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Green Planet

Climatic chaos and nature’s fury in Kashmir

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Earth is the only habitable planet of the entire solar system with man as the central agent of the whole matrix. Gone are the days when the nature was in a state of equilibrium. Man has over the period of time exploited nature to such an extent that now; there is only a half-state of sorrow. The world of today is bereft of environmental order and there is a looming environmental crisis. The increasing population of the world puts an unprecedented pressure on the environmental resources and ultimately causes the scarcity of the resources generating a lot of waste which pollutes our environment day-in and day-out.

The anthropogenic threats to the environment on a massive scale have radically altered our planet, Earth including the lives of many species of plants and animals. Man is part and parcel of biosphere and cannot turn a blind eye towards the contemporary ecological crisis and responsibilities with respect to the protection of nature. Environmental degradation is the most hazardous event of the current century attributed to misuse of natural environment. The crisis has taken a major sway over both developed and developing countries. The developed countries dump effluents into the environment polluting the earth. Kashmir which is glorified for its beauty is getting victimised due to the environmental problems of the current times.

The valley of Kashmir has been enormously blessed by God with the scenic beauty and really stunning green environs. But, unfortunately, the indifferent attitude of the people towards the environment has ultimately caused ramifications which bode ill to the man itself.

Over the world, Climate change is the buzzword of the recent century which has assumed unimagined proportions and all the nation states of the globe are confronting this problem. The untimely downpours in summer, warm climate in winters, wind storms, hail storms in spring, etc. are the problems of the current times and attributed to changes in the environment over the period of time.

The dreadful flash floods of 2014 which caused a heavy damage to life, property and overall environment in Kashmir are grim reminders of ecological change and imbalance. The recent episodes of forest fires during this year’s winter at some places of Kashmir which destroyed various species of plants and vegetative cover was a cause of concern. The timely intervention of the forest department and youth of the respective areas stopped the further damage. In some pockets of Anantnag, the recent rains and one-night light snowfall has severely damaged the flower buds of the apple orchards and caused mayhem to the fruit growers, rendering trees devoid of any apple fruits.

Our environment is at the brink of a disaster, waiting for the feasible time to happen. The pollution of air, water and land are in a state of continuity and ensue change with the currents of time. This has paved ways for a bundle of problems. Pollution is the horrific ecological crisis of the current times. Air, water and land in the past times are said to have been in a state of purity, virgin and devoid of human disturbance. But, over the period of time the situation is caught in a reverse way. Ecological imbalance caused due to the development of transport, machines, infrastructure, paraphernalia, etc. in general and science and technological prowess in particular may prove disastrous for humanity in the long run.

Environmental degradation in terms of deterioration in the quality of air, water and soil surfaces cause a number of biological manifestations, which particularly affect human health and its well being. The degradation in the quality of water gives rise to a number of diseases like cholera, jaundice etc. The increasing ratio of light, small, medium and heavy vehicles is day by day polluting the quality of the environment in J&K. Soil erosions caused as a result of frequent rains have resulted in the siltation of the water bodies, like river Jhelum(Veth) which complicate the issues in times of rainfalls and leads to the flooding of the adjoining areas (say floods of 2014).Unfortunately, the environment of JK has been affected and destroyed in the last century due to uncontrolled cutting down of the forest trees which has not only altered the patterns of weather and climate, but also increased the massive destruction of the environment.

People in Kashmir have unfortunately turned a blind eye towards the environment and ignore all ethical standards vis-a-vis environment. The water bodies have become the ultimate target for the disposal of the wastes, whether house-generated or otherwise. Every household empties the sewerage in the adjoining streams. The space of the water bodies has been gravely shrunken and the waste lies littered. Even, at some places the household waste clogs the flow of water which causes its way-out on the roads and hampers the movement of the commuters.

Also, some people have erected illegal structures over the water bodies and downsized them. The major implications of excessive deforestation are soil degradation, excessive floods, dam siltation, alterations in climatic patterns and ultimately drives towards environmental bankruptcy. The pollution of water bodies in J&K has reached a point of crisis, rendering them as cesspools due to solid wastes, wrong drainage patterns, sewerage, etc.This has not only degraded the quality of these water bodies, rendering them ineffectual for drinking and usage of water, but also caused the unwanted growth of weeds and plants in them, ultimately shrinking their space with the passage of time. Dal lake, anchar lake, etc are the glaring and live examples of our environmental problems.

The people of the state have got a prominent role in the conservation of the environment. Government of the state has also the responsibility of conserving the environment which can fully blow into a crisis if not tackled on time. Otherwise, time will not be far when there will be only pangs of guilt and sorrow and the future generations will curse us for the full fledged eco-crisis which they would face in future.

Administration can play a prominent role in generating awareness and promoting environmental consciousness among the masses with the aid of print, electronic and overall mass media. The educational institutions can be used as the instruments of environmental consciousness. Besides, the water bodies and other polluted places can be cleaned using manpower and infrastructure in close proximition. It is vital on part of the administration to create awareness among the masses for the preservation, protection and conservation of environment and mitigation afterwards.

Today, when we are living in the post-truth era, our morale is slowly ebbing to the point zero. This place is to others as it is to the human beings. Man cannot destroy the other forms of life and claim hegemony over the environment sans ethical and moral conduct without any regard for the other living organisms. After analysing the true picture of the land and people in the recent times, what comes to fore is a non-compatible attitude of man with respect to the surrounding environment. Man has destroyed environment and is paying back a heavy price. If a similar situation exists in near future, human civilization will face disasters everywhere. There is an urgent requirement for appropriate measures in order to tackle the crisis. Searching into the past through the medium of oral or written histories of Kashmir, the vivid picture is that of purity and semblance of nature.

It is our foremost duty to conserve and preserve the environment. The need of the hour is to make people sensibly aware through the environmental education programmes. A fair amount of know-how about the burning environmental issues is vital for the protection of the healthy environment. Being part and parcel of the ecosystem, man has a crucial responsibility to protect the environment. However, responsibility is subservient to ethical motivation which can be generated at various levels of the society.

Here,again the role of multiple players viz, government, NGO’s and everybody else is necessary. NGO’s can actively engage general public and students  through programmes and activities. This will entail a plethora of research and dissemination of knowledge on various issues confronting the environment. The survival of human beings is largely dependent upon the environmental balance. No nation-state can remain in isolation, because the problem is pan-global without any consideration for limits. Thus, it requires a global solution. The development of man should be in harmony with nature. This way we can envision an environmentally sound place to dwell upon as previously eulogized by the Mughal emperor of  india, Jehangir as heaven on the earth.

The author has done M.Sc.(Biochemistry),B.Ed from Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi,M.A.(History) and also qualified CTET from CBSE. Previously,he was also working as a project trainee at JNU,New Delhi.He writes for a number of platforms on socio-politico-economic issues and currently works in J&K, government education department. He can be reached at abidjmi121[at]gmail.com

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Green Planet

Is the world living up to its climate commitments?

MD Staff

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As the United Nations gears up for the September Climate Action Summit in New York, one of its most high-profile climate conferences in recent times, what progress is the world making in tackling the climate crisis, and how is that progress being measured?

Around three years ago, the global community gathered in Paris in order to build a common approach to fighting climate change. They agreed to make efforts to restrict the rise in global temperatures to “well below”  2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, if possible, reach 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, in July of this year the temperature measured 1.2 degrees Celsius above those levels – matching, and even breaking, the record for the hottest month since records began – and the trend is continuing upwards. Extreme weather events across the world mean the planet is on track to record the five hottest years on record, according to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Mr. Guterres says that we are engaged in a “race to limit climate change”. So are we winning? UN News decided to take a closer look at one of the key international instruments used to measure the fight against global warming: Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.

What are NDCs?

It should be stressed that the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is not legally binding in its entirety: it does not tell countries how they should reduce emissions or build climate resilience and adaptation, but encourages countries to write their own ticket: the NDCs.

These climate plans outline what a country promises to do, and how much they plan to reduce emissions. Recognizing that developing countries often lack the resources, finance, and technology, the Paris Agreement calls for developing countries to show what they can do on their own, and what they can do with assistance from the international community.

Why are they important?

Countries have many options on how they can pursue the goals of the Paris Agreement.  This could involve legislation, financial incentives, or tax policies to promote activities that will reduce emissions.  For example, countries can decide to put a price on carbon, through a tax or by building a carbon trading system.

The idea is that, if people have a clear idea of the cost of carbon pollution, they will invest and spend in areas, or fuels, that cost less.  For the average citizen, this could affect what kind of car, or heating, or cooling system they use, among a myriad of other facets of life.

In addition, these policies can help regulate development in areas that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as coastal areas that are facing rising sea levels.

Why are we talking about them now?

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are supposed to enhance their NDCs every few years to show increased ambition over time.

This is known as the “ratchet” mechanism, acknowledging that the initial submissions were nowhere near where we need to be: even if you added up the NDCs of all countries, we would only, at best, be a third of where we need to be, in order to achieve the Paris Goals.

So, countries are supposed to submit updated and enhanced NDCs in 2020, and it is important to mobilize now, to push for increased ambition and action: this is why the Climate Action Summit is being held in 2019.

Is it all doom and gloom?

No! We are seeing a surge of action around the world to move to renewable energy, with huge solar power plants being built in Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, Portugal receiving most of its energy now from renewables, and increasingly, many countries finding that they can power their grids entirely on renewable energy. 

Investment in renewable energy is now outpacing that in fossil fuels, particularly in developing countries, and many countries and sub-regions have successfully enacted carbon pricing.

At the same time, the bottom line is that the world is not moving quickly enough: global emissions are increasing, and the temperature is rising. 

Which regions are leading the way?

No region is clearly surpassing others, but there are countries, and cities, that are showing great progress.  Many countries, including Pacific Island Small Island Developing States, have said that they are moving towards climate neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint.

In practice, that means they are able to balance carbon emissions, for example from industry or even just car usage, with carbon removal from the atmosphere, via such techniques as planting more trees, which absorb carbon.

It is a sad irony that these countries, among the most affected by climate change, have done little to contribute to the problem.

Climate action requires investment, and that often requires sound government policies to provide the incentive. Alongside Portugal, several other countries have invested heavily in renewables – including Chile, Ireland, Kenya and Costa Rica –and many European nations have made major advances in reducing their emissions.   

How can we move faster?

We need to see greater political leadership and political will. Carrying on with business as usual will be disastrous and will lead to a global temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, or more, this century.

Bold leadership, on the part of government, business and civil society leaders, is critical for advancing climate action. People make a difference as well: changing consumer behavior is important in moving toward a low-carbon economy, which is why the UN has promoted the ActNow Campaign, to offer basic ideas on the steps we all can take.

So, can we solve the climate crisis?

Yes. We have the solutions that we need to address climate change, but we need to use them.  We need to shift investment from the grey, dirty, economy, to the green economy.  The money is there.

We have the technology, now we need to make it accessible to all people in all countries. 

But we need to take action now.  Every bit of warming matters, and the longer we wait, the greater the negative impact.

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Green Planet

Towards a sustainable Blue economy: A Plan to restore the health of our oceans

MD Staff

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Samba Lahy recalls the time when, as a young man, he used to go fishing with his parents off the coast of Tampolove, one of the fishing villages dotting the southwestern coast of Madagascar. Every time his family returned from the sea, their long and narrow canoe would be filled to the brim with fish. But things have changed.

Mr. Lahy, now with a family of his own, has seen his catches dwindle. As a result, like others in Tampolove, he can no longer rely on fishing as his main source of income. His story sounds familiar to many, in scores of fishing villages around the world. 

Today, one third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, up from 10 per cent in the mid-1970s. Another 60% of fish stocks have been exploited at their maximum sustainable limit. But overfishing is only one of many problems affecting the oceans. Over the past 30 to 40 years, the world has lost half of its coral reefs. Other problems include a rise in ocean temperatures and acidity, both a result of the climate crisis.

Despite a growing awareness of these challenges, progress in tackling them has been slow. This is due to many factors, not least the perception that protecting the environment is costly and will therefore hinder economic growth and socio-economic development. However, the quest for a healthy environment can be compatible with a prosperous economy and a global trading system.

The ingenuity of rural producers like Lahy offers inspiration and assurance that the two are not inherently incompatible. Faced with dwindling catches, Lahy and others in the community began experimenting with seaweed farming with the help from non-governmental organizations.  Soon this turned into a profitable economic activity, and the village soon started to sell their seaweed to foreign markets, where it is used to produce food, personal care products, cosmetics, paints, adhesives, dyes and gels.

Commercial ventures like seaweed farming can create new economic opportunities, particularly for women in rural communities, enhanced by the interconnectedness of the global economy. They can also be more environmentally friendly than other aquaculture activities. Part of the reason is that seaweed and other species of algae do not need fertilizers to grow—just sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. All these factors begin to show how economic prosperity, trade and the preservation of the environment can, in fact, reinforce each other.

In the context of the Paris Agreement, oceans-based economic diversification can enhance the nationally determined contributions of small island developing states, supporting the implementation of the agreement. This shows that trade can be an enabling factor in adaptation and in mainstreaming oceans-based economic activities, where domestic markets remain small and remoteness is an intractable hindering factor.

In other areas of the oceans economy, adapting trade policies can play a decisive role in making economic activities more sustainable. One example relates to fisheries subsidies, government support schemes for the fisheries sectors. “Despite the clear trend of declining fish populations, a majority of these subsidies further promote overfishing. Instead, support should be provided to improve the sustainability of the sector, or promote new sustainable economic activities.”

explains Steven Stone, Chief of Resources and Markets at UN Environment. “Currently, countries are negotiating on a new set of trade rules at the multilateral level, that can put an end to these harmful practises. Successfully concluding these negotiations in 2020, at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference will be crucial to move towards sustainable fishing practises. It is also a crucial part and parcel of the 2030 Agenda.”

The oceans economy, climate and efforts to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies are all headline topics of the Third Oceans Forum, an event on the sidelines of the September 2019 UN Trade, SDGs and Climate  Forum in Geneva. The Oceans Forum is a unique global platform to take stock, exchange experiences and present options for the implementation of trade-related targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water – through the involvement of leading United Nations agencies, regional bodies, government institutions and civil society organizations.

This year’s forum is particularly important, as it precedes the 2020 deadline to deliver on several trade-related Sustainable Development Goal targets on healthy oceans. To support countries to deliver on these targets, UNCTAD, FAO, and UN Environment have come together to develop a draft Inter-agency Plan of Action (the so-called ‘IPoA’), on sustainable oceans and trade. Through this Plan of Action, the agencies are proposing a comprehensive instrument to support countries in their transition to sustainable ocean economies, and to align their trade policies with overall sustainable development considerations.

UN Environment

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Green Planet

Hurricanes, Melting Ice Sheets, Rising Sea Levels and A 16-Year Old’s Courage

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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When the Duke of Windsor, the former Edward VIII, was made governor of the Bahamas in 1940, he and his wife Wallis Simpson arrived to peaceful islands favored by a benign climate, away from the violent upheavals of a war-torn Europe.

Whatever the reasons — and many point to rising sea temperatures from climate change — the climate in the Caribbean is a little less benign as the unfortunate residents of Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico among others have noticed in the last few years.

And now hurricane Dorian, a category 5 monster when it made landfall on the northern island of Abaco and Grand Bahama on Sunday.  The strongest storm on record to hit the islands with winds reaching 185 mph, it left not a single roof untouched in Abaco, some areas being completely obliterated as if nothing had ever existed.

How many dead?  Nobody knows yet.  Shelters designed to accommodate a few dozen are crammed with  a thousand and more.  Sarah St. George, the chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority experienced it first hand.  “Grand Bahama is not in good shape at all because 70 percent of it is under water.”  If water is up to the second floor, then people have lost everything.  Recovery will be long and arduous. 

The islands need help and is owed it.  Mia Mottley the prime minister of Barbados put it bluntly:  “We are on the front line of the consequences of climate change and  we don’t cause it.”  Climate experts predict worse and more frequent storms in the future.  Dorian, for example, formed in August, earlier than normal.  Global warming is playing havoc with weather and warmer seas fuel more moisture-laden, powerful storms. 

Sea levels are rising from higher temperature expansion and greater ice melt, increasing the danger to coastal communities.  In Greenland, the melting ice caps and sheets by a record amount have surprised researchers, who say this summer’s melt has been enough to raise global sea levels by one millimeter.  The ice sheet is 2-3 km thick and covers an area six times the size of Germany.  If all that ice melted, it would raise sea levels worldwide by 7 meters or almost 23 feet.

When greenhouse gases are causing global warming, responsibility lies with the largest producers/polluters.  Would an international court find them liable to the small island nations suffering the consequences?  But then, if it does, who is going to persuade them to pay up?

It is in everyone’s interest to reduce global warming and since the powers that be do not listen to us, 16-year old Greta Thunberg is doing something about it.  To prove her point on greenhouse gases she refused to take a transatlantic flight, crossing on a sailboat instead to attend the United Nations climate summit later this month.  While she gears up for it, she is also preparing for the global strike on Friday September 20th preceding the climate summit on the Monday following.  She chose Friday, a workday, because she is asking adults to join the action and stay away from their jobs. 

Of course UN climate summit reports try to achieve consensus and in doing so have to appease fossil fuel producers.  If caveats are multiplied and uncertainties magnified, it is all part of the game.

Then there are the unexpected consequences.  As electric cars multiply and the demand for copper escalates, new sources must be developed.  Thus a new copper mine is being dug in the pristine wilderness of northern Norway, north of the Arctic Circle.  How well will reindeer and their Sami herders coexist with copper mining in the sparse wilderness is an open question.

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