SAVAE celebrates World Environment Day

Three kids aged 4 years— Ayaan, Ayat and Duaa— celebrating World Environment Day-2020

Manama, Bahrain June 05: Continuing its effort of promoting young environmental ambassadors and conservations of the environment today the South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists (SAVAE), a Kashmir based organization which focuses on environmental policy in South Asia, on World Environment Day organized an ecology protection engagement for children.

Program Manager-SAVAE, Salma Ashai, who is stuck in the Kingdom of Bahrain due to COVID-19 pandemic celebrated World Environment Day involving children and raising their awareness on the protection of the environment.   

The organization has earlier awarded young trekker of Kashmir aged only three years. “We want to promote environmental protection among the children and make them cheerleaders of critical environmental concerns that confront us all,” said Salma Ashai. She asserted to continue with similar eco-awareness drives in Bahrain and the South Asia region.

Three kids aged 4 years— Ayaan, Ayat and Duaa— who study in Nursery took part in the event. The trio made posters mentioning ‘Stop Cutting Trees’, ‘Save Trees, Save Earth’ and watered the plants. Later the kids were facilitated with a certificate of appreciation.

The underlying goal of organizing such events and activities has been to bring focus on campaigns to combat climate change, global warming, securing water conservation and sustainability globally. The theme of World Environment Day-2020 is to celebrate biodiversity— a concern that is both urgent and existential.

SAVAE awards young trekker of Kashmir aged only three years

Senior environmental journalist, Athar Parvaiz, and Adil Ashai, the Director of Marvel Technology Services and Information Systems, Bahrain felicitating three-year-old Aizel from the business town of Sopore accompanied with her father, Shafkat Masoodi, a veteran hiker

The South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists (SAVAE), a Kashmir based organization which focuses on environmental policy in South Asia, today concluded its drive of identifying and promoting the young environmental ambassadors. The underlying goal has been to bring focus and steer on campaigns to combat global warming and securing water conservation and sustainability in the politically volatile and ecologically fragile Kashmir region.

The youngest hiker in the drive was three-year-old Aizel from the business town of Sopore. She accompanied her father, Shafkat Masoodi, a veteran hiker. This baby hiker remained the main attraction of this week-long eco-campaign that concluded today on 4th of July 2019.

“We identified and tracked down these young and budding hikers to project them onto the centre stage and be the cheerleaders of critical environmental concerns that confront us all,” said Bilal Ahmad, Chairperson SAVAE. He vowed to continue with similar eco-awareness drives in Kashmir and the Himalayan region in South Asia.

The NGO organised a series of treks and community awareness sessions primarily undertaken by young trek enthusiasts in the hilly terrain of Kangan of the Ganderbal district in Kashmir. The event logistics were sponsored by a Bahrain based Eco-friendly IT company ‘Marvel Technology Services and Information Systems.’

“I read about this organization from an overseas web portal, and upon noticing the uniqueness of the event that roped in very young and pre-teen trek enthusiasts, we decided to offer our collaboration and logistical support aiming at the safety of all the young participants,” said  Adil Ashai, the Director of Marvel Technology Services and Information Systems.

Aizel Masoodi trekking in Kashmir

Senior environmental journalist, Athar Parvaiz, who was the guest of honor on the occasion, said: “We tend to ignore that it is our water resources like the wetlands, lakes and glaciers in our region that attract tourists to the state.” He added that it is quite shocking to note that our glaciers have been receding at an alarming rate as suggest by some latest scientific studies. “It is bound to put our state’s collective economic and ecological interests under strain,” the senior journalist said.

All the campaign participants were duly felicitated at the SAVAE headquarters in Srinagar by the overseas event sponsors. The baby girl  Aizel was awarded for being the youngest trekker. Among other distinguished dignitaries present on the occasion were prominent Psychologist, Dr. Roshan Ara, renowned dietician, Dr. Mudasir Hamid Baghal, and young budding green-chef, Arif Ashraf Bhat.

SAVAE awards 3-yr-old Kashmiri trekker

Hydro-diplomats: How a water data sharing platform can ease the water crisis in South Asia

As each South Asian country struggles with a fresh water crisis, Bilal Ahmad Pandow (South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists) argues why a new water data sharing platform created by the United Nations, Google, and the European Commission could help countries around the region provide fresh, clean water to their citizens while helping the region to avoid future conflicts.

Given diminishing resources, increase the size of the region’s population, coupled with climate change, the region is heading towards possible conflicts based over disagreements on water. Despite Article Six in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) stating that water for all will be a reality by 2030, the region is heading towards of crisis of reliably clean water in the near future. Data sharing, hydro-diplomacy and the inclusion of multilateral institutions, however, could make water sharing a means to prevent such outbreaks of conflict in the region.

The region’s water crisis

The water crisis has engulfed the entire region: women and children walk miles each day in search for water in Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi; in India, according to a 2018 Water Aid report, around 163 million people in India lack access to clean water close to their home with 70 percent of the country’s water is contaminated. The situation in Bangladesh is no better: the demand for water in the Dhaka is 2.2 billion litres a day, while the production is 1.9 billion litres a day. In Bhutan and Nepal, South Asia’s per capita water availability is already below the world average. The region could in the near future face widespread water scarcity— less than 1,000 cubic meters available per person.

Warning bells too have been sounded by Down To Earth, a magazine published by the Centre for Science and Environment. In the not too distant future, Bengaluru will see Cape Town-like water crisis, as the number of waterbodies in Bengaluru has reduced by 79 percent due to unplanned urbanization and encroachment, while built-up areas have increased from 8 percent in 1973 to 77 percent today.

Despite common concerns over the inevitable threat of water scarcity across South Asia, countries have found it difficult to collectively curate effective agreements over efficient water resource management within international river basins. The absence of guiding frameworks plagues hydro-diplomatic relationships of these countries to the extent where some have predicted that water will be one of the critical drivers of peace and stability in South Asia in the second decade of the 21st century.

Indus Water Treaty

Though are some successful joint mechanisms are in existence, such as India-Pakistan Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, both countries have repeatedly accused each other of violating the 1960s Indus Waters Treaty that ensures shared management of the six rivers crossing between the two neighbours who have fought three major wars in the past 71 years.

Yet fast-growing populations and increasing demand for hydropower and irrigation in each country means the Indus is coming under intense pressure. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration in one of its reports mentions that the Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan is the second-most overstressed basin, another over-stressed basin is between India-Bangladesh Ganges Water Sharing Treaty of 1996. Long-standing and seemingly intractable regional disputes have put a strain on these agreements.

Researchers at the East West Institute have suggested steps should be taken towards enabling effective hydro-political regimes to take root in South Asia in which involved countries should endorse the United Nations Watercourses Convention (UNWC). This will ensure, sharing of transboundary hydrological data and water bodies would be managed through the Integrated River Basin Management process.

The role of the UN

The recent partnership between the UN Environment, Google, and the European Commission, which aims to ‘leave no one behind’ on World Water Day has launched a groundbreaking data platform that will track the world’s water bodies—and a country’s progress in achieving Article Six of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is this partnership that could be of vital importance for South Asian countries to manage their water shortages and help depoliticise the water crisis between their neighbours.

Hydro-diplomats have a role to play along with the multilateral institutions but local and international NGOs also have a key role to play in bring all stakeholders of these countries together for cooperation on the most precious resource of all: water.

This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the South Asia @ LSE blog, nor of the London School of Economics.

Bilal Ahmad Pandow, is a co-founder of South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists, a developmental organization working for the environment and people of South Asia, info@savae.net He tweets @savae8

Earlier Published at:

UN Environment, Google, EC partnership effective to depoliticize water crisis in South Asia

Bilal Ahmad Pandow

This year the theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’ and goes hand in hand with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-six which is ‘water for all by 2030’. However, the ground reality in South Asia appears gloomy and too far to achieve the SDG-6 as the countries are still politicizing water crisis.

The women and children walk miles each day in search for water in Pakistan’s financial capital, Karachi.  While, in India, according to a 2018 WaterAid report, about 163 million people in India lack access to clean water close to their home and 70 percent of the country’s water is contaminated. The situation in Bangladesh is no better, the demand for water in the Dhaka is 2.2 billion liters a day, while the production is 1.9 billion liters a day.

Besides, in Bhutan and Nepal, South Asia’s per capita water availability is already below the world average. The region could face widespread water scarcity— less than 1,000 cubic meters available per person.

Warning bells too have been sounded by Down To Earth, the magazine that Centre for Science and Environment, Bengaluru will see Cape Town-like water crisis in the not too distant future. As the number of waterbodies in Bengaluru has reduced by 79% due to unplanned urbanization and encroachment – while built-up are has increased from 8% in 1973 to 77% now.

Despite common concerns over the inevitable threat of water scarcity South Asian countries have found it difficult to collectively curate effective agreements over efficient water resource management within international river basins. The absence of guiding frameworks plagues hydro-diplomatic relationships of these countries. It is also being said that water will be one of the critical drivers of peace and stability in South Asia in the second decade of the 21st century.

Though there are some joint mechanisms like India-Pakistan Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. Both have repeatedly accused each other of violating the 1960s Indus Waters Treaty that ensures shared management of the six rivers crossing between the two neighbors, which have fought three major wars in the past 71 years.

Yet fast-growing populations and increasing demand for hydropower and irrigation in each country means the Indus is coming under intense pressure. Also, the NASA in one of its reports mentions that the Indus Basin aquifer of northwestern India and Pakistan is the second-most overstressed basin. Another one is between India-Bangladesh Ganges Water Sharing Treaty of 1996, long-standing and seemingly intractable regional disputes have put a strain on these agreements.

The EastWest Institute, researchers have suggested steps should be taken towards enabling effective hydro-political regimes to take root in South Asia and involved countries should endorse the United Nations Watercourses Convention (UNWC). This will ensure, sharing of transboundary hydrological data and water bodies would be managed through the Integrated River Basin Management process.

Besides, Hydro-diplomats have a role to play along with the multilateral institutions like the World Bank. Local and international NGOs also have a key role to play by bring all stakeholders of these countries together for cooperation on the Indus basin.

The recent partnership between the UN Environment, Google, and the European Commission, which aims to ‘leave no one behind’ on World Water Day, have launched a groundbreaking data platform that would track the world’s water bodies—and countries’ progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And this partnership could be of vital importance for South Asian countries to depoliticize the water crisis.

Media coverage

https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2019/03/22/un-environment-google-ec-partnership-effective-to-depoliticize-water-crisis-in-south-asia/

We need more than donations to achieve equality for women in South Asia

As the whole world celebrates the International Women’s Day, South Asian countries are still marred with gender inequalities. The region is still engaged in child marriages with one in two girls married before 18 years of age according to UNICEF, and according to the World global gender gap index, South Asia is the second-lowest scoring region behind sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the fact, the region having a GDP (nominal) of $3.3 trillion and GDP (PPP) of $11.6 trillion, the disparity in South Asia is continuing.

Women comprise less than five per cent of the police force and less than 10 per cent of judges which amply reflect the social customs and the inequalities women face. However, women are also being left behind when the region suffers from its unique environmental issues.

Research by Women’s Fund Asia, which looked at women’s migration patterns and mobility restrictions, revealed environmental push factors including natural disasters and development-related displacement fuels migration across the region. For example, following the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, migration among women increased significantly.

According to the research ‘Migrant women workers from socially and economically more vulnerable communities are also more likely to fall prey to exploitation by recruitment intermediaries, traffickers and employers. These women have comparatively fewer options for employment and may therefore be willing to take more significant risks to meet their personal and family needs.’ The violence in this context includes economic, physical and sexual violence.

Amongst the gloom, Women’s Fund Asia is addressing all forms of migration related violence through an explicitly feminist, rights-based and regional approach and confronting restrictions on women’s right to mobility, right to work and right to information; and challenging social and policy practices that undermine and stigmatize women’s work.

For migrant women, mobility is intimately tied to autonomy, security and access to a range of valuable services and resources and the study respondents identified protecting and promoting women’s mobility key to mobilisation.

Even though, the theme for International Women’s Day this year, ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality, I hope philanthropy in South Asia continues to foster collaboration and empower grassroots organisations to bring equality, whilst also making donations.

First appeared in: https://www.alliancemagazine.org/blog/we-need-more-than-donations-to-achieve-equality-for-women-in-south-asia/

SAVAE for protection of Wetlands

Hokarsar Wetland at Srinagar, Kashmir

Environmental body, South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists (SAVAE), urged upon the governments of South Asian nations and the people of the region to join hands in our collective bid to protect the wetlands and environment. Marking World Wetlands Day on February 2, 2019, the SAVAE executive council met in Srinagar, Kashmir over the anniversary of the historic signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Ramsar in 1971.

In a statement issued, SAVAE underpinned the fact that the environment and ecology of this region have been massively degraded in the recent decades more so during the past decade.

“One of the abysmal indicators of this environmental degradation is the recent destructive flood which is mainly attributed to the destruction of the environment through lack of proper policies,” said Gousiya Hussain, board member of SAVAE.

In a memorandum, Gousiya urged Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands; Joyce Msuya head, United Nations Environment Programme and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education to proactively focus on all countries of South Asian region as it inhabits a staggering 1,891,454,121 people.

SAVAE emphatically appealed the people in general and government and civil society groups in particular, to make full use of global events like world wetlands days and other significant events to renew their pledge of protecting the environment. The organisation has also appealed the international Secretariat of Ramsar to impress upon the government of India to protect the wetlands of Kashmir.

This year’s World Wetlands Day under the theme of “Wetlands and Climate Change” highlights the importance of healthy and intact wetlands to one of the most pressing challenges of our times: climate change.

Media Coverage:

https://kashmirreader.com/2015/02/02/prioritise-protection-of-wetlands-savae/