The fact that “climate change is for real, and is here” is ubiquitous yet it is sidelined for the reasons less known to human conscience except the ignorance of the causes and impacts; and the phase of denial. The denial can be in the form of, “it’s not going to affect me”; “it’s the scientists job”; “its government’s job”, in fact its everyone else’s job not yours, and since you can’t see the immediate impacts, you surely do feel that this human-led monster, “climate crisis” is not going to affect you. Unfortunately, the truth is that it is here for real and it is going to affect you, your dear ones, your lives, and the lives of men and women; the people in power & the commoners; celebrities & seldom popular people; and each and every category of people on earth, along with the others who share this planet with us, i.e. animals, birds and the wildlife.
In case you haven’t realized this yet, apart from God, if at all there is anything that never discriminates among its people is Climate Crisis, be it for showering blessings or (as is in the case of the latter) creating havoc. Climate change doesn’t discriminate in genders, but its impacts do, and they are intense on women. On the occasion of World Environment Day, team Saturday Fare wanted to link women and climate change with a two-pronged approach: 1) initiative led by women towards the betterment of the environment 2) impacts of climate change on women’s (urban & rural) and children’s health.
Did you know? A lot of women in the flood and storm areas die because they wait for their children, family members, etc. to hurry up to her so she can help them escape this. Many women in rural India, fall victim to floods, storms, and other calamities due to their attires, like saree, ghaghra, etc., which restricts their movements and minimizes their time-band of escape. UN figures reveal that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. We’ll get to know furthermore, how women get impact through some interactions. We asked Dr. Walia Murshida Huda, Sr. Medical Officer, Healthians, about it.
How climate change is affecting the women residing in the urban areas?
Recent years have been a witness to sudden climate changes, scarcity of resources, natural disasters. No one has been spared from problems caused due to climatic changes. Various studies have shown that women are much more sensitive to climatic changes. Some of the major effects of climatic changes on urban women are:
* A lot of women suffer from various deficiencies like, vitamin deficiencies, calcium deficiencies, anaemia, and iodine deficiency. The sudden climatic changes like cold weather, extreme hot temperature can trigger these deficiencies and make it difficult to handle.
* Air pollution is a huge concern. The air pollutants can cause several respiratory problems like pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, lung problems, etc. Air pollution affects the fetal growth and exposes both the mother and child to health issues.
* The last few years have seen a sudden spike in the temperature during summers. The hot temperature can cause several health ailments like weakness, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance. Kids are more sensitive to these changes. This adds on to botheration, effort, and worry, especially for mothers, making it difficult for them to handle.
* Most of the women residing in urban areas are juggling between work, families and their personal lives. The constant struggle often leads to ignorance about their nutritional intake. This makes them more susceptible to health problems caused due to climatic changes.
* Rainy season brings with it a sudden bout of rains that cause floods and water logging problems. Such problems give rise to diseases like dengue, malaria, Chikungunya, cholera, jaundice, typhoid, infections, diarrhoea etc.
* Water scarcity has led to limited and timely water supply. This makes storage of water a huge task, wasting a lot of time and energy of the women managing it.
* Recent dust storms have increased the allergies and respiratory problems especially in kids. The recent weather issues have created turbulence in the lives of all the urban women making it much more difficult for them to maintain the balance and protect their little ones from health problems.
* Food scarcity due to reduced agricultural activities has flooded the market with chemical laden fruits and vegetables. This has created a huge dilemma for the women as they are primary providers of and responsible for the nutrition intake of the family.
* The climatic changes have increased the risk of various cancers and chronic diseases. Women are more concerned about the health of their families and the rise in the incidence rate due to climatic changes exposes everyone to health challenges.
* Urban cities also consist of poor population also known as urban poor. Lack of awareness and resources makes it more difficult for these women to fend for themselves and their families and fight the health risk caused due to climate changes.
* Lack of proper disposal of wastage adds to the pollution & makes the environment unfriendly affecting majorly the kids, elderly & women.
* Mothers are always anxious about their kids and families wellbeing. The severe effects of climatic change on health also act as stress trigger.
Sadly though, it is true that the quality of life is getting hampered, even in the urban areas, due to climate change. To understand it more, we checked with Dr. Prasanna Kumar Thomas, Consultant pulmonologist, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, about how unmanaged waste can lead to health hazards in the society. He replied, “It is basically plastic and food wastes, and the combination of biological and chemical pollution which affects. Biological pollution like food and drinks, chemical pollution like plastic wastes can lead to the spread of bacteria and infections. As far as children are concerned, they have a very adverse effect due to their sensitivity in catching diseases easily.” He further added about the solutions for this, “I think the only way to prevent this is to ban plastics which should be followed by every state including Tamil Nadu.
But still due to non implementation of the laws there are shops that still use plastics and give plastic bags. The most important thing to do is to create. Not just for air and water pollution, there should be awareness on waste pollution, which has adverse effects on women as well as children.”
Now talking about air pollution, both ambient and indoor air pollution are dangerous to women’s and children’s health. Indoor air pollution is 5 times or even worse than the ambient air pollution.
Air pollution can affect anyone of any age, any region. Some of the most noticeable symptoms are: Irritation (eyes/nose/throat); Coughing and Wheezing; Shortness of breath; Chest tightness; Asthma Attacks and more. The following groups of people are most susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution:
* Individuals with heart disease
* Individuals with lung disease
* Pregnant women
* Outdoor workers
* Children under 14
Indoor air pollution is mainly caused due to burning of coal, kerosene, wood, and dung in smoky and inefficient cook stoves, by 3 billion poor households worldwide. And, around 4 million people die annually because of such pollution affecting mostly women and children who spend a major portion of their time around the family cook stove, inhaling soot-filled smoke in a brew of other toxic and carcinogenic compounds.
Studies reveal that prolonged exposure to air pollution affects the pregnant women, due to the improper supply of oxygen to the fetus. Pregnant women may face following issues:
* Premature birth: Pregnant women who are constantly exposed to air pollution may experience the premature birth also known as pre-term birth.
* Low birth weight of the child
* Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): If a woman is continuously exposed to passive or second-hand smoking, then they are at a serious health risk leading to a miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, cognitive and behavioral deficiencies, & SIDS.
* Constant exposure to air pollution may cause intrauterine inflammation in pregnant women, which could further affect the child’s health right from the fetal phase to childhood and adolescence and they may experience long-term health problems.
Air Pollution is a silent killer, whose impact is often seen in the long run. Such issues also necessitate rigorous research studies in these aspects. Apart from wearing pollutant filtering masks, and avoiding smoky ways of household chores, one can introduce indoor air-purifying plants in the home to oxygenate and purify the indoor air. Some of them are money plant, snake plant and areca palm.
We asked Dr. Huda about the measures that every woman should do in her daily life to combat the effects of climate change impacts?
* Women should take care of their nutritional intake and make sure to have a balanced diet. Proper health can help fight the infections and other health threats posed by the climatic changes.
* Proper management of resources at home and our locality can bring a lot of relief. Proper storage of water, disposal of garbage and maintenance of cleanliness can help tackle the impacts of climatic changes.
* Proper and regular health checkups will only help the women to stay abreast with their health status. This will also help with proper diagnosis and timely treatment.
Now shifting our focus to the second prong of approach, we found out a few women who are dedicatedly working as Green Stewards and promoting ways that are eco-friendly. What did they do this World Environment Day, let’s hear from them.
FICCI FLO Took a Green Foot Forward
FICCI FLO Northeast (a women’s wing of FICCI that comprises of women entreprenuers) has partnered with the Assam Forest Department, to spearhead the Assam Government’s initiative – Green Guwahati.
On the occasion of the World Environment Day, FICCI FLO and Assam Forest Department collectively instrumented the free distribution of saplings, free of cost, across distribution points in the city. FLO Northeast members, who passed the message of Going Green by asking all to take due care of the saplings, once planted.
FLO Northeast also carried out the plantation of 100 saplings at the Assam State Zoo, to make it a greener habitat for the animals and a soothing area for visitors. Alongside, environment-friendly plant protections were also provided, to provide for a safe growth for the young saplings.
The Chairperson, FICCI FLO Northeast, Sarita Sikaria added that, “FLO Northeast has decided to staunchly stand against one-time- use plastic and aims to adopt measures to beat ‘pollution by plastic’.”
Pedalling for a Better Future
EverythingOutdoor (EO), which was seen expressing romance for cycling on Valentine’s Day, during “Love Thy Bicycle” workshop (as a pre-event preparatory session) has been successfully organizing Guwahati Cyclothon editions and encourage more people to join in. Guwahati Cyclothon is the baby-initiative of EO, supported by the Northeast’s only pet-friendly travel café, ByTheWay Café. When our team asked Jubi Baruah, Founder, EO about her objectives behind organizing the cycling events, she shared, “we all have seen how crowded and congested the roads of Guwahati have become, which ultimately leads to environmental and health problems. In such a situation, pedalling your bike with a less surface area and zero-pollution-potential seems to be an apt solution to break away from this clogging and gloomy situation. The benefits of cycling are known to all, but followed by some exceptional clusters of people. Cycling regulates blood pressure, helps in weight loss; prevent cancer, eases stress, and more, in addition to helping society in creating a balance of things. Barring those with genuine health or other problems, the rest of the people who can take up cycling as their means of commutation (at least for 50%), should go for it. Well, you all will be astonished to know that after Guwahati Cyclothon Season 1, many people, including children gave a kick-start to their cycling habit. In fact, before the main event, the organizers had organized several promo rides, including bike-check up workshops.”
You must know that this year’s cyclothon had more participants. It started off from Geeta Nagar field in Guwahati and ranged between 20 kilometres of riding (for amateurs) to 60 kilometers (Pro Zone: MTB & Road biking). EO has ensured that it makes cycling a regular activity, and is not just about cycling, cycling, but also about fitness, and a mode of entertainment with live Zumba sessions, live music performances, fitness exercises and more.
On the occasion of World Environment Day 2018, EO partnered with Marwari Yuva Manch and GMC to organize two cycling rallies. It is an initiative to fill in the gap and support all to collaborate and be respectful to the environment and its surroundings. Students studying at Manipal, mothers, kids starting 5years old, and mostly women are also taking part in this.
EO is also proactively organizing first ever in India, “Cycling Training Sessions” for all. 10 days’ session in a month (in the early morning), with each session ranging between 45 minutes to an hour are organized. Cycles that are used for training are: non geared basic and geared cycle – towards the end of session. Technical Training is also rendered, which encompasses, repair, basic self servicing, parts and their use, and training rides at beautiful trails with nature. With the motto, “Go Eco, Go Cycling”; EO is all set to create a lot of inspirational stories.
If Pre-schoolers can, why can’t we adults take the charge?
Tender Petals Preschool, founded by Vasavi B Acharya, M. D. Inner I Foundation Pvt. Ltd., observed International Environment Day on 5th June, 2018. Children from the Tender Petals’ centres, all over North East, did various activities related to environment conservation, on the day. Children along with the teachers planted saplings in the school premises along with parents, wherein children were involved.
Many preschoolers prepared placards with some slogans on them like ‘STOP use of plastic’ and ‘Plant trees to save our mother Earth’. Children of the Zoo Narengi Road Centre, Guwahati, visited a Nursery to get firsthand experience of planting and nurturing trees.
This has been a part of the ‘GO GREEN Campaign’ of the school, which started a month back in the Tender Petals centres, wherein children engaged in various activities related to conservation of the environment, including reuse and recycle activities. Ms. Acharya quoted, “The world will turn green in the years to come, if we teach them young”.
Vivanta by Taj, Did Its Bit
The Taj Cares – for the environment, its premises, its people and for future generations to enjoy and cherish – nature in its glory! This is the message from the Vivanta by Taj, Guwahati team. Celebrating the world environment day on the 5thof June, the hotel took up a slew of activities to highlight and bring forth the importance of the environment to its staff and the community. Tree plantation drive in the hotel premises saw active staff participation. This was followed by a vehicle pollution check of all employees’ vehicles. The emphasis and need to nurture the environment was brought forth and disseminated to the children of the staff, invited to participate in a painting competition creating curious awareness in the future custodians!