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India: Highlighting climate change impact on grassroots

Nov 09, 2009

At a recent public hearing held in Jaipur, people from all over India came together to share their experiences and speak of how their lives and livelihoods, traditions and culture are being impacted by climate change. It was organised by Oxfam India in collaboration with CECOEDECON.

Jaipur: More than 400 people from 12 rain-fed states in the country converged in Jaipur to discuss the impact of climate change in their regions and on their lives in a public hearing on November 4.

man at hearing

The public hearing was organised by more than 60 NGOs and was led by CECOEDECON (The Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society), a Jaipur-based NGO in collaboration with Oxfam India.

This was the last session after six public hearings organised by Oxfam India all over the country. These hearings gathered numerous testimonies which would work as evidence to influence the decision makers who are formulating policies on the issue of climate change.

The public hearing was conducted by a jury of eminent citizens comprising Justice V.S. Dave; Justice Panachand Jain; Rajendra Bhanawat, NREGA Commissioner, Rajasthan; Manhar Adil, agriculture expert from Chhattishgarh Government; Dr Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign; Sunita Satyarthi, advocate and ex-member Women's Commission, Rajasthan; Arun Kumar Panibaba and C.K. Ganguly. The public hearing was conducted by Dr Sanjai Bhatt of Delhi University.

Speaking at the inauguration, Aditi Kapoor, Economic Justice Lead Specialist of Oxfam India, said the effects of climate change spare none. The worst hit are the poor who have limited resources and capacity to respond or adapt to changing weather patterns.

“The objective of these hearings is to bring forward evidence in the form of testimonies of people to influence the decision makers on the urgency of taking action on the issue of climate change. Also, the final report to be submitted at Copenhagen would highlight the perspective of the developing nations in front of the world leaders which would help them keep the link between climate change and poverty in mind while framing the way ahead on this issue,” she said.

Sharad Joshi from CECOEDECON said the impact of climate change is harshest on people from the lower strata as they have minimal resources and minimum adaptive capacity, as represented by a group of farmers from Rajasthan and other states at UNFCCC platform in Copenhagen during the international conference.

Vijay Pratap, Convener of the public hearing said the question of climate justice is related to the issue of the current paradigm of development which is largely influenced by finance capitalism and market domination.

Bali Ram, a farmer from Bundelkhand, UP expressed his concerns as a representative of marginalised farmers in his region. He said that climate change has not only affected the cropping pattern but also socio-economic conditions.

On being questioned by Jury member Rajendra Bhanawat, NREGA Commissioner, Rajasthan, Bali Ram talked of large scale corruption in awarding job cards and wage payment.

Ramashanker, a 40-year old farmer from Chhattisgarh pointed out that climate change has also led to an increase in crimes and immorality in the society, as well as affecting bio-diversity.

Woman at public hearing in Jaipur

Nilikant from Bihar, Devka Bai from Madhya Pradesh, Roopa Bhai and Jolly Bahan from Surendra Nagar in Gujarat, Bhopal and Neeraj from Jharkhand, Ramakishan, Ramkaran from Rajasthan, Sita Devi and Shoban Sain from Uttarakhand also shared their experiences of change in their lives and livelihoods due to climate change.

Farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar said for the last five years, they have observed that precipitation and the number of rainy days have come down significantly and thus disrupted the agricultural cycle in the region.

Tribals and pastorals from Jharkhand and Gujarat said that due to the decrease in forest cover, their livelihood opportunities and income from forest produce have been significantly reduced. This has compelled them to migrate to nearby urban areas. NGOs from these states also attested to the loss of number of species of plants and insects.

Womens' networks and organizations spoke of how women have to bear the brunt of loss of household income, deterioration in health, lack of availability of water, fodder and fuel.

In its verdict, the jury said that climate change was of serious concern as it was destabilising the economies and lives of people in these states. It concluded that rain fed regions of the country should aim at collective long term programmes and ameliorative measures.

The international community must be informed of these disastrous impacts on agriculture, food and water security, forest and environment, livestock and health.

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