What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change

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दलों का दलदल

(We are all trapped in the quicksand of political parties)

Elections have just concluded in 5 of the 30 states of India.  There has been a record turnout of youth and women voters this election season.  In Delhi alone, youth voters turned out in historical numbers pushing the total number of voters to 65% (the maximum before this was 61.8% in 1993).  While the allure of new political winds ushered in by the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (The Common Man’s Party) may have driven some of the enthusiasm in a population beleaguered by poor governance and the false prophets of established political parties, let’s hope that these demographic shifts are here to stay.  And why shouldn’t youth be engaged?  After all, it is their future that is being whittled away by career politicians who are happy to sell the ecological wealth on which their livelihoods will depend.

So why do Indian political parties fail to acknowledge the need for environmental conservation in their campaigns? Article 48(A) of Part IV of the Indian constitution reads: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”  In no political party’s manifesto is it apparent that the political class has thought clearly about the matter.  If we can thank anyone for the protection of any ounce of our nation’s ecological capital (from a legal/governance perspective) it is the Supreme Court which has been cited as the greenest court in the world.

Why the empty promises of 30% reduced electricity tariffs which will only further bleed our utilities dry and leave them with no revenue to innovate for the future much less provide reliable access?  Why promise 700 liters of free potable water when you have a fetid and dead river that flows through your city (and there’s hardly any ground water left)?  Why promise new sewage treatment plants when billions of dollars have been spent on sewage treatment plants already and while we still have over 50% of our untreated sewage making its way to the river?  Who needs “Statehood” for what should be the most easily governed unit in the whole Republic of India?  You want to set up child-friendly courts for crimes against children?  How about one that will ensure that these children have their right to life and livelihood protected by having a firm foundation (environment) in place by the time they grow up?  You want a monorail?  Did you forget about the ring rail that is hardly used?  How about refurbishing that and integrating it with the metro system (and continuing to build the Bus Rapid Transit)?  These populous promises mean nothing.  Meanwhile Delhi and India at large are headed nowhere, very fast.  Think about that the next time you are caught in traffic and choking on the ever-increasing fumes while mantri’s whiz past you in their luxury vehicles.

  By Supriya Singh and Kartikeya Singh

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Rethinking 1984

Outside:  Sunny and bright.

Inside:  Dark and dingy.  


A world of contrast opened up before me as I stepped into that small room, with no windows and very little space to move around. My eyes fell on eleven-year old Suraj lying on the bed, his hands and legs sickly thin.  


All those questions that I had suddenly wanted to ask simply disappeared and a feeling of despair crept into the air.  


 Suraj suffers from complete Cerebral Palsy. The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by abnormalities in those parts of the brain that control muscle movements. Cerebral Palsy has no cure but special therapeutic treatment can induce certain improvements.Children with severe cerebral palsy can never sit, stand, walk, talk or play.

The title of this article might have misled many into thinking that it is probably about some political or literary event.Instead, it is about the dreadful night of Dec 2, 1984 when about 40 tones of methyl iso cyanate (MIC) from the Union Carbide India Limited’s (UCIL) pesticide factory escaped into the air and enveloped various areas of the city of Bhopal. These areas, right outside the walls of the Union Carbide factory were inhabited by poor families who earned a living as daily wage labourers, factory and construction workers. At night, when everyone was asleep, the gas spread like wild fire causing irritation, suffocation and sudden death to about 2,000 people.  


 It does not make sense to explain the details of the event, as we are all aware that what Bhopal encountered was one of the worst man made disasters.What we often forgot to mention is that it is also a case of the grossest violation of human rights, environmental safety, of corporate crime and of how the poor everywhere are exploited so easily.  


Visiting the now abandoned UCC factory in Bhopal can teach many a lesson. The air is stale and the remaining parts of the heavy machinery continue to rot. The icing remains the chemical slush on the ground. Mr. T.K. Chauhan, a former supervisor with one of the departments of the factory took us around and explained to us the names of the chemicals. I honestly cannot recollect their precise names. The only thing I remember from what he said is the fact that the chemicals were highly hazardous with the potential to kill.  


 Had children like Suraj been considered a rare case in these bastees, we would not have been so worried. However the truth is, ever since the incident, there has been an increase in the number of such children being born here, many of them with severe cerebral palsy, mental retardation and Down syndrome. Children born without such deformities suffer from illnesses such as chest pain, eye irritation, weaknesses, headaches, reproductive problems, skin problems, cancer and even immunological changes…pains that could last a lifetime.  


 The Bhopal tragedy has multiplied over the decades. The people now suffer mostly from water contamination. The chemicals have seeped underground and reacted with the ground water. The water is yellowish at times and people often say that by drinking it, they experience an unexplainable sensation in which they feel that their throat is on fire.

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