Climate Change in the Maldives

The Republic of Maldives is a chain of 1,190 islands in 20 atolls in the Indian Ocean. Of these, just over 200 islands are inhabited with a population of slightly over 436,000 people. The country extends more than 510 miles from north to south and 80 miles from east to west. The Maldives is a very isolated country; its nearest neighbor is India, over 370 miles away from its most northern island. The highest point of land is two meters or about six feet above sea level. Combined with an average of 84 inches of rain per year, this puts the country at great risk of floods and rising sea levels. It is one of, if not the, lowest nations above sea level. The Maldives is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and must be protected from the effects of climate change.

Being land scarce and low lying, the country is exposed to dangerous weather events such as damage caused by inundation, extreme winds, and flooding from storms. The Maldives is also highly exposed to the risk of sea level rise. Due to the melting of the polar ice caps, future sea level is projected to rise within the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, which means the entire country could be submerged in the worst-case scenario. Already, some of the 1,190 tiny islands have disappeared beneath the sea. Rising sea temperatures also threaten the fate of coral reefs, a main defense against sea rise. Bleaching and death of reefs can cause whole populations of fish do either die or relocate somewhere else,  creating a dessert like ecosystem underwater. These problems are only intensified by the amount of pollution and the lack of proper waste management systems. The Maldives struggles to provide clean water to its citizens. A lack of infrastructure combined with lots of flooding leads to freshwater contaminated with salt water or sewage. Fortunately, there are two NGOs which can begin working in the area.

The first NGO is Conservation International. This organization works to fight climate change on multiple fronts, specifically in oceans, forests, food, and water. Conservation International works to use the environment around us as a natural defense against climate change. This will be crucial in the Maldives to preserve the coral reefs and wetlands, which act as a natural barrier against flooding and are home to a wide variety of wildlife. Both coral reefs and these wetlands are oxygen producers and the revival of these systems will be very beneficial to the health of the Maldives. This organization also creates sustainable forms of food and water. Sustainability of water resources is crucial for the maldives, because if there is no freshwater in the country, it would have to be shipped over from foregin countries that are very far away. To maintain a sustainable food source, Conservation International will have to work with policy makers to create limits on fishing, the main source of food and income for Islanders.

The second NGO is the Environmental Justice Foundation. It takes more of a human rights stance on the problem of climate change. As said in their mission “By looking at environmental security through a human rights lens, we can mobilise concern, garner support and drive international action for lasting change” They do most of their work in the oceans and forests, and also train activists to combat climate change themselves. The EJF works to expose poor environmental management and works with lawmakers to make better climate change policies. By taking more of a human rights stand, they will work hard to fight the freshwater crisis affecting the Maldives. The work of these two NGOs have been proven all throughout the world and they would immediately be a big help to the people and government of the Maldives. 

(Lack of) Food for Thought

        Even though it is the most populous democratic country with an impressive growth in GDP, India has a huge malnutrition issue with 14.5 percent of its population undernourished. To effectively improve the situation, both long- and short-term actions and solutions should be taken. 

        Among the total population of India, pregnant women and children under the age of five are critical age groups influenced by malnutrition. The effects of diseases and disorders resulting from child malnutrition are lethal; according to the Global Burden Of Disease Study 1990-2017, malnutrition contributes to 68 percent of the death of children under five. Breastfeeding plays an important role in nutrient intake at an early age; malnutrition in pregnant women leads to insufficient lactation. 

        The effects of malnutrition in India even impact the economy. According to a study conducted in 2008, India loses one percent of its GDP indirectly because of malnutrition resulting from poverty. On the 2019 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102 out of 117 countries. While malnutrition results from poverty, it leads to more poverty due to a lack of ability to work, forming a vicious cycle passed by generation among the poor. 

        The NGO “Embracing the World” focuses heavily on the five basic needs for poor people: food, shelter, education, health care, and livelihood. It has been fighting against hunger in India for over 25 years by feeding more than 10 million people throughout India every year and distributing milk, rice, and other uncooked meals to remote communities that don’t receive any aid. Along with expanding the food supply, assisting in education and health care can also help reduce malnutrition. A test has been done in one village, where the minority of healthy individuals were encouraged to educate the majority of undernourished to improve the community’s contribution and awareness on nutrition, the results turned out positive. 70% of a total of 280 children in that village showed improvement in health. This is an affordable, sustainable, and acceptable community-based approach. This NGO has done similar things, such as teaching the villagers to live in self-reliant communities and educating the tribal communities on health. Such actions can help reduce the hunger burden in some regions temporarily. 

          The Indian government has also been working hard on this issue. “The problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame,” said former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The government has issued policies and bills to reduce malnutrition, including the Integrated Child Development Service Scheme (ICDS) in 1975, the Food Security Bill in 2012, and the National Nutrition Strategy in 2017. However, due to poor delivery service and inadequate infrastructure, the ICDS has not significantly boosted nutrition levels in India, and it is estimated that 40% of the subsidized food never reaches the intended recipients. 

          Therefore, besides short term solutions, a long term solution should also be used to gradually help India tackle this issue at the “root” of poverty. “End Poverty (EP)” is an NGO working across India with a purpose of poverty reduction. It offers programs focusing on poor and needy women, poor households, and small and marginal farmers. EP sets up motorized machines, necessary kits, and equipment in villages and trains poor and needy women to improve accessory production and sewing and stitching skills so that they have alternate incomes. The EP also helps farm productivity through training farmers on scientific agricultural farming skills and modern dairy farming practices. The EP has planted 40,305 fruit trees covering 749 farmers from 70 villages and supplied high-quality genetic materials to improve breeding and animal nutrition. These actions help the local farmers to reduce poverty, as well as to produce more nutritional products. EP also engages and supports rural development. This NGO focuses on reducing the root of malnutrition, which is a long-term solution to significantly and effectively reduce malnutrition in India. 

        Both NGOs provide solutions to malnutrition by helping the poor. While “Embracing the World” provides food to the vulnerable people, easing the suffering in the short term, “End Poverty” focuses on reducing poverty in the long term through providing assistance and education to enhance productivity to the poor and needy women and farmers.  

Recent Sri Lankan Election Results May Have Serious Repercussions for Tamils

In 1983 a Tamil organization known as the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) attacked a Sri Lankan army convoy, an act which would lead to decades of violent civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil people. This act was not entirely unprovoked. Historically, the Tamils have always been an oppressed minority living amongst a Sinhalese-Buddhist majority. After gaining its independence from Britain in 1948, Sri Lanka made Sinhalese its sole language, despite hardcore but peaceful campaigning on behalf of Tamil political leaders. However, the oppression of Tamils only mounted, and the increasingly violent pressure gave way to the 1983 attacks. Many older Sri Lankans refer to the 25-year civil war as the time of the “white vans”, when suspected LTTE members, journalists, and civilians alike were kidnapped in white vans (most likely on behalf of the Sri Lankan government) and never seen again. But since the end of the civil war in 2009, things have slowly started to improve for Tamils: despite a lack of accountability by the government, new leadership has fostered a relatively more open-minded, democratic mindset in many Sri Lankans. However, the recent election of former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president of Sri Lanka in November could signal the return of severe oppression for Tamils still living in the country. 

One of the main issues that still exists for Tamils is that no one has been held accountable for the “silent genocide” raised against them during the war. Gotabaya is a large part of this problem. As Defense Secretary he was notorious for his vehement hatred towards the Tamil ethnic group. He is considered a war criminal by many due to his actions against Tamils, along with his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was president at the time. Gotabaya is known to have threatened journalists who opposed him, and is purportedly responsible for the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickramasinghe, a critic of Gotabaya’s military and ethical conduct during the war. In addition, the NGO Human Rights Watch reported that in 2008, as “rebels were preventing civilians from leaving the last tiny strip of land where they were fighting the government forces, the government forces repeatedly and indiscriminately shelled the area.” They also reported government forces firing randomly in a no-shell zone, where 50,000 civilian refugees sat in terror. In another article, the Human Rights Watch discussed the massacre of 16 Tamil volunteer aid workers in 2006 by Sri Lankan forces, and how the promises of change and accountability they made afterwards have since proved empty.  Since the end of the war, the government has done little (a generous description) to fulfill those promises, and with the return of the Rajapaksa family into the Presidency, Sri Lankan Tamils fear the return of the “white vans” and all that they represent.