Diakonia and several of our partner organisations are present at COP17 in Durban. Many more are active in the struggle against climate change. For people living in poor countries, climate change is a harsh reality. We asked our country representatives in Asia to give us some examples:
Increased river erosion, untimely floods, droughts, super cyclones, sever cold waves are making people prone to more struggle and vulnerability. These people hardly have any resilience capacity or resource to cope with the challenges.
During disasters like cyclones and severe floods harvest and croplands gets destroyed, submerged polluted water causes waterborne diseases, broken-down transportation systems makes places hard to reach, schools are forced to close down, colleges have no students - but rather community people taking shelter. These marginalized people have to move to highlands, roads, public places, and embankments. They become depending on others to meet basic needs and services like food, water, shelter and healthcare.
Even during disasters women, who are already at the bottom of power relation, have to perform their reproductive roles like water collection and food processing. Salinity intrusion, especially contamination of drinking water sources by saline water following a high intensity cyclone event are one of the most important vulnerability concern for the women – since they perform the role of water collector.
Diakonia's partners in Bangladesh also reported various times that increased disasters are indirectly increasing violence against women.
Women receive little information and lack both power and resources to affect their situation. When croplands are destroyed, men travel in the search of new jobs, while the women remain unable to supply themselves and their children.
In cases when poor families are leaving their homes and communities they often end up in nearby cities. These climate refugees mostly stay on the streets and in the slums, where there are already crowds living in scarcity of basic services. They also fall easy victims of human trafficking and hazardous jobs. Some of them used to be part of village community groups who were active in social issues. For a living and lack of alternatives, they are forced to leave.
See the movie from Bangladesh made by DanChurchAid
"Hello, is this Australia? I have a problem in my country with too much water. So I am wondering if there is room for me in your country? And my family and relatives..."
Examples from Myanmar/Burma in recent years that relates to our partners work has been dealing with extreme weather – cyclones, flash floods and drought.
As a result, Diakonia's partner organisations have had to focus more on humanitarian work to save lives short-term, but then also work to address livelihood and food security issues in the long term in the communities where they are active.
Right now Cambodia is experiencing serious flooding, its consequences are still difficult to estimate. The government fails to react and there are extremely worrying reports about starvation, disease and serious long term consequences on food production. The rice harvest has been destroyed in enormous areas. Floods are normally appearing annually, but not as bad as this one - it might very well be the result of climate change.
Flooding is definitely made worse by deforestation and brutal exploration of land and natural resources. This is taking place even in central Phnom Penh where a big lake as been filled in, without any consideration for increased risk of flooding, in order to build a new luxury house compound. Thousands of Phnom Penh citizens have been/are going to be relocated, many to the middle of nowhere.
Even if natural resources exploitation is reaching such a scale that is not anymore about only poor being affected, the poor are often the least well equipped to handle the crisis.
Community perception of climate change as a phenomenon that is associated with seasons and variations in weather conditions such as high temperature, untimely monsoon leading to floods, or droughts and causing depletion of natural resources, destroying their livelihoods.
The loss in traditional livelihoods and sustenance through agriculture, livestock rearing and fishing is resulting in large scale migration to cities for employment as day laborers. While there is no inclusive term for climate in local dialects, people are well aware of its impacts and use variations in rainfall and temperature as primary indicators for climate change.
Communities also have begun no realize that seasons have reduced from the usual six seasons to only two or three, summer , monsoon and winter.
In India Diakonia and partners are focusing on indicators that have been perceived by the community:
1. Indicators -Weather related
2. Indicators-climate characteristics
3. Indicators: nature service related
4. What we need to know: focus rainfall and temperature