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  • India Grand Challenges 10): Understanding national climate patterns and adapting to them.
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  • India Grand Challenges 7): ensuring quantity and quality of water in all rivers and aquatic bodies.
  • India Grand Challenges 6): Guaranteeing nutritional security and elimination female and child anaemia.
  • India Grand Challenges 5): Making India non-fossil based.
  • India Grand Challenges 4): Taking the Railway to leh and Tawang.
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  • India Grand Challenges 2): Developing commercially viable decentralised and distributed energy for all.
  • India Grand Challenges 1): Ensuring universal eco-friendly waste management .

 Dedicated To The Sparrows, Forests And Water 

Date of Publish - Wednesday, 20th March 2019

Today is World Sparrow Day, tomorrow, the International Day of Forests, followed by World Water Day on the 22nd of March. Over these next three days, we will mark these days, but few will make the connection between these observances or attempt to understand the correlations that are under threat. The past year has been about numbers that are a grim reminder of our times, including the catastrophic loss of insects, which has affected insectivorous birds like the sparrows. The observance of these days is about the challenges; the once ubiquitous sparrows have declined precipitously. Similarly, primary forests are being decimated everywhere while the latest reports reveal that over two billion people do not have access to safe water.

The diminutive house sparrow is perhaps one of the earliest birds in everyone’s lives. They built nests in almost every house in the neighborhood as well as in public places. For many bird watchers and ornithologists, it was the sparrows which ignited their passion. The association between humans and sparrows dates back several centuries and found mention in the folklore of different civilizations.

Unfortunately, like most other once abundant species, sparrows are now facing an uncertain future, with numbers declining across their natural range. The slow but noticeable disappearance has been labeled as one of the biggest mysteries of recent times. A leading newspaper in the United Kingdom, which has witnessed a big decline in the house sparrow population, declared a cash prize to anyone who could solve the mystery- the reward lies unclaimed. It can be said that like most biodiversity loss, there is no one single reason for the decline of house sparrow and it is a combination of anthropogenic factors including climate change.

An upcoming report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to be released in May, is expected to shed more light on the gravity of the crisis. A preview hinted that scientists warn of widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. The destruction of forests, the over-exploitation of land and marine resources and air and water pollution are together driving the living world to the brink.

The United Nations General Assembly had proclaimed 21 March as the International Day of Forests in 2012. Forests help to keep air, soil, water and people healthy and they have a vital role to play in some of the biggest challenges we face today, such as addressing climate change, eliminating hunger and keeping urban and rural communities sustainable. Forests will be more important than ever as the world population climbs to 8.5 billion by 2030.

The theme for 2019 is Forests and Education. Helping children connect with nature creates future generations conscious of the benefits of trees and forests and the need to manage them sustainably. For some children, forests are a direct source of food, wood and shelter, and part of their everyday lives. Other children can discover forests in classrooms and forest schools, by spending guided time in forests and urban parks, or by learning about trees growing in cities and gardens.

Rural and indigenous communities also have vital experience and knowledge on how to protect forest resources and ensure that they are harvested sustainably. For example, rural women who are traditional gatherers of food and wood fuel from forests can pass on their knowledge and practical experience from one generation to the next. Many countries are trying to involve more women in forest-related studies, placing a priority on equal access to forest education for all. Gender parity in forest education empowers rural women to sustainably manage forests. By investing in forestry education at all levels, countries can help ensure there are scientists, policy makers, foresters and local communities working to halt deforestation and restore degraded landscapes. In turn, healthy forests will help us to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals, for example by supporting the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest communities and conserving biodiversity.

In Hindi there is a saying, “Jungle Nadi Ki Maa Hai” which literally translate as “Forest is mother to the river.” Forests are natural sponges, accumulating rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers. It is appropriate that the International Day of Forests is followed by the World Water Day.

In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene. Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. Yet, over two billion people live without safe water at home.

The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’. Marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need. This World Water Day is about tackling the water crisis by addressing the reasons why so many people are being left behind.

I have always said that “Water is the local, issue of global climate change, for people, and for biodiversity.” Forests, water, biodiversity, climate, people, we are all connected; one study last year predicted the disruption of the Southeast Asian monsoon due to the accelerated melting of Arctic ice. In the past few months, global leaders have deliberated on the implications of biodiversity loss for human life, even the threats of extinction. Inaction by world leaders in the aftermath of the IPCC 1.5-degree report, which established a window of barely 12 years for action on preventing catastrophic collapse of life systems, has provoked unprecedented protests from young people everywhere. Therefore, while recognizing the importance of these 3 dedications, we must act decisively on facilitating the regeneration of the natural ecosystems. Because the only way to prevent the imminent collapse of nature is to leave her alone.

Author :
Rituraj Phukan


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