Originally published on The Globe Post. Op-ed written by Luthfi Dhofier, MPPGA and Dr. Ross Michael Pink.
World Refugee Day is celebrated annually on June 20 to raise awareness of the challenges that refugees face around the world. There are some 26 million refugees worldwide, roughly the same as the population of Australia. Studies found that by 2050, that number could be 20 times higher as a result of climate change impacts, with up to 500 million refugees.
The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key legal document that guides how countries around the world should protect refugees. However, the pact that was signed nearly seven decades ago does not mention refugees displaced by climate change, which will put hundreds of millions at risk.
It is time for a new global Refugee Convention that addresses refugees impacted by climate change.
Climate Change RefugeesWorld War II devastated big parts of the world and forced millions of people to leave their home countries. According to the 1951 agreement, a refugee is “someone unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”
But in recent years, a new type of refugees has emerged in numbers that will eventually stagger humanity. These unfortunate individuals are climate change refugees, forced to flee the forces of a different scale such as drought, flooding, global warming, sea-level rise, and extreme weather.
In places like Kiribati and Maldives, climate change impacts such as coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion have already displaced local communities. The reality of climate change is evident for all who are rationale, and the UN and many scientists have documented the impacts in shocking detail. The repercussions can displace roughly 200 million people by 2050, with some experts projecting the figure could be as high as 500 million.
The increasing number of climate refugees will create a cascade of profound global problems, including intra-state conflicts, political instability, food insecurity, and economic crisis. For example, the refugee crisis of the past years led to the rise of xenophobia and far-right movements in parts of Europe.
There is currently no legal framework that protects individuals who are forced to leave their homes due to climate-induced natural disasters. The 1951 Refugee Convention does not mention climate refugees, meaning the pact does not give legal protection to such victims.
The world has made some progress concerning the protection of climate refugees. In 2018, world leaders signed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration to protect migrants who flee their homes due to natural disasters or climate change.
However, the Compact is lacking teeth as it is not legally binding. Additionally, in January 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that “countries may not deport individuals who face climate change-induced conditions that violate the right to life.” But it is not clear how threatening the situation must be for an individual to obtain the status of an asylum seeker.
Time to Act
The 1951 Refugee Convention must be amended to include a legal definition of climate refugees. Providing people who flee their homes due to climate-induced natural disasters will give them a legal status they deserve. Additionally, the convention must clearly specify climate refugees’ rights to ensure that recipient countries protect them.
Climate refugees are a complex global problem. There is no silver bullet that can solve a problem of such magnitude, but whatever policy solutions the international community decides to craft will require a strong legal framework.
The human rights obligations inherent in UN membership implore nations to act. It is time for world leaders and the international community to urgently amend the 1951 Refugee Convention to protect the rights and dignity of climate refugees.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.
About the authors: Luthfi Dhofier (@LuthfiDhofier) is a policy analyst and a graduate of the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs Program at UBC. Ross Michael Pink (@RossMPink) is the author of ‘The Climate Change Crisis: Solutions and Adaption for a Planet in Peril’ and ‘Water Rights in Southeast Asia and India.’ He currently teaches political science at Kwantlen University in Surrey, BC, and previously taught international law at the University of Toronto.
World Water Day was recently celebrated to highlight the importance of clean water. Almost all human activities require water, including food production, energy generation, and health provision. Globally, 800 million people, mostly in developing countries, do not have access to clean water. Lack of clean water contributes to a myriad of health problems such as diarrhea cholera, and dysentery. Every year, 3.4 million people, mostly children, die from water-related diseases. Water is also crucial in the current fight against COVID-19, as frequent handwashing can significantly reduce the spread of the virus. This means those 800 million people who have no access to clean water are highly vulnerable to the illness. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a sobering reminder that clean water is a critical requirement for human health.
At the time of this writing, the virus has infected more than 330,000 people in 173 countries and killed 14,000. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. With the exception of a few countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, governments around the world are struggling to contain the spread of the virus. Italy now has more deaths than China, while the United States and other European countries continue to see spikes in cases and deaths.
In many developing countries, containing the spread of COVID-19 will be extremely challenging as they are already dealing with ongoing economic issues and weak healthcare systems.
COVID-19 went undetected in many developing countries for a few months. Pakistan confirmed its first case as late as February 26, while Indonesia’s first case was only reported in early March. Yet, Southeast Asia now has more than 3,200 cases and in Africa, more than 1,100 cases have been confirmed. The numbers will only continue to rise. Governments in Egypt, Peru, and Nigeria have all imposed travel restrictions and banned public gatherings in their efforts to contain the virus.
However, preventing the spread of COVID-19 also requires proper hygiene, which includes frequent handwashing for 20 seconds. While this may seem like a simple hygiene practice, there are millions of people who cannot wash their hands as they do not have access to clean water. According to UNICEF, forty percent of people around the world do not have access to handwashing facilities and soap in their homes. Fifty percent of schools in developing countries do not have handwashing facilities.
In Africa, 258 million people do not have access to handwashing facilities. Many people who live in Africa and Asia must walk for more than 10 kilometers to obtain water from distant sources and the water is often contaminated with various harmful pathogens. Moreover, women mostly bear the responsibility to collect water, which deprives them of education and employment and exposes them to violence. For these people, frequent handwashing does not make too much sense as they already lack water for drinking purposes.
Healthcare facilities in developing countries lack access to clean water, increasing healthcare workers’ exposure to the virus as they are not able to wash their hands as frequently as they should. A study by WHO found that 1 in 5 healthcare facilities around the world does not have adequate basic water services. This situation will likely exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 in these countries.
The current COVID-19 pandemic shows that diseases can easily move from one country to another and become a global crisis. In this interconnected world, the lack of universal access to clean water can exacerbate global health risks. Therefore, improving global access to clean water must be a concerted effort by all countries.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 provides a framework to ensure sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. However, the world is not on track to meet this goal and the amount of funding that goes into this effort must significantly increase. Rich countries can do more to help developing countries improve their water infrastructures and management.
Originally posted on the Vancouver Sun
“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.” — Pericles
Every year on March 22, World Water Day raises global awareness about the importance of freshwater. The theme for this year’s World Water Day is “water and climate change.”
Globally, 98 per cent of water is salt and two per cent is fresh. In 2020, 800 million global citizens have no clean water source in their home, village or community. That number is expected to reach two billion by 2050. Four countries are particularly struck by water insecurity and climate change: Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Australia.
Egypt, with a population of 81 million, relies on the revered Nile River as its water source. The harsh climate change impacts confronting Egypt include drought, sea-level rise, extreme temperature, sandstorms, heatwaves, and desertification. Only four per cent of the landmass of the country is inhabited and the population is projected to double by 2100. The country receives an average annual rainfall of 80 mm and only six per cent of the land is arable, with the Nile supplying 97 per cent of the nation’s water.
According to one study: “Egypt is facing an annual water deficit of seven billion cubic meters. By the year 2020, the country will be consuming 20 per cent more water than it has and the United Nations is already warning that Egypt could face extreme water scarcity by 2025.” Moreover, plans by Ethiopia, an upriver country, to dam the Nile for massive hydroelectric projects will negatively impact Egyptian water security. The project has polarized relations between the two states.
India is the most populous country in the world and projected to have 1.6 billion citizens by 2050. The population is hit by massive climate change assaults from drought, floods, sea-level rise, water insecurity, extreme heat, and extreme weather. Currently, India ranks 129th on the Human Development Index with approximately 224 million citizens living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 per day. Water tables have dramatically fallen from 4,500 in 1950 to 1,500 meters in 2017.
As noted in a recent analysis, “700 million out of over 1 billion population living in rural areas directly depends on climate-sensitive sectors, (agriculture, forests, and fisheries) and natural resources (such as water, biodiversity, mangroves, coastal zones, grasslands) for their subsistence and livelihoods. Heatwaves, floods (land and coastal), and droughts occur commonly. Millions of Indian citizens in New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, and other cities and towns are struggling with chronic water shortages that imperil health and development.
Additionally, 26 per cent of the Indian labour force depends upon agriculture, which is struggling with water shortages that restrict proper irrigation.
In Indonesia, climate change has increased the frequency of both floods and droughts. Currently, 27 million people (10 per cent of the population) in Indonesia do not have access to clean drinking water. Last year, Indonesia experienced the worst droughts since 2015, with 11 provinces going without rain for more than seven months.
Other parts of the country have experienced torrential rain. According to the country’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency, climate change was the main driver of the heavy rain that caused floods in Jakarta over the past few months, killing more than 60 people and displacing 175,000. Increased floods exacerbate pollution and diseases, putting millions of people at risk.
Climate change also threatens water security in rich countries. Most recently, Australia experienced what may be the worst droughts in 400 years. In its drought strategy report that was published last year, the Australian government suggests climate change will continue to increase the severity and frequency of droughts in some parts of Australia and they may become more “marginal and unproductive.”
Climate change will also reduce water availability in Australian cities. One study found that Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, will experience water shortages if the global temperature rise reaches 2 degrees C. To mitigate this risk, the Australian government must significantly increase its desalination capacity. However, desalination will come with serious economic and environmental costs.
The water crises in Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Australia are only a few examples of how climate change is threatening water security for millions of people around the world .
Dr. Ross Michael Pink is a political science professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey. He is the author of Water Rights in Southeast Asia and The Climate Change Crisis: Solutions and Adaption for a Planet in Peril; Luthfi Dhofier is an energy and environmental consultant. He holds a Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs from UBC. The pair co-founded Global Water Rights in 2013 to promote water rights and security.
By Christie Quon.
A race we can win. This was the closing message of the 2019 Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW); a unique collaborative platform where both government and non-Party stakeholders from all corners of the Asia-Pacific region came together to address climate change. For five days, stakeholders from all over the region were engaged in collaborative workshops, discussion groups and plenaries to exchange knowledge and best practices. As climate change is expected to impact all members of society, many different participants were present including the private sector, non-governmental, civil society, and youth organizations. Together, members from both developing and developed countries brainstormed how to achieve global climate neutrality by mid-century - an ambitious but achievable goal.
A wide diversity of topics were discussed during APCW, including water issues, rights and conservation. Because the Asia-Pacific region is undergoing rapid development and population growth, the region’s environment and natural resources are under immense stress. Many people across the region still don’t have access to clean water and sanitation, and water issues in both urban and rural areas are expected to be exacerbated by climate change. Highly populated cities such as Bangkok and Jakarta will be affected by rising ocean levels, and rural livelihoods are changing rapidly due to intense precipitation events and patterns.
As a youth delegate at the APCW, I had the great opportunity to learn from and engage with leading climate scientists, leaders and activists from all over the Asia-Pacific region. Together we discussed the challenges and strategies to raise awareness, affect policy-making and enact environmental action on all levels, from regional to national and international levels. Different perspectives and strategies from individual countries were shared throughout the event, which allowed for greater knowledge sharing and collaboration across borders. For instance, the Mekong River Commission for Sustainable Development works directly with the governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to jointly manage the shared water resources and the sustainable development of the Mekong River. Collaborative projects such as this bring together diverse knowledge and experiences to strengthen regional and international efforts to conserve precious resources. However, greater financial support, public support and stronger legislation are needed. As Deputy Director of the UNFCCC Ovais Sarmad said in his closing speech, climate change is happening now and we cannot wait any longer to address it.
Climate change is a race, one that We can win.
More details to the event: https://sdg.iisd.org/events/asia-pacific-climate-week-2019/
On World Ocean Day 2018, Dr. Ross Michael Pink was interviewed by Simi Sara from the Global News Radio. Dr. Pink warns about the severe risks of ocean acidification on the environment and human security. To listen to the full interview, click the following link: https://omny.fm/shows/the-simi-sara-show/expert-warns-of-severe-ocean-acidification-on-worl
Climate Change Crisis: Solutions and Adaptation for a Planet in Peril. A New Book by Dr. Ross Michael Pink, Global Water Rights Co-founder
This book explores how the world community will respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis caused by climate change. It recognizes climate change as the greatest threat to human development in the 21st century, bringing with it: flooding, drought, extreme temperatures, health crises, threats to human security and severe harm to economic development.
The Climate Change Crisis addresses climate change and its impact as a major threat for countries around the world. Through a collection of interviews with leading environmentalists and exploration into new innovations that can offer hope and protection for billions of people, this book presents an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the paramount health and development challenges of climate change.
This timely and informative book cuts across several disciplines, including human rights, public policy, international relations, national refugee policy, and migration studies.
To access, please visit: https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319710327www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319710327
Water, water, nowhere, and not a drop to drink — unless we make big changes.
That’s the theme of a next World Speaker Series event at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU)Richmond campus, when Dr. Ross Pink will speak.
Recently back from a lecture tour in Asia on water rights and climate change, Pink, Kwantlen’s political science instructor, has, according to the university, some “urgent information to share” about the paramount human rights challenge of the 21st century: access to clean water.
“Already, 800 million global citizens have no clean water source,” said Pink.
“By 2050, that number will reach two billion.”
Pink is the guest speaker at the next instalment of the popular KPU-Science World Speaker Series on Sept. 15 at KPU Richmond.
His topic, Water Rights and Scarcity: A 21st Century Challenge, will explore the issues of climate change, drought, flooding and water-borne disease.
Pink will highlight these issues as they face Asia and India with examples and innovative scenarios for change.
“These issues are urgent in those regions and will become so in North America,” said Pink.
Pink notes that Arctic ice is expected to disappear by 2070.
In addition, major flooding is anticipated in coastal cities, such as Richmond, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Manila by, 2050.
Meanwhile, chronic and increasing drought will send food prices skyrocketing and render food insecurity for more than 1.5 billion people.
Of the 9.4 billion people who are expected by 2050, approximately two billion will be without access to clean, safe water sources, leading to political upheaval, severe social and economic crises, and a projected global climate refugee population of 400 million.
But there is hope, said Pink. His presentation will also cover potential solutions to the impending water shortage; namely, rainwater harvesting, desalinization and cloud seeding.
Water Rights and Scarcity: A 21st Century Challenge takes place on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at KPU Richmond, 8771 Lansdowne Rd.
The event is free but registration is requested. Visit KPU.ca/ScienceWorld to register.
Courtesy of Richmond News. To view original article, please click this link
Mathia is a village in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, India. Traditionally, this village is divided into four parts – Dakhin Patti (southern part), Purub Patti (eastern part), Pachhim Patti (western part) and Dalit settlement(ex-untouchables). All three enclaves are dominated by people from the General Categories (mainly upper caste Hindu). There are no separate Patti for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). People from the Scheduled Castes (SCs or ex-untouchables or Dalit) is settled in the western corner of Mathia. Once this enclave was the periphery of the village. Increasing expansion of the OBCs overlapped caste-wise demarcation in Mathia. They have crossed the settlement of the Dalits and connected another village. Such new settlers collectively called as Taaltirha (people who are settled near the pond) in Mathia.
In development discourse, a great deal of ink has been consumed for natural resource management, sustainability and community-led development. Increasingly, institutions are expressing their concern about this. From time to time, they showcase a couple of success stories at their platform where everything seems perfect. Though, it’s not clear whether all such posts about natural resource management have changed anything in real lives. In other words, what’s going on at the ground level in Mathia is really disappointing.
In this village, there were 20 functional Kuwa (wells) in the 1990s and today there is only one functional Kuwa in the entire village. In the last decade, wells disappeared and no one is bothered about them. The case paints a gloomy picture of natural resource management.
Historically, the well enjoyed a respectable position in everyday village lives and several important rituals revolved around it. What went wrong? In this backdrop, three themes emerged: massive use of hand pumps, sheer lack of awareness and construction. In the last decade, the government distributed hand pumps which reduced dependency on well significantly and it lost its relevance. Unwillingly or willingly, people started ignoring. Small boys and girls started throwing waste. Initially, elderly people advised them to stop such ‘nefarious’ activities but they did not pay much attention to it.
Increasing diffusion of families contributed to cover the several Kuwas. After consulting with priests, couple of families closed Kuwas because they were not using it. In a village, people renovated a well but it was full of waste with no water. No one was interested to clean from inside.
Similarly, in this village, there were Talabs (ponds). Such ponds were owned by the entire village and some were owned by a couple of families. During the Kharif and Rabi seasons, influential farmers withdrew water for various crops from Talabs using diesel engines and tractors. No one complained when the water reduced. Though, it provided an opportunity to get fish free of cost. Over the last few years, uneven monsoons worsened the condition and Talabs dried up during the months of January-February. Using water resources responsibly is an issue which demands an active engagement of all households in a village. However, this seems like a distant dream at village level. With increasing need of water in agriculture and uneven rain during the monsoon season worsens the condition of water bodies. No one is bothered about sustainability and sustainable development in Mathia.
Excerpt from A Portrait of Rural India by Vivek Rai
 A Patti comprises various families from a caste and all families are from same pedigree. In Mathia, there are three different pedigrees.
Sharon Chipo Manzvera taught in Zimbabwe in both primary in Harare, and secondary schools in Goromonzi District for 3 years. She did a Bachelors in International Studies and Criminology at Monash University in South Africa. Currently, she is part of Wallacea Editorial Board that focuses mainly on Indo-Pacific Politics and has an interest in exploring matters of concern around the globe on water security and cervical cancer issues in the Sub Saharan African Countries.
Water challenges in Harare: Zimbabwe
The issue of water scarcity emerged in 2007 and many were happy when cholera was eliminated in the city of Harare. Also, the period between 2007 and 2015, there was adequate water due to the change of economy and the inclusive government. As a result, water treatment and repair of the old pipes that were inserted in 1980s and 1990s took place. However, not all the old pipes were fixed as the budgeted money was also prioritized for some issues in the Municipalities of Water. As such, water issues hit back strongly the citizens of Harare in 2016. Borehole water was now preferred as the safe water source than taped water, however poverty has caused criminals to steal borehole parts during the night, thereof leaving many people resorting once again to dirty taped water. There were no UNICEF Bouzers or drums to cater for the clean water. Again, another disease emerged, though this time it was typhoid. No one knew about typhoid in Glen View 3, and many people who died of the disease were reluctant to go to the hospital. In most of the local houses in Glen View 3, majority of people survived because they presented their cases early at Central Hospital in Harare. However, the unfortunate ones lost their life because of lack of awareness, and money to go to the hospital. Finally, water issue has been neglected with the government as it is not seen to be of importance. Two months ago, my family told me that the Parirenyatwa Hospital (major hospital in Harare which all people with critical issues are referred to) had no water for 2 weeks. This caused the alert to all patients to bring their own water to the hospital. As if it is not enough, in Glen Norah hospital all pregnant women were told to bring 20 liters of water when they go to deliver their children. Therefore, water remains a major challenge in Zimbabwe.
On April 26, 2016, Our Co-Founder, Dr. Ross Michael Pink presented an engaging lecture at School of Global Studies at Thamassat University in Thailand. His presentation highlighted water security and climate change issues affecting Thailand, India and China. Dr. Pink addressed dramatic challenges facing three billion people on human rights, economic development, food security and health. The presentation also addressed solutions such as cloud-seeding, desalinization and rainwater-harvesting.