Six young people argued that governments across Europe aren't doing enough to protect people from climate change at the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday in the latest and largest instance of activists taking governments to court to force climate action. Legal teams for the 32 nations — which includes the 27 EU member countries, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey — questioned the admissibility of the case as well as the claim that the plaintiffs are victims of climate change harm. But lawyers representing the young adults and children from Portugal said the nations they're suing have failed to adequately address human-caused warming and therefore violated some of the group's fundamental rights. Barrister Sudhanshu Swaroop, a counsel for United Kingdom, said national governments understand the threat of climate change and its challenges and are determined to tackle it through international cooperation. He said the plaintiffs should have gone through national courts first, and stressed that since they are not nationals of the countries they are attacking, other than Portugal, the European Court of Human Rights cannot have jurisdiction. European Film Festival presents a true cultural collaboration between Bangladesh, EU: Dutch Ambassador "There was no attempt by the applicants to invoke, let alone exhaust domestic remedies," agreed Isabelle Niedlispacher, a legal expert for Belgium. Pleading on behalf of the young people, Alison Macdonald told the judges about the urgency to tackle the "biggest crisis that Europe and the world" have perhaps faced, and that they should play a bigger role in helping control planet-warming emissions. "It cannot be within a state's discretion whether or not to act to prevent catastrophic climate destruction," she said. Although there have been successful climate cases at national and regional levels — young environmentalists recently won a similar case in Montana — the activists' legal team said that because national jurisdictions did not go far enough to protect their rights, the group felt compelled to take the matter to the Strasbourg-based court. Arguing that their rights to life, to privacy and family life, and to be free from discrimination are being violated, the plaintiffs hope a favorable ruling will force governments to accelerate their climate efforts. "We've put forward evidence to show that it's within the power of states to do vastly more to adjust their emissions, and they are choosing not do it," lawyer Gerry Liston told The Associated Press at the start of the day-long hearing. The court's rulings are legally binding on member countries, and failure to comply makes authorities liable for hefty fines decided by the court. "This judgement would act like a binding treaty imposed by the court on the respondents, requiring them to rapidly accelerate their climate mitigation efforts," Liston said. "In legal terms, it would be a gamechanger." Bangladesh Judicial Service Association slams European Parliament for ‘interference’ Liston said a ruling in favor of the group would also help future climate cases taken at domestic level by providing guidance to national courts. But the plaintiffs — who are between 11 and 24 years of age and are not seeking financial compensation — will need to convince judges that they have been sufficiently affected to be considered as victims. The group will also need to prove to the courts that governments have a legal duty to make sure global warming is held to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. "We have put forward evidence before the court that all of the respondents' state climate policies are aligned to 3 degrees (Celsius) of warming within the lifetime of the applicants, or in the case of some states, worse than that," Liston said. "No state has put forward evidence to counter that position." Science is on the activists' side. The world is way off track on limiting warming to 1.5 C, scientists say, with global average temperatures projected to rise by 2 to 4 degrees C (2.6 to 7.2 F) by 2100 on current trajectories of warming and emissions reductions plans. As the world warms, climate scientists predict more frequent and more extreme weather events, from heavier flooding and rainfall to prolonged droughts and heat waves and increasingly intense storms. Resolution moved by European Parliament disregards Odhikar’s error-ridden advocacy for radical forces, minority leader says The activists said climate change affects their daily lives and their studies, and damages both their physical and psychological well-being. They started judicial action in the wake of a series of deadly wildfires in central Portugal in 2017, where four of them live. "It's 43 degrees (109 F) one day, and the next it's hail, and that's dangerous because we can't predict what's going to happen," said 15-year-old André Oliveira, adding that the heat wave that hit Portugal in May hindered his schoolwork. Representing Portugal, Ricardo Matos questioned the "victim status" of the applicants, arguing that they have not established a direct link between states' emissions and the harm suffered because of the wildfires in their country. Matos insisted that because climate change has an impact on everyone, no one should be allowed victim status. It's the first climate case to be filed with the court. Two other climate cases — one by an association of Swiss senior women against Switzerland, the other by a French lawmaker against France — have been brought before the court since. Members of the Swiss association traveled to Strasbourg in support of the young Portuguese. They stood in front of the courthouse before the hearing, alongside a few dozens of other supporters. "I wish them a future, because they are very young," said Anne Mahrer, the group's co-president. "We probably won't be there to see it, but if we win, everybody wins." A decision is not expected for several months. It's still unclear whether the court will deliver its ruling on all three climate cases at the same time.
Schools in New Delhi were forced to close Monday after heavy monsoon rains battered the Indian capital, with landslides and flash floods killing at least 15 people over the last three days. Farther north, the overflowing Beas River swept vehicles downstream as it flooded neighborhoods. In Japan, torrential rain pounded the southwest, causing floods and mudslides that left two people dead and at least six others missing Monday. Local TV showed damaged houses in Fukuoka prefecture and muddy water from the swollen Yamakuni River appearing to threaten a bridge in the town of Yabakei. New Delhi schools close after monsoon floods kill at least 15, Pakistan on alert for more flooding In Ulster County, in New York’s Hudson Valley and in Vermont, some said the flooding is the worst they’ve seen since Hurricane Irene’s devastation in 2011. Although destructive flooding in India, Japan, China, Turkey and the United States might seem like distant events, atmospheric scientists say they have this in common: Storms are forming in a warmer atmosphere, making extreme rainfall a more frequent reality now. The additional warming that scientists predict is coming will only make it worse. Heavy rains cause flooding and mudslides in southwest Japan, leaving 2 dead and at least 6 missing That’s because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, which results in storms dumping more precipitation that can have deadly outcomes. Pollutants, especially carbon dioxide and methane, are heating up the atmosphere. Instead of allowing heat to radiate away from Earth into space, they hold onto it. While climate change is not the cause of storms unleashing the rainfall, these storms are forming in an atmosphere that is becoming warmer and wetter. “Sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit can hold twice as much water as 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Rodney Wynn, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay. “Warm air expands and cool air contracts. You can think of it as a balloon - when it’s heated the volume is going to get larger, so therefore it can hold more moisture.” 'Life threatening' flooding overwhelms New York roadways, killing 1 person For every 1 degree Celsius, which equals 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the atmosphere warms, it holds approximately 7% more moisture. According to NASA, the average global temperature has increased by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. “When a thunderstorm develops, water vapor gets condensed into rain droplets and falls back down to the surface. So as these storms form in warmer environments that have more moisture in them, the rainfall increases,” explained Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami. Along Turkey’s mountainous and scenic Black Sea coast, heavy rains swelled rivers and damaged cities with flooding and landslides. At least 15 people were killed by flooding in another mountainous region, in southwestern China. 15 killed by floods in southwestern China as seasonal torrents hit mountain areas “As the climate gets warmer we expect intense rain events to become more common, it’s a very robust prediction of climate models,” Soden added. “It’s not surprising to see these events happening, it’s what models have been predicting ever since day one.” Gavin Schmidt, climatologist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the regions being hit hardest by climate change are not the ones who emit the largest amount of planet-warming pollutants. Better flood management: China offers assistance for dredging rivers in Bangladesh “The bulk of the emissions have come from the industrial Western nations and the bulk of the impacts are happening in places that don’t have good infrastructure, that are less prepared for weather extremes and have no real ways to manage this,” said Schmidt.
Protesters and legislators converged on the European Union parliament Tuesday as the bloc prepared a cliffhanger vote on protecting its threatened nature and shielding it from disruptive environmental change, in a test of the EU's global climate credentials. Spurred on by climate activist Greta Thunberg, a few hundred demonstrators demanded that the EU pushes through a bill to beef up the restoration of nature in the 27-nation bloc that was damaged during decades of industrial expansion. A counterdemonstration of farmers demanded a slower approach that would lessen the impact on their income. Inside the legislature in Strasbourg, France, parliamentarians put in last-minute efforts to sway Wednesday's vote, which could push a key part of the EU's biodiversity protection plans off the table. The legislature's environment committee last month was deadlocked at 44-44 on it. Recent events that indicate Earth's climate has entered uncharted territory The bill is a key part of the EU's vaunted European Green Deal that seeks to establish the world's most ambitious climate and biodiversity targets and make the bloc the global point of reference on all climate issues. The plans proposed by the EU's executive commission set binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species, with the aim by 2030 to cover at least 20% of the region's land and sea areas. "This is really a crunch moment, not only for Green Deal, but also whether Europe stands by its word," said Greens leader Terry Reintke. "Are we the ones that are talking and telling us what to do but not doing it ourselves?" Climate change keeps making wildfires and smoke worse. Scientists call it the 'new abnormal' The EU's executive commission wants the nature restoration law to be a key part of the system since it is necessary for the overall deal to have the maximum impact. Others say that if the EU fails on the nature restoration law, it would indicate an overall fatigue on climate issues. The bill long looked like a shoo-in as it gathered widespread support in member nations and was staunchly defended by the EU's executive commission and its president Ursula von der Leyen. But von der Leyen's own political group, the Christian Democrat European People's Party, turned sour on it and now vehemently opposes it, claiming it will affect food security and undermine the income of farmers and disgruntle a European population focused more on jobs and their wallets. Like some nations and leaders, they want to hit pause such far-reaching climate legislation. Bangladesh to get assistance on priority basis to deal with climate change impacts, natural disasters.: UN ASG Mami "For the next five years we have to care a lot about our industrial base. You have to care a lot about competitiveness in the European Union. So we have to manage the big changes needed in a way that we don't lose economic power," said EPP chief Manfred Weber. As the largest group, with 177 seats in the 705-seat legislature, its opposition has been key in turning the issue into a hot political debate. And on Tuesday few ventured to predict which way the vote would go. The member states have already agreed by a large majority to back a slightly more flexible version of the bill. If parliament backs the plan on Wednesday both institutions would sit down to broker a final layout in the second half of the year. The commission has said there is no reason to reject the plan now as too rigid, since there is still time for compromises on many of the issues. EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said the commission would show "openness to revisit and improve certain provisions and to enhance clarity, making sure the proposal reflects the current reality." If parliament rejects the plan Wednesday, it would be sent back to the drawing board and it's unlikely anything would emerge ahead of the June EU parliament elections next year. And that would undermine the EU's credibility abroad since it has put so much into its vaunted Green Deal. "This law is nothing less than the flagship initiative of the European Green Deal," Sinkevicius said. The Green Deal includes a wide range of measures, from reducing energy consumption to sharply cutting transportation emissions and reforming the EU's trading system for greenhouse gases. Beyond environmental protesters, hundreds of international scientists and even a large group of multinationals have called for the adoption of the EU's nature restoration law.
Denmark committed to support Bangladesh’s aspirations for climate-oriented economic growth: Danish Minister
Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy Dan Jannik Jørgensen on Wednesday signed an agreement in Bagerhat to extend the Local Government Initiative on Climate Change (LoGIC) project for two years from June 2023 to June 2025. Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh Winnie Estrup Petersen and UNDP Resident Representative Stefan Liller were present. With a funding support of 40m Danish Kroner (USD 5.6m approximately) from the Danish government, the extension phase of LoGIC will be implemented in two districts of the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) – namely Rangamati and Bandarban. Also Read: Bangladesh, Denmark launch action plan to strengthen partnership on green transition The purpose is to strengthen communities’ resilience to the impact of climate change through locally-led adaptation strategies. The dignitaries from Denmark, along with representatives of UNDP and UNCDF, visited Mongla in Bagerhat to observe and understand the impact of climate change and how both agencies are building climate resilience through innovative and locally-led solutions. Minister Jannik Jørgensen, during his visit to climate-affected areas in Mongla took note of the adaptive measures taken by the affected communities to strengthen their resilience against climate change. Also Read: Bangladesh, Denmark joint action plan for 2023-2028 to be launched soon He said Denmark values the strong and longstanding bilateral relation with Bangladesh. "Recognising that Bangladesh is at the forefront of the climate crisis, Denmark is committed to supporting Bangladesh’s aspirations for climate-oriented economic growth and green transition in the years of graduation from the group of LDCs. Denmark is also one of the few development partners that have engaged long term in the CHT, most recently with a focus on climate resilience of communities.” Dan Jannik Jørgensen added. Also Read: Bangladesh, Denmark sign Tk 474 crore framework agreement to implement dev programme Winnie Estrup Petersen, Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh, said, “Given the significant climate vulnerability of the region, Denmark will continue to support UNDP and UNCDF in the CHT through LoGIC. This model strengthens the national fiscal transfer systems for the channelling of climate adaptation funding to local governments and ensures institutional and financial sustainability.” Bangladesh is often cited as one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations, and it is the poor who are disproportionately affected, said Stefan Liller, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh. Also Read: Danish Minister Dan Jørgensen in Dhaka "As such, we must focus on increasing communities' resilience to the impact of climate change. To this end, we here at UNDP, Bangladesh continue to work on mainstreaming climate change into local level planning and financing processes by blending scientific knowledge with local expertise to identify climate risks and support effective adaptation measures,” Stefan Liller mentioned. In 2016, the government of Bangladesh (GoB), the European Union (EU), and the Government of Sweden, together with UNDP and UNCDF, jointly designed the ‘Local Government Initiative on Climate Change’ (LoGIC) project to develop a mechanism to deliver climate finance to the most vulnerable households and local government institutions for building resilience and promoting local action on climate change adaptation at scale.
The charcoal makers in the forests of northern Uganda fled into the bush, temporarily abandoning their precious handiwork: multiple heaps of timber yet to be processed. The workers were desperate to avoid capture by local officials after a new law banned the commercial production of charcoal. They risked arrest and beatings if they were caught. But what's really at stake for the charcoal makers is their livelihood. Also Read: Zimbabwe, Uganda launch first satellites "We are not going to stop," said Deo Ssenyimba, a bare-chested charcoal maker who has been active in northern Uganda for 12 years. "We stop and then we do what? Are we going to steal?" The burning of charcoal, an age-old practice in many African societies, is now restricted business across northern Uganda amid a wave of resentment by locals who have warned of the threat of climate change stemming from the uncontrolled felling of trees by outsiders. In reality, not much has changed as charcoal producers skirt around the rules to keep supply flowing and watchful vigilantes take matters into their own hands. Much of northern Uganda remains lush but sparsely populated and impoverished, attracting investors who desire the land mostly for its potential to sustain the charcoal business. And demand is assured: charcoal accounts for up to 90% of Africa's primary energy consumption needs, according to a 2018 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Before the charcoal ban, local activists formed vigilante groups in districts such as Gulu, where a former lawmaker recently led an attack on a truck that was dispossessed of 380 bags of charcoal. Although Odonga Otto was then charged with aggravated robbery, the country's chief justice praised him as a hero. Also Read: Plastic Pollution: Harmful effects on human health and environment "I have not heard anybody who is destroying our environment being charged," said Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, who is from northern Uganda. "If you steal from a thief, are you a thief?" The week after Owiny-Dollo's public comments, President Yoweri Museveni issued an executive order banning the commercial production of charcoal in northern Uganda, disrupting a national trade that has long been influenced by cultural sensibilities as much as the seeming abundance of idle land. Commercial charcoal production is still permitted in other regions. The ban follows a climate change law, enacted in 2021, that empowers local authorities across the country to regulate activities deemed harmful to the environment. Trees suck in planet-warming carbon dioxide from the air, but burning charcoal emits the heat-trapping gas instead. Days after Museveni's order, a team of Associated Press journalists walked into a charcoal-burning enclave in a remote part of Gulu, 335 kilometers (208 miles) from the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Also Read: Climbers celebrate Mount Everest 70th anniversary amid melting glaciers, rising temperatures One local official, Patiko Sub-County Chairman Patrick Komakech, gave chase when he heard fleeing footsteps. A small patch of bamboo opened up to an almost bare patch where trees were being cut, juicy stumps still fresh here and there. Komakech was agitated and on the verge of tears. Timber had been heaped like contraband ivory in different spots, and grey smoke rose from one pile being processed. Beside it stood loaded bags of charcoal. The charcoal makers slept in little tarp tents draped in dry leaves. "I am completely perturbed (by) all this destruction," Komakech said, speaking of charcoal makers who "are actually imported and put in this community, and they do this thing without the mercy of leaving any vegetation." He kicked at felled logs, saying they were those of the African Shea tree, a plant prized by the region's Acholi people for its fruit as well as its oil, often used in cosmetics. The charcoal burners eventually approached Komakech, who wished to destroy the heaps of timber with kerosene, and said they were simply earning a living and responding to demand. Uganda's population explosion has heightened the need for cheap plant-based energy sources, especially charcoal. In this east African country of 45 million people, charcoal is preferred in households across the income spectrum but especially in those of the urban poor — seen as ideal in the preparation of certain dishes that require slow cooking. Middle-class families maintain both gas cookers and charcoal stoves. "Even those policemen who are coming to beat us, they are cooking with charcoal," said Peter Ejal. "We are not here to spoil the environment. We are here by their orders, those people who are selling these trees." His colleague, the ragtag charcoal maker Ssenyimba, said bluntly, "When we finish this place we will go to another place." One charcoal maker asserted that charcoal from northern Uganda was likely used even in the State House. Others charged that they were cutting the trees with the complicity of landlords who sell charcoal-making rights by the acre to interested dealers. The industry can be lucrative for landowners and investors. In nearby towns a bag of charcoal fetches about $14, but the price rises further as the goods approach Kampala. Ssenyimba said he's paid about $3 for every bag he makes. An acre of property with plenty of trees goes for up to $150 in Gulu, although the sum can be much smaller in remote but vegetation-rich ranches owned by the poorest families. The investors then deploy men armed with power saws and machetes, working over specific places and leaving when they have cut down all the trees they were sold. District councils in the region raise revenue from licensing and taxes, and corrupt members of the armed services have been protecting charcoal truckers, according to Museveni and Otto, the former lawmaker now leading vigilantes against charcoal makers. Otto has helped cause the impounding of multiple trucks in recent weeks, including two recently seized ones parked outside a police station where a crowd gathered one recent afternoon, hoping to grab the goods. He said he plans to serve hundreds of local officials with letters of intent to sue for any lapses in protecting the environment. Otto told the AP his goal is to make the rest of Uganda "lose appetite" for charcoal from his region. "We go to the fields where the charcoal ovens are and we destroy the bases," he said. "We managed to make the business risky. As of now, you drive a hundred kilometers and you will not find any single truck carrying charcoal." The ban on commercial production in northern Uganda is almost certainly bound to push up the retail price of charcoal. Otto and others were concerned that charcoal dealers would avoid authorities by ferrying charcoal bags in small numbers — on the backs of passenger motorcycles — to towns where the merchandise could be stealthily loaded into trucks. Alfred Odoch, an environmental activist in the region, said he supports the work of vigilantes, describing charcoal making as "the biggest threat" since the end of a rebel insurgency in the region two decades ago. Vigilantes pressurize charcoal burners as well as local officials to minimize "mass tree cutting" in northern Uganda, said Odoch. Charcoal making, he said, should be acceptable only as a small business by families selling "two or three sacks" in a week or so. "My fellow vigilantes who are doing a lot of work to stop this, I support them," he said. "The fight for environmental justice is not only (for) one person."
Short films on Water - a film screening depicting adverse consequences of climate change will be showcased at the British Council premises on Saturday. The short films were produced under the project ‘Bangladesh Cymru Climate Stories’ by Dhaka DocLab and Wales One World Film Festival from the United Kingdom with support from the British Council. The films explore the experience of coastal communities and river dwellers against the backdrop of climate breakdown. The four films are- Doprujhiri by Asma Bethee and Latika by Samsul Islam Shopoon from Bangladesh; Our Home, the Sea by Mared Rees and She Sells Shellfish by Lily Tiger Tonkin from Wales, UK. Planning Minister M. A. Mannan will be joining the event as the chief guest that will begin at 5pm. Dr.Farhina Ahmed, Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Tom Miscioscia, Country Director, British Council Bangladesh will be present as special guests. The screening is open for all and be followed by a conversation with the directors, producers , and characters of the four documentaries along with a question-and-answer session, said a media release on Wednesday. The film screening event is a part of the British Council's observation of the World Environment Day on 5 June, which encourages awareness and action for the protection of the environment. The Bangladesh-Cymru Climate Stories film project was created in collaboration between Dhaka DocLab and Wales One World Film Festival. Four filmmakers received financial and technical support from Dhaka DocLab and Wales One World Film Festival to complete their short films, which focus on climate change stories connected to women to create awareness among people. The project is funded by the British Council’s International Collaboration Programme, which was introduced to support cultural partnerships in the UK and overseas and inspire independent artists to continue creative pursuits. So far, 94 projects from 41 countries have been completed with grant support from the British Council.
Extreme weather events accelerated by man-made global warming caused 11 778 reported disasters in the last 50 years, with just over 2 million deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said. Asia saw the highest death toll due to extreme weather, climate and water-related events during the period, with around one million deaths – more than half in Bangladesh alone. Also Read: Heat wave in Asia made 30 times more likely because of climate change, scientists say Developing countries were hit hardest, seeing nine in 10 deaths and 60 per cent of economic losses from climate shocks and extreme weather, it said on Monday. Weather, climate and water-related hazards caused close to 12,000 disasters between 1970 and 2021, according to WMO findings. Also Read: The US leads the world in weather catastrophes. Here’s why WMO said that Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States suffered a “disproportionately” high cost in relation to the size of their economies. “The most vulnerable communities, unfortunately, bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. In Least Developed Countries, WMO said that several disasters over the past half-century had caused economic losses of up to 30 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Also Read: Italy’s deadly floods just latest example of climate change’s all-or-nothing weather extremes In Small Island Developing States, one in five disasters had an impact “equivalent to more than five per cent” of GDP, with some disasters wiping out countries’ entire GDP. In Africa, WMO said that droughts accounted for 95 per cent of the reported 733,585 climate disaster deaths. Also Read: Pacific Island leaders say rich countries are not doing enough to control climate change WMO stressed however that improved early warnings and coordinated disaster management have helped mitigate the deadly impact of disasters. “Early warnings save lives,” Taalas insisted. The UN agency also noted that recorded deaths for 2020 and 2021 were lower than the previous decade’s average. Pointing to the example of last week’s severe cyclonic storm Mocha, which caused devastation in Myanmar’s and Bangladesh’s coastal areas, Taalas recalled that similar weather disasters in the past caused “death tolls of tens and even hundreds of thousands” in both countries. The agency had previously shown that just 24 hours’ notice prior to an impending weather hazard can cut the ensuing damage by 30 per cent, calling early warnings the “low-hanging fruit” of climate change adaptation because of their tenfold return on investment. Also Read: Asia and the Pacific unprepared to face climate-induced catastrophes, warns new UN study WMO issued its new findings on the human and economic cost of weather-induced disasters for its quadrennial World Meteorological Congress, which opened on Monday in Geneva with a focus on implementing the UN’s Early Warnings for All initiative. Also Read: Scientists: Climate change worsened Eastern Africa drought The initiative aims to ensure that early warning services reach everyone on Earth by the end of 2027. It was launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the COP27 climate change conference in Sharm al-Sheikh in November last year. Also Read: Asia must quit coal faster to stem worst climate woes: ADB Currently, only half of the world is covered by early warning systems, with Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries left far behind.
On a tiny sliver land in southern India, the future of an ancient grain that helps combat climate change is in doubt. An ongoing tussle in Chellanam village, a suburb of the bustling city of Kochi, which has the Arabian Sea on one side and estuaries on the other, could decide the fate of the cultivation of pokkali rice. Also Read: Early warning is first defense in India climate disasters In many wetlands in the area, farmers have traditionally dedicated half the year to pokkali rice and the other six months to prawns. In 2022, the Fisheries Department of Kerala issued an order that farmers no longer needed to dedicate part of the year to pokkali, exacerbating a trend away from pokkali already under way. While prawns fetch more money than pokkali, a focus on them is upending a delicate ecosystem, making it difficult for farmers who want to continue with pokkali, environmental experts say. Also Read: ‘Mangrove Man’ in India fights to salvage sinking shores M.M. Chandu, a 78-year-old farmer with about 0.8 hectares (a little over 2 acres), said that increasing salinity in the land from year-round prawn cultivation was degrading soil and making it more difficult for him to grow pokkali. “Everything was ruined” when farmers were pushed away from pokkali and toward aquaculture, he said. EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a series produced under the India Climate Journalism Program, a collaboration between The Associated Press, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security and the Press Trust of India. Also Read: India residents try to save a river, officials deny problems When pokkali is grown, salt water is pushed out and farmers use rain water to irrigate their crops. Stalks from the pokkali later become food for prawns. That arrangement produces two kinds of crops and maintains natural barriers to rising seas and sequesters carbon in the soil.
On the receding shorelines of low-lying Vypin Island off India’s western coast, T. P. Murukesan fixed his eyes on the white paint peeling off the damp walls of his raised home and recounted the most recent floods. “The floods are occurring more frequently and lasting longer,” he said. The last flood was chest-height for his young grandson. “Every flood brings waters this high, we just deal with it.” Sea level rise and severe tidal floods have forced many families in Murukesan’s neighborhood to relocate to higher grounds over the years. But the retired fisherman has almost singlehandedly been buffering the impacts of the rising waters on his home and in his community. Known locally as “Mangrove Man,” Murukesan has turned to planting the trees along the shores of Vypin and the surrounding areas in the Kochi region of Kerala state to counter the impacts of rising waters on his home. Tidal flooding occurs when sea level rise combines with local factors to push water levels above the normal levels. Mangroves can provide natural coastal defenses against sea level rise, tides and storm surges, but over the course of his life forest cover in the state has dwindled. Murukesan said he grew up surrounded by beautiful, abundant mangroves that separated islands from the sea. Now, only fragmented patches of mangroves can be seen in Kochi, the state’s financial capital. “They protected our houses against floods, sea erosion, and storms, used to be an inseparable part of our life, our ecosystem,” he said. “Only these can save us.” EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a series produced under the India Climate Journalism Program, a collaboration between The Associated Press, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security and the Press Trust of India. Murukesan said he has planted over 100,000 mangroves. He plants saplings on alternate days and does most of the work himself. Some help comes in the form of saplings from the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, a non-government organization based in Chennai, India. His efforts come up against a strong trend in the opposite direction. Ernakulam district, which includes Kochi, has lost nearly 42% of its mangrove ecosystems, including major decreases in the southern Puthuvypeen area in Vypin, according to a study released last year by the Indian Space Research Organization and the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies. Mangrove cover in the state has reduced from 700 square kilometers (435 square miles) to just 24 square kilometers (15 square miles) since 1975, according to the Kerala Forest department. “The construction of coastal roads and highways has severely damaged mangrove ecosystems in the state,” said K K Ramachandran, former member secretary of the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority, a government body mandated to protect the coastal environment. “There should be an incentive for people who are making efforts to protect them.” Murukesan’s dedication to the cause has won him praise, awards and the audience of senior politicians but not incentives beyond the immediate benefits to his home. He said the mangroves he planted in and around the area in 2014 have grown into a dense thicket and are helping reduce the intensity of tidal flooding, but he’s nevertheless continuing his efforts. Despite the thousands of new mangrove trees, other factors like climate change mean tidal floods have become more frequent and severe, sometimes keeping children from going to school and people from getting to work. It's all mentally exhausting, Murukesan and his wife, Geetha, said. “I have to travel a lot to collect seeds. My wife helps me in the nursery as much as she can. I am tired but I cannot stop,” he said. Geetha said they do the tough work “for our children,” preserving the forest for decades to come. “It keeps us going,” she said. Vypin is at high-risk for tidal flooding, said Abhilash S, director of the Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research at the Cochin University of Science and Technology. “The sea level has risen and has damaged freshwater supplies. Sea erosion and spring tides have worsened. Coastal flooding is a common occurrence now," he said. “The carrying capacity of the backwaters has reduced due to sediment deposition and encroachment, and the rainwater enters residential areas during the monsoon season.” Backwaters in the state of Kerala are networks of canals, lagoons and lakes parallel to coastal areas, unique ecosystems that help provide a buffer to rising sea levels. According to the World Meteorological Organization, global mean sea level rose by 4.5 millimeters per year between 2013 and 2022. It’s a major threat for countries like India, China, the Netherlands and Bangladesh, which comprise large coastal populations. NASA projections show that Kochi might experience a sea level rise of 0.22 meters (8.7 inches) by 2050, and over half a meter (nearly 20 inches) by 2100 in a middle-of-the-road climate warming scenario. “Many families have left,” Murukesan said. Fishing families living within 50 meters (55 yards) of the shore get a financial assistance of 10 lakh rupees ($12,000) through a rehabilitation scheme run by the Kerala government. Only few of those not covered under it have means to relocate to safer places. Some fishing families shift to government shelters in the monsoon season and return after it ends. A few have built stilt houses that stand on columns to fight tidal floods. Murukesan knows the sea is rising, but it’s the backwaters that make him more anxious. The backwaters have become shallow due to the silt deposited by heavy floods. During heavy rain events, the water inundates the island. “We are caught between the sea and the backwaters. They are likely to swallow the island in some years, but I am not going anywhere," he said. “I was born here, and I will die here.”
Climate activists said Tuesday that they will stage further protests in Berlin in an effort to force the German government into doing more to curb global warming. The announcement came as courts are taking a tougher stance against members of the group Last Generation who have repeatedly blocked roads across Germany in the past year. The group said at a news conference in Berlin that it would begin to stage open-ended protests Wednesday in the government district. From Monday onward, members will try to “peacefully bring the city to a standstill,” it said. Last Generation accuses the German government of breaching the country’s constitution, citing a supreme court verdict two years ago that found too much of the burden for climate change was being placed on younger generations. The government under then Chancellor Angela Merkel subsequently raised its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but activists say the measures aren’t consistent with the Paris climate accord. “As long as there’s no plan we can trust to protect our lives and future, and that’s based on the constitution, we are obliged to demand such a plan with all peaceful means,” said Carla Hinrichs, a spokesperson for Last Generation. The group wants Germany to end the use of all fossil fuels by 2030, a step that would be extremely ambitious to achieve. The country switched off its last three nuclear plants over the weekend, increasing its reliance on coal and gas-fired power plants until sufficient renewable energy capacity is available. Last Generation’s protests have drawn sharp criticism from across much of the political spectrum, though there has also been support for their underlying aims. Three activists were sentenced to between three and five months imprisonment by a court in the southwestern city of Heilbronn on Monday. The judge noted that they had joined a blockade in March hours after being sentenced in a previous case. One of the protesters, Daniel Eckert, defended his actions after the verdict, saying: “As long as the true criminals aren’t brought before a court but instead continue to destroy the basis of our existence and profit from it, I can’t do anything other than stand in the way of this destruction.”