Healthy communities are the outcome of effective sanitation practices. Life and livelihood of people largely depends on their health and hence, sanitation holds a major role in it. Thinking beyond toilet, it’s time to ponder about treatment of the human waste and reuse it for the betterment of environment and a healthy life.
As per the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2011) India contributes to 58 per cent of the world’s population defecating in the open. And according to last census in 2011, an overwhelming 1.7 lakh households (48.33%) or 8.5 lakh people in the slums of Odisha defecate in the open.
It is noted that, if 1 truck of sludge is exposed unsafely then it is equivalent to 5000 people defecating in open. In this context, if we go by the mission of toilet for all, there will be a huge amount of scarcity of water and also the faecal sludge will be the next problem we will have to face.
Looking at the smart approach of our urban planners and urban development practitioners, now it is highly essential for all urban settlements to come up with solution to deal with faecal sludge. Having proper disposal and a well-planned faecal sludge management is highly needed and should be given much importance in the current context. What if we achieve the objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and we achieve hundred percent toilets in the state and country. And we do not have a sludge management policy which will lead the disposal of solid sludge into our river bodies and also open field. What are we aiming at!!! From open defecation to mass defecation, where are we heading?? Are building toilets will solve the problems or will create a new sanitation challenge??
Let’s look beyond, while addressing a problem also let’s also address the broader sanitation challenges ahead. According to report by Odisha Water Supply and sewerage board, out of the 60 Lakh people staying in 23 Urban local bodies, 31 percent approx. are defecating in open and among people using toilets, only 49 percent households have septic tanks.
This is again sad, that only 2 per cent liquid waste are treated in the state and 98 per cent either percolates to ground water or adjoining water bodies through surface drains without treatment. Waters from Rivers such as Brahmani, Daya, Kathajori can hardly be used for further drinking water purpose. Discharge from insanitary latrines, sewage flowing in drains, effluent from septic tanks, septage, and rampant open defecation are polluting the environment and having adverse health impacts to all of us residing in the state. At present no ULB other than Puri has any sewerage system inside the urban limits. This is shocking and we need to act upon it immediately.
Here, comes the solution. The Faecal Sludge Management and treatment is the need of the hour. The untreated human waste what we call faecal sludge needs to be treated. Be it household level or institutional level, it needs to be treated and an appropriate system needs to be in place if we want healthy life and healthy community.
There are few things which can major take away for an effective FSM policy and management. Decentralized FSM can be a good demonstration on these public utilities and Possibility to introduce decentralized FSM in newly developing areas, public institutions like schools, universities, hospitals, apartment etc is something which needs to be addressed by planning bodies. A conducive environment for private sector and the promotion of PPP model in FSM Private Sectors will create more scope for funding opportunity for infrastructural development. Onsite sanitation solutions seemed necessary to disseminate with sanitation stakeholders for their possible promotion.
If we look at the government initiatives, now Septage management in nine cities / towns of the State (Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Baripada, Balasore, Bhadrak and Puri has been included under ‘AMRUT’ launched by GoI. The draft DPRs for septage treatment facility in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Baripada has been prepared by OWSSB. Pre-requisite measures like land identification and acquisition are in progress. In order to regulate construction, cleaning, maintenance, treatment and disposal of septage in urban areas, government has formulated the Odisha Urban Septage Management Guideline 2016. Government has taken steps for procurement of 86 nos of 3KL Cesspool Emptier for 57 ULBs. All these information has been shared by OWSSB in public domain but still there is a long way to go. There has been experiments faecal sludge treatment in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Philipines, Argentina, Ghana and Brazil etc. Even in India there have been few experiments in Bangalore. But no urban local body has come up with a proper plan of action for the same. However, in Odisha the state government has partnered with few philanthropic organisations and there has been two pilot projects of faecal sludge management are happening in Dhenkanal and Angul Municipality. If these proved efficient use of faecal sludge then Odisha can be the pioneer in setting up a system for disposal of human excreta.
Further to add on, the amount of water being wasted in toilet, if the faecal sludge treatment is not combined with waste water management then, in coming days, there will be a huge scarcity of water. This may also lead to dearth of drinking water, which may break the nerves of any government creating challenge for the urban governance. When a comprehensive sanitation plan is being developed, faecal sludge management must be integral part of every sanitation plan, which builds on on-site sanitation facilities. Sludge management is an indispensable part of the maintenance of these facilities. However, in reality sludge management is often neglected in sanitation planning because the need for it is less apparent than it is for the provision of water supply or toilet facilities. Even when a sanitation plan foresees a component for sludge management, its implementation is often impaired for the same reasons. Sanitation planners and decision-makers must recognize the importance of sludge management.
As we have seen the adverse impacts of human excreta causing harm to human health and hygiene now, its time we must be proactive. With the campaigns of building toilets we must be tighten our belt for proper disposal mechanism. On the eve of toilet day, the urban sanitation planners must look at the mechanism of proper faecal sludge management.No Comments » | Add your comment
This week the world passed a benchmark when the 56th country submitted documents of ratification for the global climate change agreement that was signed in Paris in December 2015. This was a significant step and raises the likelihood that the Paris agreement will be ratified in advance of the next global climate gathering in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2016.
One of the significant achievements (aside from it actually being passed!) was the inclusion of Article 8 on Loss and Damage. Loss and Damage recognises that for many, action on climate change is already too late. That for the poorest and most vulnerable climate change has exceeded the point at which adaptation might help, they are already facing the irreversible consequences of climate change. Climate conditions have already made traditional cropping practices redundant, the rate of sea water acidification has reduced fisheries upon which their livelihoods depend and for many living in coastal areas and especially small island states, sea level rise is already making their homes uninhabitable.
For these people our fixation with fossil fuels meant the loss of their homes and livelihoods, our efforts to decarbonise the global energy systems took too long. So the Loss and Damage article in the Paris agreement goes a little way to start to decide what to do for those people where climate action has been too little, too late. Unfortunately, negotiations to take forward action on Loss and Damage are progressing too slowly, as I found out in Bonn this week.
The fourth meeting of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) met in Bonn, Germany to discuss progress on their two year work plan. It’s clear that a political dance is underway in which everyone recognises the challenge but nobody is willing to step forward with the bold political agenda necessary to deliver climate justice. The developed countries are fearful of any notion of compensation, afraid of mega-lawsuits for Loss and Damages already incurred. Developing countries are trying to build on progress but cannot find the necessary levers to unlock the political impasse.
One of the first challenges is getting Loss and Damage recognised as a priority issue. Global temperatures have already risen 0.85oC from 1880 to 2012. So immediate action to limit warming further is a priority. There are no scientific nor technological barriers to keep global warming within a 1.5oC envelope and therefore minimise Loss and Damage due to climate change. The only obstacles are social and political, an unwillingness to recognise reality and an unwillingness to accept responsibility.
The hurdle we have to overcome is not a difficult one. Best estimates for current climate change based on national commitments has warming in excess of 2.7oC. Switching to a 1.5oC trajectory will deliver numerous social and economic benefits in addition to reducing the potential impacts of Loss and Damage, although this should be sufficient in itself to drive action now. Renewable energy technologies already exists and are not being exploited to their full potential. A switch to renewables would have stabilising effects on national economies as fuel prices spikes would be eradicated, with demand for fossil fuels falling and more energy being supplied for free. A switch to renewables would boost energy security. Already many counties especially small island states with the most too loose are well on the way to 100% renewable power generation. For example Costa Rica made headlines earlier in the year when it emerged that the country had been running on only renewable energy for 100 days of 2015. A switch to non-polluting energy production would improve air quality considerably with reduced health burdens on national budgets, a win-win with reduced expenditure on health with increased productivity as health levels improve.
I’ll explore the impacts of Climate Change and the consequences of Loss and Damage in our work next week.
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Insights from a flood vulnerable community in Sirajganj
As interest in resilience gathers momentum on the international stage, the need to address the question what do we understand by resilience becomes more important. To explore this question I recently visited flood victims in Sirajganj, Bangladesh.
Layli Begum from Char Saidabad trained as a volunteer on primary health care as part of Practical Action’s From Vulnerability to Resilience project. We visited her house when the flood water receded to find her busy making repairs.
“After 20 days we came home and our houses are not useable , we are trying to repair and clean,” she said wearily.
“Almost every year flood comes in this area but this year it was higher than the prediction.”
“We have experienced many floods before and people suffer from lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation. Water used to enter the village silently and the sufferings of the people knew no bounds. People had to depend on relief and external support.”
“But this year though there were no relief activities, there was no major humanitarian crisis!” says Layli with confidence.
So what’s the secret for their survival for twenty days without external support?
“I got the message on my mobile phone that water was increasing in the Jamuna River and it might cross the danger level within two days. I called a community meeting to disseminate this message. As volunteers we took the initiative to announce this message using our hand microphone. We prepared to shift with our belongings, dry food, firewood, torches, cook stoves, water jars, money etc. just as we had learned about preparedness in our meeting two months ago.”
“When water started to enter the village we moved to the community house yard. After five days when this flooded we moved to another safe place. It was not so easy to move at that time as there was water everywhere and there were no transport. With the help of Practical Action we, the community people made a float with plastic drums and bamboo. It helped us hugely and we rescued many people and their valuables like cattle, goats, refrigerators, TVs, cots and bedding.”
As a health volunteer Layli also helped take a pregnant mother to hospital.
Access to information, early warning messages, social capital like community organization, human capital like skilled volunteers, knowledge, awareness that lead preparedness are the secret to building people’s resilience.No Comments » | Add your comment
The year has been marked by a number of unusual climate events. Not only was 2015 the hottest year on record, with 2016 appearing on track to exceed this, but the year has also been unusually wet. In the US state of Louisiana, 13 people died and large areas are still struggling to cope when a “no-name storm” dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. This disaster manifested despite the US having the largest global disaster emergency organisation and associated budget on the planet. But in countries with limited resources the challenge of flooding is more severe. Northern India went from extreme drought to flooding in 45 days with the poorest and the elderly struggling to survive as a scorching summer gave way to an above-average monsoon; people who were praying for rain are now fleeing from it.
So how can we respond to this increasing flood risk in a way that doesn’t waste valuable resources? For example in Assam state, India, the state government depends on embankments to protect communities from the routine flooding of the Brahmaputra River. This year the Narayanguri embankment in Baksa district was washed away, this is the third time this has happened since 2004. Each time it is rebuilt to protect the local communities. Despite the presence of the embankments, villagers in Assam report losing their houses on multiple occasions. Why have successive governments in Assam continued to rely on hard infrastructure as the only solution? Especially when the local development needs are huge and local government budgets are limited. Embankments are not cheap with an estimate that for the last three years Assam has spent £56 to £80 million, building and repairing flood embankments each year.
People forced to flee when the Narayanguri embankment failed
How can local governments and communities maximise their investment in flood resilience building in the face of a changing flood situation. Clearly floods are getting worse, more people are living in flood prone areas and money alone does not seem to be the solution. So how can we maximise investment in floods management to minimise the negative consequences? Last week I was fortunate enough to join colleagues from a number of global organisations to explore the potential that nature based solutions offer in the face of this challenge.
This workshop brought together experts from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), WWF, Asian Institute of Technology, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) with Zurich flood project staff from Practical Action. We gathered to explore how natural and nature-based methods can minimizing flood risk while maximizing social, environmental, and economic co-benefits of flood management approaches.
One of the sessions explored the question, “if nature based solutions are relatively cheap and freely available why aren’t they used more often”?
The underlying logic of two of the groups are presented above. Based on these examples, clearly, political will, entrenched positions and understanding are vital obstacles to the mainstreaming of nature based solutions. As one participant eloquently put it, local politicians are unwilling to risk nature based solutions, fearing the question “How will planting trees protect me from a flood event, what am I supposed to do, climb the tree when the flood comes?”
There is clearly a knowledge gap. We need to do more to highlight not only the potential that nature based solutions offer in the face of increasing flood risk, but also the economic potential of nature based options to expand flood resilience to greater populations. The knowledge gap of appropriate nature based solutions, understanding of how nature based and more traditional approaches can be combined and a lack of evidence of how they can work and the benefits they can deliver. Nature based options are locally available and in many cases much cheaper then hard infrastructure. They can be managed using existing traditional practices and can therefore be maintained and repaired using local knowledge and local materials. Without even realising the workshop was making a great case for why Technology Justice must be central to deliver effective flood resilience building efforts for current and future generations.
“The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.” E.F SchumacherNo Comments » | Add your comment
“Sustainable…Participatory…Resilience”…I have to admit that I hate buzzwords – they get thrown about so much that they can often lose their real meaning and ability to do any good. That is why to me the work of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is so important. The Alliance works not only to increase the resilience of communities to floods but also to determine once and for all what makes a community resilient?
Resilience is complicated; there are hundreds of papers, discussions and frameworks floating around the development space. Yet there are no empirically verified frameworks that lay out the contributing factors to resilience. If we don’t know this how can we tell if we are successfully building resilience?
To address this, the Alliance has developed the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool. Working jointly, the Alliance has identified 88 different sources that contribute to flood resilience and is currently halfway through a two year testing phase.
Here is the most exciting part, the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool has been developed into a web based tool and an App. The web tool allows the user to design a study that can be sent directly to the designated field worker’s Android App in their local language. Working offline the field worker fills in responses directly to the app just like a regular survey. The data is easily synchronised to the web tool which generates a summary and collates relevant data together for simple comparison. A simple A, B, C, D grading exercise is then carried out across all 88 sources by team members before a summary is then automatically produced.
Why is this good for the community?
The App: Saves our beneficiaries time during data collection so they can get back to doing what matters to them. Automatic uploading of data saves our teams time so they can spend more time working on things that really matter.
The Grading: Generates informed discussion and gives our teams a greater knowledge of where they work, allowing them to make more informed decisions.
The Web Tool: Simply presented results that can be looked at under a variety of lenses allowing us to make links which may have previously been missed.
The Big Data Set: Data is entered into the tool from a variety of different contexts and countries by several different organisations. Through testing pre and post-flood events researchers hope to identify global trends in community resilience and determine once and for all where to focus disaster risk reduction interventions for maximum community impact.
 Thomas Winderl, “Disaster Resilience Measurements: Stocktaking of Ongoing Efforts in Developing Systems for Measuring Resilience,” United Nations Development Programme, February 2014,1 Comment » | Add your comment
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.
At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.
Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.
But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.
1. Covered shelters:
The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:
“Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”
With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.
2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:
With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing. In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.
“We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”
3. Breeding pens:
We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:
Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.
4. Market access and product diversification:
In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price. Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.
5. Training and knowledge:
Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.
It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.1 Comment » | Add your comment
In India, for every woman, cooking is a primary job. In villages and the countryside, women take care of the household work including cooking, collecting firewood and preparation of food. Using the traditional cook stoves causes respiratory diseases for women and children. In addition women collect firewood from the local forest and which is life threatening and lots of physical toil for them. It also creates a threat for the forest and its conservation. Though in short run, nobody talks about such issues, these have a greater impact in the long run.
A study in 2014 supported by Practical Action, ‘Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cook stoves in South Asia’ states that, “women largely shoulder the majority of the burden they naturally become exposed to allied hazards while cooking. They also additionally get exposed to hazards collecting fuel.”
All these questions and problems have a solution now with the efforts of a group of tribal women in Koraput district in Odisha. K Madhabi, the leader of the group has earned accolades for their honest efforts. A low smoke project, prepared by K Madhabi and her group, ‘Access Grameen Mahila Udyog’ won a prestigious Youth Innovation Fund Award from the Chief Minister of Odisha.
12 women from 5 blocks gathered together and formed this women group under the able leadership of Madhabi. At 26 years old Madhabi is now a successful entrepreneur and able to show a path to many like her in the community.
The cook stove prepared by the group is an energy efficient one which has reduced the smoke to zero level and the cooking time by up to 50%, according to many users. It also consumes less firewood in comparison to other traditional cook stoves.
“The journey was full of challenges. All the women first time learned the mason work and now can manufacture cook stoves of their own. They have divided the work for marketing and Madhabi is leading them.”
As well as manufacturing, Madhabi is also instrumental in knitting together women from different villages and disseminating knowledge about using low smoke cook stoves. She advocates for a better living for all women and is pretty much dedicated for that. This cook stove has already been tested by the experts from Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology and the group has been registered under the department which deals with small and medium scale business units.
“Life is not the same as before. We have been treated with much respect in our community,” says Madhabi. The group has been getting regular orders and they are working hard to meet the demands.
Practical Action’s India office provided technical and financial support for this group through a project called ACCESS (Access to Clean Cook-stoves for Economic Sustainability and Social Wellbeing) funded by the Johnson Matthey.No Comments » | Add your comment
To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now ~ EF Schumacher
Despite all efforts to provide basic amenities of life to tribals in the state, there are still a large number of places deprived of daily needs such as electricity and adequate transport. Similar is the case for many Konds residing in hilly terrains of eastern ghat of hills. Such is a village Badamanjari, in the valleys, surrounded by sky touching mountains. Though it’s just 20km away from the Semiliguda in the koraput district, but it will take more than hours to reach the village because of the uneven and hilly roads.
18 years old Sunil Taring of Badamanjari is able to speak in English and now is a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite the odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified; not with the state grid but by building a self-sustained micro hydro power generating unit. Badamanjari has set example in the district by generating 30KW electricity to provide light to all the villagers and in addition they are able to watch TV and few households have fans as well.
Sunil is running a rice and flour mill and earning handsome amount of money, as more thhan 15 villages are dependent on the rice mill. Same is with Suresh Tadingi who has also set up a unit for turmeric processing. Other agricultural products are also processed here. Both of these youth have set up example in the village. Both these units however is sharing 30 per cent of its profit every month to the Micro Hydro development fund which is being created for the regular maintenance of the unit. Life in this village is now more ease after the installation of the micro hydro units.
A total of 110 household in the village are now electrified and leading a better life. In addition to self-sustain the micro hydro units, every individual household is contributing a token amount every month which is being used for the operation and maintenance of the unit. This village is using the natural water source to generate electricity. The water from the natural springs are the new source of generating electricity.
It is worth mentioning here that in 2006first time this micro hydro unit was set up by the WIDA (Integrated Rural Development of Weaker-Sections in India). However the same became defunct and stopped producing electricity in 2011. But now it has been scaled up and made more sustainable by Practical Action, a UK based NGO with local support from Koraput Farmers Association. Practical Action also linked and supported the livelihood option alongside the electricity generation which is a new and innovating angle.
Though efforts are being made to provide electricity to everyone in the country but these hilly terrains may need some more years to be lighted from the grid sources. However, micro hydro-electricity is the new solution to such needs to provide better life and solve the livelihood issue of people like Badamanjari. Decentralised distribution of electricity is something which the government should take it up in large scale.2 Comments » | Add your comment
These women from Koraput are trend setters
The magnificent, green natural landscape with elegant tribal culture and life style of Koraput district also has gender inequality and acute poverty. According to a Practical Action study, most women in these hilly terrains depend on firewood for cooking though they suffer from eye itching, respiratory issues and shortage of firewood leads them to walk far away.
In an experimental innovation with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, local women from Sailabala have emerged as the manufacturers of low smoke ‘Access cook stoves’ which use up to 50% less firewood than traditional stoves plus save a lot of time.
Jambati Jani of Cherengaguda village of Padmapur GP is very satisfied with the new cook-stove which she got from the Paraba (a local festival). Now her single thatched house is not getting blackened by smoke nor is the cooking time so long. She is able to finish cooking sooner than before after using the ACCESS cook stove. It has also reduced the regular eye itching and respiratory issues along with giving more time for productive work.
Sailabala SHG from Puruna Dumuriput village has sold almost 30 such stoves and, along with 11 other entrepreneur groups, they are marketing and selling cook stoves. These groups came together to form ACCESS Grameen Mahila Udyog (AGMU), which they have registered as a small scale industry to care of climate change and nature. They have started keeping a log book to assess the impact of the cook stove. Informally they claim that cooking time has been reduced to up to 50% as has the use of firewood. Their efforts have opened a window on rethinking development. To serve the needs of different lifestyles, solutions can be found that keep nature and climate issues in mind and restore the natural balance. Project Access is exhibiting this at this moment in Koraput and these women are the flag bearers.No Comments » | Add your comment
At the COP21 Paris climate talks the issue of Loss and Damage was firmly cemented in the global agreement under Article 8. This agreement sets the agenda for climate action and the inclusion of a separate article on loss and damage recognises that for many people climate change is already a reality. Climate change is impacting people’s lives and livelihoods and for some adaptation is already too late.
Climate change exacerbates existing hazards
Climate change hits the poorest hardest, those who are least responsible for the problem in the first place. In Practical Action projects across Africa, South Asia and Latin America we are hearing stories about the heightened uncertainty as changing climates exacerbate existing hazards. Poor people do not differentiate climate change from climate variability, for them the consequences are the same: crops are failing, water supplies becoming less reliable, ecosystems are changing and lives and livelihoods are under threat.
The impacts of climate change are well documented, global and affect small island states, Africa, South Asia and the Arctic the most.
In May 2016, Practical Action attended the climate change talks in Bonn. The first global gathering since 177 countries signed the Paris Agreement in New York one month ago. The urgency to sign the agreement is a clear demonstration of its importance. Climate agreements have previously taken months if not years to get the signatures necessary to start talking about their implementation. At last political will for action is growing but for loss and damage there is still a lot to do.
Critical to progress on loss and damage is the recognition that this is a rights issue. The climate agreement must integrate the rights package in its entirety; this means: human rights, the rights of indigenous people, gender equality, food security, ecosystem integrity and intergenerational equity. To protect these rights means we need to stay below 1.5oC. If we can reduce emissions drastically with ambitious mitigation action; then the challenge of adaptation will be lessened and the loss and damage burden will be reduced.
Poor people around the world are facing climate impacts everyday.
In Bonn Practical Action along with partners in the loss and damage network highlighted this challenge in a well-attended side event. We started the session with a presentation of the collective impacts of climate change on the poorest, highlighting that for many these impacts are irreversible. Many of our Pumpkin communities in Bangladesh are families that have lost their land to accelerated erosion. Compensation and pumpkins will help, but it will not restore their fields, their houses and the numerous cultural sites that have been washed away. Many poor people are dependent on ecosystem services for their livelihoods, but what do you do when the ecosystem faces irreversible impacts? For many coastal communities sea water acidification is destroying once productive coastal fisheries, and sea level rise is converting coastal fields into areas only suitable for aquaculture due to rising salinity.
Loss and Damage side event organised by the @lossdamage Network held at Bonn Climate Change talks
Recognising irreversible environmental change
Loss and Damage is an opportunity to raise the profile of our collective inadequacy to mitigate emissions. Our addiction to fossil fuels, to easy solutions and to profit over the environment or human society, and our inability to prioritise long term, social and environmental benefits in favour of purely economic returns. This goes to the heart of what Fritz Schumacher wrote so eloquently in 1973 in “Small is Beautiful” and it is vital today that we heed this message, before it is too late for everyone.
“Man talks of a battle with Nature, forgetting that if he won that battle, he would find himself on the losing side” E.F Schumacher
 http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WG2AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdfNo Comments » | Add your comment