in the hydrological cycle of the city, storing and channelizing the excess water and thus stopping the occurrence of flooding in the city during the rain, and recharging the groundwater system. Urbanisation, however, gobbled up many of these water bodies, wetlands and channels to the encroachment. The result was that many low-lying parts of the city are started to flood. Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi based research and advocacy body, in their Excreta Matter report on Bangalore city presented a detailed report on the Bangalore’s water status. It has documented the testimonies of people and listed the struggle from civil society groups to save these water bodies.

The access to water is considered to be a fundamental right; the challenges ahead for the cities are quite enormous. One has to include the ecological aspects to deal with the water problem of the city and not just rely only on the infrastructural measures. The ‘garden city’, ‘land of thousand lakes’ has to revive its own environmental legacy for its survival and to maintain the status of the ‘silicon valley’ of the country, and it cannot be achieved without the participation of aware citizens and a strong determination of city administration.

*Manish Gautam is a researcher in Indian Institute for Human Settlements and is volunteering with Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) for Agents of Change Programme. 


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The Invisible Green Workers

Why do waste-pickers continue to be a neglected lot, in spite of their vital contribution to keeping a city clean? 

Pinky Chandran, Kabir Arora and Nalini Shekar

Bengaluru 

Mary is a waste-picker in Bengaluru. A single mother of two, she walks up to 25 km every day to collect 75- odd kg of waste, for a paltry sum of INR 100–150 a day. Being a woman, Mary is often harassed by lewd and drunk men, questioned by the police, threatened by other contract workers, laughed at by kids or accused by the neighbours of being a thief, yet she continues making rounds to collect waste, every day. Waste-picking for her and 25,000 others in Bengaluru is not a hobby, but an occupation that—apart from a fair share of hazards—is considered dirty, ridiculed and traditionally excluded from the narratives of urban life.

Like most Indian cities, Bengaluru has a booming informal economy with an estimated 25,000 waste-pickers, working together with the municipal waste system as it follows a centralised approach of collection and transportation to the landfills. However, despite this attitude of treating waste as disposal, several community-based initiatives were set up in the late 1980s, stressing the need for public participation in solid waste management. The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) started the Committee for Clean Bangalore in partnership with various organisations in 1989 to promote segregation at source. Twenty years later, in 2009, a group of individuals called the Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) got together to promote decentralised waste management in the city for efficient waste handling.

In 2011, an alliance of waste-pickers filed an affidavit for recognition of waste-pickers which led the Lok Adalat to issue the landmark directive to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for the registration and enumeration of waste-pickers and scrap dealers. Around 8,000 waste-pickers were enumerated and more than 6,000 provided identity cards by the municipal body, which had the signature of the Commissioner of the city. This was facilitated by Hasiru Dala, a waste-picker member-based organisation, and the occasional advocacy of Solid Waste Management Round Table.

Continued here….

The piece was first published in Hard News Portal.


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How The Last Week Turned Out To Be One Of The Saddest Weeks In The Environmental History Of India

Mr. Modi’s recent speech, which received a standing ovation from the Indian delegation in a largely empty United Nations General assembly, is a representation of our collective ignorance. The popularly elected Prime Minister hinted that yoga is a way to mitigate climate change. One is not sure whether he was ridiculing the threat of climate change or mocking the ancient science of Yoga. This is not the first time Mr. Modi has shown his ignorance about climate change. His past statements are well documented where he declared that climate is not changing, our lifestyle is.

A request out of utter humour was posted on the Indian Youth Climate Network Page – “Our sincere requests to our ‘popular’ Prime Minister- please don’t make unnecessary linkages. Yoga is good for health but definitely not a strategy of mitigating climate change. Changing in lifestyle as you stated is needed and should start from your own very self, maybe you should learn from your counterpart in Uruguay. Too much to ask for, is it?!” received absurd responses, which were later removed by the admin.

Many of them actually made connections between yoga and climate change mitigation. According to one of the commentator, yoga helps to still the mind, and that ways we can face climate change. Most people who read it were not able to make any sense of it. It shows our collective ignorance and failure of scientific understanding.

India was founded by its makers to promote scientific understanding. Constitution starts with the declaration of ‘we the people’ and not with invocation of God or Almighty, or any particular religious or spiritual tradition. It seems that as Indians, we have missed the point altogether. We have failed to inculcate scientific values and prefer giving copies of Bhagvad Gita to everyone. While we have low understanding of science, we have become over-obsessed with technology. Let me make myself clear here – technology doesn’t always translate into science, rationale or logic. There are differences which we will not get into now.

Let’s move back to environmental governance and ignorance of the political class in India. A day before the Prime Minister’s visit to New York UN Assembly, Mr. Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change sang the old raga of ‘historical responsibility’ of emissions and just made a fool of his very own self in the UN summit on Climate Change called by Ban Ki Moon. The variability in climate will not cause natural disasters in historically responsible developed nations alone. For the weather patterns, these artificial nation state boundaries mean nothing. We all need to take firm commitments, whatever we can afford. And India has a vast potential to take shared responsibility on her shoulders. We have an opportunity to take a leap from the dirty polluting model of development. A pragmatic view is what we are lacking in our leadership. This is something which we need to remind our Environment Minister of….

The piece is originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and is continued here.-


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Climate crisis: An appeal to the governments of Pakistan and India

By Rina Saeed Khan and Kabir Arora

With Jammu and Kashmir inundated and Punjab in Pakistan flooded, the time bomb is ticking away. Climate change has been declared to be the greatest threat facing mankind this century.

South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar are all vulnerable today.

We have not yet resolved the basic issues of poverty, hunger and inequality, which breed discontent and terrorism. And in these troubling times, we are forced to face the brunt of extreme weather events because of growing climate variability.

Recent scientific research shows near to virtual certainty of linkages between climate change and extreme weather events.

Climate change is a potent threat multiplier that will make all our problems much worse.

The investment on constructing Asia’s largest solar thermal power plant in the Cholistan Desert and subsidies to buy solar technology for households and institutions in India are good starting points for sustainable growth pathways to mitigate climate change. However, a lot more is expected from the South Asian leadership.

In India and Pakistan, we have popularly elected strong governments, who now should show pragmatic leadership to tackle the climate crisis.

Already a proposal has been submitted to the Pakistan government to request India, as part of the current “flood aid diplomacy” to establish a system for the real-time exchange of hydro-logical (rivers flow and reservoirs level) data between the two countries….

The article is originally published on dawn.com and can be read at here.