Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
NEW DELHI - In the vast Sunderbans delta that spans eastern India and Bangladesh, coastal erosion due to rising sea levels has been slowly carving away chunks of its low-lying islands, forcing thousands of people to relocate, according to climate experts.
"When we talk to families in the Sunderbans, we find that only elderly people are left behind. Many young people are already working in different parts of the country as day laborers or semiskilled workers," Harjeet Singh, senior adviser at Climate Action Network International, said.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body, warns that the Indian Ocean is warming faster than other seas. As a result, it says that sea levels around South Asia have increased faster than the global average, leading to coastal area loss and retreating shorelines in densely populated countries such as India and Bangladesh.
That is affecting millions -- a December report by ActionAid and Climate Action Network South Asia estimated that the combined effects of climate change will result in the displacement of 63 million people in South Asia from their homes by 2050 if emissions continue at the same levels.
Many of those displaced will be from coastal communities, and are already seeing their homes regularly inundated from rising sea levels and their farms shrinking or becoming unusable because of increased soil salinity, say experts.
While disasters such as cyclones and floods linked to climate change have grabbed headlines, the displacement of millions of people in the region has gotten less attention.
"The IPCC report points out that the sea level is rising much faster than earlier research had suggested," said Roxy Mathew Koll at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
"A 3-centimeter rise in a decade might not seem much but it is equivalent to 17 meters of land carved out by the sea every decade along the entire coast of India. That is what we are seeing happening currently," Koll said.
Mega cities in India, such as Mumbai and Chennai, have been witnessing increased monsoon flooding, as rural communities along the shore see livelihoods destroyed.
Low-lying Bangladesh, where more than 35 million people live in coastal areas, could lose more than 15% of its land, affecting the homes and livelihoods of millions in coastal areas.
The Sunderbans are a unique stretch of geography near Bangladesh that are proving to be disastrous for those who inhabit these regions Image source: wikimediawikimedia
"This region is not prepared to deal with such levels of displacement because the poor do not have resources to relocate. These climate migrants are mostly pushed into slums in nearby towns and cities, which are already densely populated," Singh said.
Barriers of mud and rock erected by residents, as well as concrete structures, have done little to keep the ocean out.
Bangladesh's government is planning to improve coastal embankments that were built to keep out tidal flooding and offer protection against severe cyclones, according to Malik Fida Khan at the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services in Dhaka.
Ocean damages soil
Even where the land is not swallowed by the ocean, though, the sea water pushing into farms has caused long-term damage.
"We can build embankments and resilience against cyclonic storms and sea level rise, but it is very difficult to handle soil salinity. You need fresh water to push back the salinity," Khan said.
"For example, it will take 50 years or more to remove soil salinity that has increased in 10 years. So, you need different kind of adaptation measures such as growing saline-tolerant varieties of rice," he said.
While Bangladesh has developed several such varieties of rice, some studies say the soil salinity has increased so much that even growing these is difficult.
Nowhere is the situation more dire than in the Sunderbans, often called one of the world's climate hotspots. Increasingly battered by more intense cyclones, the region is witnessing one of the fastest rates of coastal erosion in the world, with islands dotting the delta steadily shrinking, according to several studies.
Ghoramara island in the Indian state of West Bengal for example has diminished by half since 1970, according to several studies. Once home to 40,000 people, India's 2011 census counted only 5,000 on the island.
Those who have grown up in the Sunderbans in India, such as Bhakta Purakayastha, founder of the Sunderbans Social Development Center, describe the dramatic changes they have witnessed.
Storms and floods in the Sunderbans are extremely feared as they wipe out infrastructure from the roots Image source: wikimediawikimedia
"When I was a child, we used to cross the river in a boat. Now the river has shrunk so much due to silt deposits from upstream that we can walk across," he said.
He said fish were once abundant in the river but the catch has shrunk as the rising sea pushes into rivers, affecting poor communities that rely on their rice paddies and fish for sustenance.
"Now they have to go out into the deep sea to catch fish, but rising tides pose a challenge" Purakayastha said.
'We do not have a plan'
A severe cyclone that hit the region in May has exacerbated the problem in the delta, with even drinking water becoming scarce because of rising salinity in rivers.
Experts are calling on regional governments to develop plans to assist the growing tide of climate migrants, saying marginalized communities are the hardest hit by climate change.
"The reality is we do not have a plan, although many of the impacts of climate change are already locked in," Singh of Climate Action Network International said.
"None of the governments in South Asia have specific policies for people forced to migrate due to climate change to eke out a living. Even the recognition of climate induced migration is not there," he said.
(This article is originally by Anjana Pasricha) (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Sunderbans, Climate Change refugees, Disaster, Bangladesh, West Bengal
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.
Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.
Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.