Press Release- #Uttarakhand- We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!


INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE

 

STATEMENT ON THE UTTARAKHAND CATASTROPHE

We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!

 

 

25 June 2013

 

The India Climate Justice collective notes with deep anguish the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes in Uttarakhand and beyond. The death toll is likely in the thousands, way beyond current official figures. We extend our deep condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and our support to those still fighting for survival, and to local populations whose livelihoods will take years to rebuild.

 

This tragedy was triggered by extreme unseasonal rains in North India, 2-3 weeks in advance of what is normal for this region. The Director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Dehradun, said that 340 mm fell in a single day at Dehradun, a record not seen for five decades. Such extreme and unseasonal rainfall seems to us to indicate a global warming induced climate change phenomenon. Warmer air due to global warming has the capacity to hold more moisture, leading to more intense bursts of rainfall. The natural monsoon cycle in India has already been badly disrupted, and a new cycle of extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts have been reported from all over the country in the recent past. Thus, contrary to statements by senior politicians, the Uttarakhand disaster is not natural: it is no less man-made than the other contributors to the tragedy. And if it is indeed induced by global warming, similar catastrophes could recur with increasing frequency and intensity anywhere in the country in the coming years.

 

In Uttarakhand, a chaotic process of ‘development’ that goes back many years exacerbated the effects of this extreme rain. Extensive deforestation of mountain tracts, by the state and more recently due to ‘development’ projects, led to soil erosion and water run-off, thus destabilizing mountain slopes and contributing to more intense and frequent landslides and floods. Unchecked hill tourism has resulted in the huge growth of vehicular traffic, spread of roads not suitable to this mountainous terrain, and the construction of poorly designed and unregulated hotels and structures, many near rivers. Sand mining along river banks has intensified water flows into rivers.

 

Most of all, the construction and planning of hundreds of small, medium and large dams across the Himalayan states from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the northern Himalayas to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the east, have destabilized an already fragile ecosystem and threatened biodiversity. A staggering 680 dams are in various stages of planning, or construction in Uttarakhand alone! These dams have a direct connection with the extent of the damage that can be caused in such flooding events, in that the tunnelling and excavation in the so-called run-of-the-river projects cause huge and unregulated dumping of excavated debris into river basins, leading to increased siltation, and in turn aggravating the flood situation. The electrical power generated by these dams will be consumed by urban elites elsewhere. It is ironic that these dam projects, while adversely impacting people’s access to their river commons, claim to be climate change solutions in the guise of renewable and green energy, and have already made huge profits by fraudulently claiming CDM (clean development mechanism) status. In 2009, the CAG had warned the government of Uttarakhand that the “potential cumulative effect of multiple run-of-the-river projects can turn out to be environmentally damaging”. Like many other warnings by environmentalists and local community groups in the past, this was also ignored. And now we are facing one of the biggest disasters that the country has seen in decades.

 

The central government of India and various state governments, including the govt of Uttarakhand, have prepared action plans for combating climate change. Any such plan ought to include the establishment of a disaster-prediction and warning mechanism. The Uttarakhand government has taken no measures to prepare for this kind of eventuality, though it has paid lip service to climate action plans over the last three years.  In the present case, the IMD issued inadequate warning, which was disregarded by the state government. An urgent prior warning could have ensured that pilgrims don’t move forward and retreat to relative safety, that locals reduce their exposure to risk to the extent possible. Thousands of pilgrims from different states, locals, workers in hotels and dharamshalas, and transport animals have been killed. Cars with people inside them were washed away. Those who have survived had to go without food for several days. Thousands are still stranded at different points, or in forests, and we are still counting the dead.

 

There has also been extensive devastation of local lives and the regional economy. Serious devastation has been reported from over 200 villages, so far. Innumerable locals, including agricultural workers, drowned in the raging waters or were submerged under mud and debris. Houses have collapsed or been washed away. Tourism and the local employment it generates have been hit indefinitely at the peak of the tourist season. Floods, landslides and debris have devastated agriculture along the rivers. Irrespective of whether these extreme rains are due to climate change or not, this is what a climate change world in the Himalayas looks like. This devastation is a glimpse into a climate uncertain future.

 

We see this tragedy as a result of cumulative and widespread injustice and wrongdoing: not only against the Himalayan environment, but also against mountain communities whose survival depends on that environment. This tragedy is also a crime, because our policy makers and administrators are also part of the larger climate injustice at a global scale that threatens, displaces and kills the marginal and the poor everywhere. On another plane, they simply let it happen. We believe that adaptation to disasters does not just mean desperate rescue work during and after the event, but also reducing vulnerability and risk before. Effective adaptation involves a series of measures that need to be adopted on a war footing. The sustainable development of a hill economy, and equity – not profit for a few – should be at its core.

 

India Climate Justice demands:

 

·         That the governments at the central and state level retreat to a low carbon pathway of development that has equity, decent employment, and sustainability at its core.

 

·         That the planning and construction of dams in the entire Indian Himalayas be reviewed, and all construction be halted until such a review is carried out.

 

·         That the use of explosives in all such infrastructure development works is completely stopped.

 

·         That, given the likelihood of extreme rainfall events and other climate extremes in the future, extensive and sub-regional warning systems are put in place urgently across all the Himalayan states, the coastal areas and beyond.

 

·         That a proper assessment of the carrying capacity of specific ecosystems is carried out.

 

·         That the eco-sensitive zone measures be implemented from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi and eco-sensitive zones be established in other river valleys.

 

·         That a river regulation zone be enforced such that no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed within 100 metres of any river.

 

·         That the residents and their organizations are thoroughly consulted in a democratic plan on climate change, in the revival of the local hill economy, and the generation of decent employment.

 

·         That all working people be compensated for the loss of life and livelihood, and that urgent plans are put in place for the revival of local livelihoods and agriculture.

 

·         That the central government learn from the Uttarakhand catastrophe to put in place prior adaptation measures not just for the mountainous regions but beyond, for coastal and the drought-prone interiors as well.

 

 

 

(INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE)

 

 

Endorsing Organizations

All India Forum of Forest Movements; Pairvi; Beyond Copenhagen; South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; New Trade Union Initiative; All-India Union of Forest Working People; Chintan; Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Toxics Watch Alliance; Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh; Rural Volunteers Centre, Assam; Vettiver Collective, Chennai; Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand; Maati, Uttarakhand; Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti; River Basin Friends (NE); India Youth Climate Network; Intercultural Resources; Kabani, Kerala; Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh; National Cyclists Union, India; Equations; Posco Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi; Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives; Science for Society, Bihar; Nagarik Mancha; SADED; JJBA, Jharkhand; BIRSA; Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee; Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha Manch; National Adivasi Alliance; Bank Information Centre; Focus on the Global South; Jatiyo Sramik Jote, Dhaka; Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan; People’s Union for Democratic Rights; All India Students Association; All India Progressive Women’s Association

 

Individuals

Badri Raina, Kamal Mahendroo, Benny Kuruvilla, Subrat Sahu, Arun Bidani, Saurav Shome, Amitava Guha

 

India Climate Justice is a collective comprising social movements, trade unions, other organizations and individuals. It was formed in 2009 to respond to the growing climate crisis, from a perspective of justice and equity.

Emailindiaclimatejustice@gmail.com

Tel:  09434761915, 09717771255, 09910476553

 

#India – Lead in drinking water stunts kids’ growth


DC |
Bengaluru: With the city facing a shortage of clean drinking water, the National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI), based at St John’s Hospital, Bengaluru, is engaged in a project to evaluate polluted rivers around the city that are major source of lead poisoning.
The NRCLPI is working on the project in association with undergraduate students across six cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Dehradun and Karad. The three-month project is expected to be completed by June 2013, prior to the onset of the monsoon.
The data collected after analysis will be submitted to government bodies and policy makers, says Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, principal adviser, Quality Council of India (QCI) and NRCLPI.
Lead affects the growth and development of cognitive function among children and reduces their IQ. Among adults it affects the kidneys, bones, muscles and also blood pressure.
With the help of NRCLPI experts, the student volunteers will collect samples for analysis using the latest technology. The samples will be evaluated for lead content in soil, in agricultural products and in drinking water within 500 metres of the flowing and highly contaminated rivers and water bodies in these six cities of study. The data will be used to correlate with the health status and Blood Lead Levels (BLL) of the people living in and around the places taken up for the study.
“Rivers in these six cities are now highly polluted, especially with contaminating lead due to increasing industrial activities, mainly from lead-based industries,” says Dr Venkatesh.
“Cattle drink this water. Water from these highly contaminated rivers is used for agricultural purposes and it also recharges the nearby ground water.”
NRCLPI has conducted similar studies on lead contamination, one of which resulted in unleaded gasoline being used across the country. NRCLPI also played a major role in bringing down the content of lead in paints.
If it can rid river water of lead contamination it will go a long way in preventing many illnesses. If this project is successful, it can be extrapolated to other rivers in other cities where a similar situation is seen, Dr Venkatesh said.

 

#India- #Delhi- Women Helpline- 181 #Vaw #mustshare #mustcall


Three-digit number allotted for women’s helpline in Delhi

Edited by Shamik Ghosh | Updated: December 24, 2012 18:24 IST, NDTV

Three-digit number allotted for women's helpline in Delhi

New DelhiA three-digit helpline number, 181, has been allotted by the Centre to the Delhi government for its ‘office for helping women in distress.’

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had reportedly requested Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal for a three-digit number for the department. Usually, the ministry is short of three-digit numbers for allotment; however, this request accepted in less than two hours, according to reports.

The ministry of telecommunications has said that now it is upto the chief minister‘s office to set up the mechanism.

This comes after widespread outcry for strong police vigil on Delhi streets and tougher punishment for sexual crimes after a 23year-old medical student was gang-raped on a moving bus last Sunday.

 

#India- Girl honoured for stand on dowry #goodnews


DEHRA DUN, December 19, 2012

The Uttarakhand Police on Tuesday honoured a girl for her refusal to marry a man whose family was demanding dowry from her parents.

Kavita was to tie the knot with Mukesh on November 29 but in the course of a pre-wedding ritual on November 25 the man’s family demanded a dowry of Rs. 1 lakh from the girl’s parents, who expressed their inability to pay the amount.

This angered Kavita’s prospective in-laws who threatened to snap the marriage deal if they did not receive the amount, the police said. Kavita then broke her silence and refused to marry into a “greedy” family, they said.

‘Bold step’

Praising the girl for her bold step, I-G (Law & Order) Ram Singh Meena offered her a cheque for Rs. 5,100, a shawl and a bouquet as a token of appreciation at a function here in the presence of senior police officers.

“Kavita’s brave act of refusal to marry a man from a greedy family is exemplary and should inspire other girls caught in similar situations,” Mr. Meena said addressing the gathering. – PTI

 

Police Brutality- Citizen Caned


Citizen caned

Anahita Mukherji | May 19, 2012, Times Crest

 

 

FACING UP: Hospital reports corroborate Soni Sori's allegations of custodial torture (above); Bangalore youth Sampath (left) who was allegedly tortured by city police in March last year seeks justice

Victims of police brutality rarely get justice. The procedures for seeking redressal are complicated and often the panelists on the Police Complaint Authority are men in uniform. The Soni Sori incident is a case in point.

If you are arrested for no fault of yours and severely tortured in jail, will the perpetrators be brought to book? If a policeman hammers you in full public view, will he ever be punished ? If you were to put these questions to Ramesh Rawat, he is likely to shake his head in despair. Two years ago, this rickshaw driver says, he was brutally beaten up by the police on the streets of Dehradun for questioning a policeman who issued him a chalan. “He beat me so badly that I was hospitalised and had to undergo surgery, ” says Rawat in a telephonic interview with TOI-Crest.

He complained about the policeman to the Uttarakhand Police Complaint Authority (PCA), but nothing came of it. “I have submitted medical reports of my injuries and testified several times before the authority, but the case is still pending, ” he says. “The police even put me under lock-up to force me to withdraw the complaint. One of the members of the PCA is a retired IPS officer. He even swore at me and argued that I must have done something wrong. ”

While Uttarakhand has a retired IPS officer on its PCA, Kerala, the only state to have PCAs at the state and district level, has serving police officers on its PCAs.

“I have sat through a session at a Kerala PCA where the complainant, a victim of police torture, was unable to speak or register his complaint because the man in front of him was in uniform, ” says Navaz Kotwal, Police Reforms Coordinator with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). Kotwal edited a CHRI report released earlier this year called Police Complaints Authorities: Reforms Resisted. Rawat was one of many victims interviewed for the report.

Accurate statistics on police violations are virtually impossible to come by. The available data paints a bleak picture of police accountability. “Of the total complaints registered against police officers in 2009, departmental, magisterial and judicial inquiries were instituted in only about 46 per cent of the complaints . . . 51. 2 per cent remained un-investigated, ” says the report. Further, of 1, 279 cases against police officers sent for trial in 2009, only142 trials were completed and even in these, 70 per cent of police personnel were acquitted, says the report.

“There are multiple channels through which one can complain against the police. Depressingly most of them don’t work, ” says former IPS officer YP Singh, who cited corruption as the reason for quitting the service.

According to Singh, the nexus between junior police officers and their seniors, as well as the one between the police and politicians whom they have paid for postings, ensures that little action is ever taken against the police.

In 2006, the Supreme Court directed each state to set up a Police Complaints Authority both at the state and district levels. But CHRI’s recent report shows that only 18 of 28 states have set up a PCA. Of the 18, the authority is functional in only eight states: Assam, Chandigarh, Haryana, Goa, Kerala, Puducherry, Tripura and Uttarakhand. None of the PCAs comply with all the Supreme Court guidelines. Those that are functional are often designed to fail.

For starters, states have needlessly complicated procedures for filing a complaint. According to the Assam Police Act, complaints against police officers need to be accompanied by a sworn statement. There is also a fine for frivolous complaints.

In Uttarakhand, complaints must be on stamp paper. Victims need to submit multiple copies of the complaint and the cost of notarising a complaint is Rs 500. Victims are daunted enough to hire lawyers to represent them. Except in Kerala, victims have to travel long distances to register a complaint at the state PCA.

The very composition of the PCA often violates the SC order, according to which the chairman of the state-level PCA must be a retired High Court/ Supreme Court judge chosen by the state government from a panel of names proposed by the chief justice.

The other members are to be chosen by the government from a panel prepared by the state human rights commission. In practice, all members of functional PCAs are appointed directly by state governments.
The Haryana PCA consists of a single member, a retired IAS officer as chair. Kerala has subverted the system by appointing serving police officers and “no independent members who do not wear the government hat. ”

The Tripura Police Act says that not more than one member of the PCA should be a police officer. In violation of its own Act, there are two retired police officers as members.

“Complainants recounted experiences of further threats, and even physical torture and illegal detention in some cases, after they complained to the PCA, or when they tried to file an FIR against the police officers concerned, ” says the report.
“It is very difficult for an ordinary person to register an FIR against anyone. It is virtually impossible to register an FIR against the police. If you try to do so in Chhattisgarh, the police will brutally beat you and then register a case of Naxalism against you, ” alleges Colin Gonsalves, Supreme Court advocate and founder director, Human Rights Law Network.

“The maximum that a PCA would do is to recommend that an FIR be registered against the police officer or that a departmental inquiry be held. This means that after the PCA spends time carrying out its own inquiry the police must carry out a similar one against its own officials, ” says Kotwal. He points to several instances in Chandigarh where a departmental inquiry has given a police officer a clean chit despite the PCA recommending action against him.

“We had gone on a hunger strike in prison to protest the fact that the person in charge of investigating our wrongful arrest and detention was the person who had put us in jail to begin with, ” says social activist Arun Ferriera, wrongfully jailed for four years on the false charge of being a Naxalite.

He says the biggest problem when it comes to registering a complaint of custodial torture is finding witnesses, as the only witnesses are other police officials or prisoners who are anyway in the hands of the police.
The CHRI report cites a case where a person threatened to lodge a complaint against the officer for naming him an accused in false cases. To this the officer said, “If you make a complaint against the police, you’ll have to approach the police;and you know nothing will come of it. ”

This is a sad fact both the public and the police are aware of. Take for instance a case where a 16-year-old boy was assaulted by a builder over a family dispute in 2009. When his parents approached the police, they refused to register a complaint against the builder and registered a case against the boy instead. The family complains of continued police harassment, with no action taken against the errant police office

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