Humanitarian Crisis & Ecological Collapse in the Wake of the Israel-Hamas War
The ongoing war in the Gaza strip has led to the devastating deaths of thousands of innocent people in both Palestine and Israel leading to a humanitarian crisis in a region that is already extremely vulnerable to climate change. The situation worsens with the environmental toll of war which manifests through widespread deforestation, contamination of water sources, destruction of habitats, release of toxic chemicals, destruction of sewage networks & reservoirs.
The war may also disrupt the 28th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP28), which is set to happen in Dubai in November-December 2023. Ahead of the COP28, ministers of 48 least developed countries issued a joint Dakar Declaration to the UNFCCC, emphasizing the urgent need for global emissions reduction, increased climate finance, and operationalizing the Loss and Damage Fund. Even Pope Francis made an impassioned plea to climate change deniers and reluctant politicians to acknowledge the human causes and the undeniable scientific evidence supporting climate change.
Updates on Reclaiming our Right to Protest
A recent Madras High Court judgement has held a beacon of hope to citizens by holding that the right to protest is a fundamental right within a democratic society. This comes at a time when the Horatada Hakkigaagi Janandolana, a civil society group, has been advocating for the revocation of an order that confines protests to the boundaries of Freedom Park. After holding a peaceful protest march on the solemn occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, and being detained for the same, the group has now given an ultimatum to the Government to withdraw the order. However, protests in the city continue to be heavily censored.
More recently, although protests are now confined to Freedom Park, the police denied permission to hold a peaceful protest in Freedom Park against the violence in Gaza, by stating that protests on the Palestine issue would not be permitted. In the aftermath, on 16th October, hundreds of people gathered on MG Road to show solidarity with Palestine. However, several activists were detained and later released by the police, and FIRs have been registered against some activists. Similarly, on 20th October, another protest organised at Freedom Park for solidarity with Palestine also resulted in activists being detained by the police.
Addressing Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture
The Gandhian School of Natural Farming, Tumkur organised a talk on 29th October, 2023 to discuss the threat posed to agriculture by climate change with participation from farmers, pastoralists, researchers, scientists, etc. This is the first part of a series of such discussions to develop a strategy to address climate change impacts on agriculture. Bhargavi S Rao of ESG shared her experiences of how India’s rush towards clean energy has destroyed vast expanses of agricultural lands in Pavagada and consequently led to destruction of the environment, loss of livelihood, and making way for sociocultural and socio-economic problems such as child marriage, trafficking and migration of youth.
Manjunath H of the Gandhian School of Natural Farming has worked extensively on sustainable agriculture and has skillfully presented insights regarding farm orientation in a small hand book “Being Organic”.
He has also raised concerns over the recent MoUs signed between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Bayer, a multinational corporation that profits from various environmentally harmful and disease-causing chemicals like glyphosate, which has potential threats to the agricultural sector in India and world over. Bayer’s Indian subsidiary, Mahyco, is currently facing criminal cases regarding violating the Biodiversity Act, 2002 for illegally accessing plant varieties in India for commercial use. Read more here.
Climate Change’s Far-Reaching Impact
In Jammu & Kashmir, it is reported that glaciers in the regions have reduced by 25% and the melting of glaciers will affect water security, biodiversity and livelihoods, underlining the widespread implications of climate change.
According to new research published in the journal Nature Communications, the declining quality of European hops due to shifting climate patterns will alter the quality and taste of beer!
In brighter news, the National Green Tribunal, taking suo motu cognisance of a report titled India’s sinking Islands, has set up an expert panel to frame a sustainable tourism policy for the island keeping in mind climate change.
Worsening the Water Crisis through Bad Planning
A new study published in Nature Communications reveals that the river linking project, one that the government is portraying to be the ‘permanent’ solution to drought, is, in fact, altering monsoon cycles, disturbing complex hydro-meteorological systems, and which in turn may worsen the water stress across the country.
In Karnataka, Bengaluru is already facing a water crisis which is exacerbated by the State Government’s decision to further reduce the buffer zone around the TG Halli Reservoir, Arkavathy River and Kumudvathi Rivers (the lifelines of the city) from 1 km to 500 mts. In addition to this, it is reported that while treating wastewater for tertiary purposes can help ensure water security, there are several structural challenges to utilising wastewater. Additionally, the use of wastewater for vegetable cultivation has raised concerns about heavy metal contamination.
In brighter news, understanding the need to revive lake systems in the city for water secure, the Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike has launched programmes like ‘kere mitra’ and ‘hasiru mitra’ inviting citizens to participate and contribute to sustainability efforts.
In areas like Srinagar’s Dhobi Ghat, water scarcity has disrupted daily life, with workers having to adapt to washing clothes in shifts due to depleting borewell resources, leading to financial strains.
Even globally, wastewater is a problem. In the UK, a corporation, Welsh Water has admitted to spilling untreated sewage into an environmentally protected area near a rare dolphin habitat for at least a decade, and is facing prosecution.
False Solutions to Bengaluru’s Waste Crisis
A perfect example of the city’s waste crisis is in the discovery of an entanglement of waste while building an underground corridor. The mound of waste consisted of medical waste, animal fossils, implant wastes, tyres, confectionery and tobacco covers dating back to the 1980s.
On 10th October, 2023, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, DK Shivakumar, announced that all waste processing plants and landfills will be moved out of Bengaluru city. It is also reported that an integrated solid waste management plant will be set up in Bidadi to process Bengaluru’s waste. This has faced severe criticism from environmentalists as it will lead to centralisation of waste management. Moreover, those outside the city cannot be made to suffer the effects of the city’s waste and such actions are in stark violation of social and environmental justice.
The fashion industry has been a significant contributor to waste generation and water contamination. Synthetic dye usage in textiles creates harmful wastewater, jeopardising soil and water quality while posing health risks.
Threats to Biodiversity
A new report by the IPBES, reveals that anthropogenic activities have introduced over 37,000 alien species to biomes around the world, of which more than 3,500 are harmful invasive alien species with negative impacts on nature and people. The report further finds that about 60% of species extinctions are attributable to invasive alien species either solely, or in combination with other drivers.
In India, 66% of the natural systems are threatened with invasive species according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, which found that 158,000 plots in 358,000 square kilometres of wild area are invaded by alien species. Other major threats to biodiversity are biopiracy, single species carbon plantations which threaten native flora and fauna, and even mega-projects. In positive news, Tamil Nadu launched a project for conservation of Nilgiri Tahr where native knowledge of the Muthuvan tribe will be used in the conservation efforts.
The National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) has attributed the harmful algal bloom, resulting in a reddish tinge on the northern side of the Promenade Beach in Puducherry,to anthropogenic influences, including sewage mixing into the sea, besides the reversal of ocean currents and an increased concentration of nutrients in the coastal waters.
Gear up to watch Jacaranda Tales Second Edition Online – Conference on Climate Change and Climate Resilience in Bengaluru
[This issue of EJM was compiled by Asma, Sudha Nair , Yashaswini Sundar & Nidhi Hanji]
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