Climate Change Effects Lead to Mass Migration in India

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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Source: Neeta Lal/IPS
Source: Neeta Lal/IPS

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“Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.”

South Asia continues to be hard hit by the effects of climate change. High temperatures, rising sea levels, and increased cyclonic activity in India are creating large-scale migrations. Just in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh alone, its been estimated that a million people have been rendered homeless. As droughts and flash floods prevent the success of crops, as much as a quarter of India’s population has been affected — many of whom, as we know, are women farmers who are the backbones of rural communities.

With precious resources, like land and water, being depleted by every passing day, we as a global community must come together to support one another as we address ‪climate change, and find solutions for those already hit the hardest. We believe women are key to finding, and implementing, these solutions.

To read more about this issue, click here.

Why Women Have the Solutions to Climate Change

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india washing

According to Yannick Glemarec, deputy executive direct of United Nations Women, and mirroring what WEA has seen in our own work in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, “Women are the first to be affected by climate change in every single country in the world.” Furthermore, women in so-called developing countries are hit the hardest.

As primary caregivers, many women in poorer countries are responsible for trekking miles to collect water and fuel. When climate change depletes water, women notice first. Water is a climate change issue, and climate change is a women’s issue…

As climate change puts pressure on natural resources, fresh water is becoming scarcer, food prices are increasing, and infectious illnesses like the Zika virus are on the rise. Worldwide, women tend to be poorer than their male counterparts and have less representation in policymaking. All this means they are the first to be affected by climate change and the last to be heard on how to combat it.

But even as women are typically the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the ripple effect that causes (e.g. natural disasters, food and water scarcity, etc.), they are also the ones best positions to develop and implement solutions.

Read more about how this informs our work and what we do about it, and read the full article, “Why Fixing Climate Change is Women’s Work” over at Yes! Magazine.

 

India has the Most People Without Clean Water

Project: Together for H2OPE

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Water Aid, the international charity, released a report this week titled, “Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water in 2016” revealing that 75.8 million of India’s 1.25 billion people (5%) lack access to safe and affordable water.

Photo: U.S. News / AP photo, Bikas Das
Photo: U.S. News / AP photo, Bikas Das

Poor Indians without water access are forced to spend an average of about 72 cents to buy 50 liters (13 gallons) of water a day, the amount recommended by the World Health Organization, according to the report. That’s nearly 20 percent of their typical daily income, according to the report. By comparison, people in Britain spend about 10 cents a day for 50 liters.

Misappropriation of funds, resources, and the planning and execution of waterways and projects throughout india has also resulted in water shortages in areas where it was once plentiful.

Read the full article from U.S. News here, and read Water Aid’s report here.

Lack of access to water and toilets has untold effects

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

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Women water africa

According to UNICEF, about 157 million people in the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR) do not have access to a clean and safe water distribution system, and therefore rely on external water sources. This is compounded by an additional lack of reliable and improved sanitation.

Additionally, as WEA has seen in our own work in communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of fetching water, no matter how far away it might be, falls disproportionately on women and girls, thus limiting the time they can spend of self-sustaining tasks, school and, eventually, work. Furthermore, once a girl reaches puberty, and without private, separate and safe sanitation resources, they often miss school when menstruating, ultimately resulting in a significant portion of school days missed.

While women often have the primary responsibility for the management of household water supply, they are rarely consulted or involved in the planning and management of this vital resource. In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce up to 80 percent of basic foodstuffs, yet they have the least access to the means of production.

[However] A World Bank evaluation of 122 water projects found that the effectiveness of a project was six to seven times higher where women were involved than where they were not.

Read more over at UNICEF.

COP21: Time to Put a Cap on Global Gender Inequality

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By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

COP21 (1)

“I will ensure this… the climate battle must be fought for, and with, women,” stated Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development. These words are Fabius’ bold commitment for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP) which starts today in Paris, over which he will preside as President. For WEA and our global allies, his declaration is a real opportunity for world leaders to highlight and recommit themselves to addressing the intersectional relationship of women and the environment on an international level. The only question is whether Fabius and other decision-makers have the gumption to follow through on such promises made months ago? Or will COP21 be yet another international meeting that renders gender equality irrelevant to climate change, and creates an environmental protocol without the mechanisms to enforce it?

COP began as an international response to climate change with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. COP21 represents a chance for representatives from over 190 countries to cooperatively create universal agreements, all in the aim of keeping our climate below 2°C or 3.6°F. The U.S., the European Union., Russia, China, and India will largely negotiate the next 50 year agenda, as they are all among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. However, in the past these powerhouse countries have failed to prioritize the critical role of and impacts on women in the global environmental movement.

One of the many reasons women are so incredibly impacted by the effects of climate change is due to the vital role they play in securing the natural resources that their families depend upon for survival, such as clean water, food, and fuel. Around 70% of women work in agriculture in low-income food-deficit countries, though generally women own less than 10% of the land. These women are already forced to mitigate the effects of climate change that drive soil erosion, drought, and food scarcity, and through traditional methods and knowledge these women are able to adapt successfully. The2014 Copenhagen Consensus stated that agriculture research is the single most effective way to invest in fighting malnourishment. Combine this with the fact that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, and the answer is straightforward: Invest in women as keepers of traditional knowledge and stewards of natural resources, provide them with the support and networks necessary to develop their community-based, sustainable solutions, and witness how the ripple of their efforts become a wave of transformation.

But one of the biggest challenges in constructing an effective international protocol is designing the mechanisms to enforce it. Past COPs have only created legally non-binding frameworks for treaty negotiations, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. So long as countries can opt out of ratifying treaties that might actually impact their emission levels, there seems little prospect for any sort of enforcement on pollutant control. However, at COP21 there is hope for change as the conference’s main goal is to, for the first time, create a universal, legally binding agreement with which to effectively combat climate change. A global accord where individual countries are actually held accountable to their actions is an opportunity to create environmental protocols that invest in the women leaders who are already adapting to these changes.

For WEA and our allies around the world, we can only hope that this rare opportunity for change will not overlook women—who are critical agents in any long-term plans for our earth and future generations—and that those world leaders like Laurent Fabius will hold true to their words. Because it’s time for a protocol that doesn’t merely cap our emissions, but asks us to restructure our world to a more sustainable way of life. So let’s make a change and invest in women to invest in a sustainable future.

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Further Reading:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurent-fabius/taking-climate-action-for-and-with-women_b_6819596.html
http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/06/carl-pope-paris-climate-talks/