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Thursday, October 16, 2014

They said this: Take away messages from CBDCOP12

The 12th conference of the parties of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (or CBD COP 12) began here in Pyeongchang, South Korea on 5th of October. Since then, I have met and had exclusive interviews with several leaders here. Each of them impressed me with their answers and especially their patience in explaining complicated issues in the most simple terms. You can read the news articles that I filed from the convention on the IPS news site. Sharing  here, below, are some of the statements from each of these leaders that I am calling my take home messages.

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias – Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)


We now know what we need to do to prevent biodiversity loss and invasive species. We need to integrate biodiversity into our sustainable development.”



Ibrahim Thiaw – Deputy Director, UN Environmental Program (UNEP) 



"Hope that the member countries would really commit themselves to achieve the Aichi targets. It is a collective commitment that needs to be made. If you go back and don’t match your words with action at the national level, it’s not going to work"
 

 Naoko Ishii, CEO & Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility


"Transformational change can come only when biodiversity conservation is integrated into sustainable development."




 Francisco Gaetani,Deputy Minister of the Environment of Brazil



If you want to engage the private sector in biodiversity conservation, you also must have a regulatory framework that will ensure sustainable use and consumption
 


And finally,
 Hem Pande – Director, Biodiversity Authority of India



"We have heard many promises. It’s time for countries to walk the talk."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hunted Animals to Haunting Ebola: Nothing’s Too Far-fetched



A few months ago, when Ebola outbreak first began, many of us just didn’t care much. It was a strange disease happening in one part of world - West Africa to be precise -that was far away from us. And, so, we didn’t bother to connect to it at all.


Well, things have changed a lot since then, haven’t they? Ebola has gone out and beyond of West Africa, infecting, as we speak, 8,300people and claiming 4,033 lives in places including Europe (Spain) and the US. And it’s spreading. Suddenly we realize, nothing in this world is too unconnected. No place in this world is too far away. And, in this blog of mine, I want to also tell you that nothing is also too far-fetched either, especially when it comes to a crime and its effect on our lives.


Just before I began to write this, I spoke with some scientists  at the 12th Biological Diversity convention (CBDCOP12) who have been studying the link between biodiversity and infectious diseases. They are Catherine Machalaba, MPH,Health and Policy Program Coordinator  of the Eco Health Alliance in New York and  Anne-Helene Prieur Richard, executive director of the Paris-based biodiversity research institute ‘Diversitas’. I asked them to explain how destruction of biodiversity could also lead to the spread of Ebola virus globally. 

Before I get to their answers, let me remind you what we already know: The recent Ebola outbreak started where eating the meat of wild animals (popularly known as “bush meat”) has existed for a long time. Bat soup, Meat of monkeys and other apes are popular dishes in many countries including Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

But, there is a lot of people also buy these animals for their body parts. As a result, a lot of hunting takes place because people want to make money by selling the animals – dead or alive. And it is with this rampant hunting that the threat of spread of a virus like Ebola also increases.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ocean Acidification: Do We Give a Fish?

This week – and the next week – I am in Pyeong Chang – a mountain town in the Republic of Korea, covering the 12th Conference of Parties on Biological Diversity (CBD COP). Posting here my views on what’s happening at the venue.  You can also read my news articles from the COP here.

Two years ago, one morning I stood on the beach of  Calangute – a coastal town in western India’s Goa and watched rows of fishing boats returning to the shore. Each of these boats had, wrapped in a large net, the night’s harvest from the ocean. As the fishermen emptied their nets, the sand was instantly covered with a silver carpet of thousands of fish. ‘Blessed wealth of a benevolent sea god’– I remembered whispering to myself.




Today, I am reading a UN scientific report that shows that the blessing and wealth of the ocean is under severe threats, thanks to a rapidly rising level of acidification of the ocean water.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Building climate resilience: Unlock the technology


In 2012, I went to Inner Mongolia to see how local nomadic communities were fighting an advancing desert. I was very fascinated to see how they were building a green wall in the middle of a sandy land. It was then that I heard an expert from the United Nations Convention for Combating Desertification (UNCCD) say, ‘many countries, especially India, have so much of knowledge and technology in their labs. But little of that is reaching the people on the ground. We need to make that happen.”
Putting life back in lifeless sand. In Inner Mongolia, scientists and locals have worked hand in hand to make this miracle happen.
Two year later, today, at the 4th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Kuala Lumpur, I heard many experts expressing the same view again – a logical, practical and extremely timely expression.


One of them was Rajib Shaw, a professor of disaster and risk management at Kyoto University. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Gender-Inclusive Adaption: Vanuatu Shows the Way

Have you ever been to, or, if you pardon my saying so, even heard of Vanuatu? I honestly hadn’t and actually had to search Wikipedia for help! And this is what I found: it’s a very small country on the pacific coast, next to Fiji and New Guinea. The population of the entire country is just 250,000 – which is smaller than some of our cities.

It was from this tiny, hard-to-find-on-the-map island nation that we heard one of the most powerful pieces of information on the 1st day of the 4th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Kuala Lumpur (APAN2014): the country is following a 50% reservation for women policy when it comes to negotiating climate change and also implementing climate change adaptation projects.

 
An areal view of Vanuatu


I was at a session on “gender sensitive adaptation” in Johar Keda auditorium of the Putra World Trade Center where the forum is taking place.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Developing like Singapore? Go Beyond the Obvious!

This year, Singapore seems to have emerged as one of the most favored nations of Indian leaders. First, our foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Singapore. Soon after, Mamata Banerjee - the chief minister of West Bengal and Vasundhara Raje, chief minister of Rajasthan went there. Next in line was K Chandrasekhar Rao - the chief minister of Telangana - India's newest state. And then we saw the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh playing host to  Foreign Affairs minister of Singapore. Though they all went their own individual way, there was something common about these visits: woo Singapore to invest into and engage with the development process in their respective states.


As I follow these interactions, I wonder, has any of the dialogues ever moved beyond the obvious roads and ports?  Has any of our leaders thought of partnering with Singapore in areas where the country has failed the most : sanitation, water, hygiene and safety for women?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Impact of my story: woman freed from forced laborer

Its a beautiful, beautiful day. You know why? Because, a woman forced laborer who I had recently reported about,  has just been set free by her employer. Here's the story of her release. You can also read it in the website of IPS News - the media outlet where my story had first appeared.
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The first time I met Sri Lakshmi, she was climbing a flight of stairs in a half-constructed building in the residential area of Vanasthalipuram, in the South Indian city of Hyderabad, carrying a stack of bricks on her head. She was a forced labourer, who received no payment for her work. That was in mid-April.

Last week, I met her again. This time, she was carrying something entirely different: a school bag that belonged to her four-year-old daughter Amlu. Lakshmi was a free citizen and Amlu was going to school for the first time.

Separating our two meetings is a story that was published by IPS entitled ‘No Choice but to Work Without Pay. It was this article that stirred action on the ground, paving the way for Lakshmi’s release.

Here is how it all happened:
Sri Lakshmi, a recently released forced labourer, and her four-year-old daughter Amlu. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
Sri Lakshmi, a recently released forced labourer, and herfour-year-old daughter Amlu