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South Asian Youth all geared up to take on climate change

sabina1 South Asian Youth all geared up to take on climate changeBy Sabina Rizwan Khan

Will the world end in 2012? No one really knows. But what we really know is that if we continue to ignore the impacts of climate change and delay actions against it, end is surely around the corner. So we must act Now! This was the joint pledge by the amazing 25 young people from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These enthusiastic souls were gathered in Dhaka to attend a 4 day “Training for Trainers” (T4T) from 25th September, 2012 to 28th September, 2012 organized by 350.org in collaboration with Bangladesh Youth Movement for Climate (BYMC), a local rising youth led movement.

The idea of the training was to gather a diverse group of people that are involved in activism back home. Main agenda was to impart skills and ways to run successful campaigns highlighting climate issues. Not only this, a basic knowledge of science behind the climate change was also shared which was very useful for people who were not really familiar with the Climate jargon. The trainees were led through various learning patterns, experiences and activities to empower them with the tools in order to deliver similar trainings to fellow countrymen.

This part of Asia is not the direct emitter of carbon gases however sadly it is the direct recipient of devastation caused by climate change. Land sliding, Glacier melt, Load shedding, Rising Sea level, Floods, Deforestation, Loss of bio life, Garbage Management, Droughts, Rapid urbanization, are just a few issues to name. The list is endless and will keep increasing by each passing day. Participants acknowledged this urgency and understood that it is high time their governments start putting climate change as priority in their policies. Kumar Manish, working for Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, India shared, “At present, Climate Change is still not in forefront of government policies, except few, most countries are not addressing it in a holistic manner. The steps to combat climate change are fragmented, isolated and not result oriented. South Asian counties need to have a proper mechanism to address it on the ground level. The real challenge is to make these issues more human than technical.”

sabina2 300x199 South Asian Youth all geared up to take on climate changeThe real triumph of this event was perhaps the commonality among the attendees. Since all of them belonged to the same region, somehow they were able to connect the impacts and fears mutually. So floods in Pakistan or rising Sea level in Maldives to Glacier melts in Nepal, all knew that their challenges might be different but its cause and outcome remains same. Anil Udaya, Event coordinator for ‘Rising Artist Group’ from Nepal shared his view, “It really helps you to know your stance in the world and how we all have common issues. What can be more educative than to share the experience and ideas with others as we are victims of same problem. South Asia is doing really great at its own pace.”

As a part of the Pakistani delegate myself, the experience was an eye opener and at the same time very motivating. Situation for working on environment is not that encouraging in Pakistan. The 2 devastating floods in past years and recent floods in interior Sindh reflect the scenario well. We have ruined agricultural land, loss of crops, displaced people and as a developing state, we really do not have infrastructure to tackle it well. Our policies only aspire for rehabilitation but never focus on mitigate climate change.

It is sad to know that people tend to believe that we have other major problems like unemployment, health, security, education in our hands, does climate change is really an issue for us to take? Unfortunately yes. It is lack of awareness that compels us to judge that climate change is not our cup of tea. Think. The rising space problem in Karachi for example, is due to the migration of displaced people for floods. It is true to say that they have nothing to look behind and for sure they cannot spend their entire lives in cloth tents. What choice do they have? They move toward cities. This sudden shift in population is giving rise to unauthorized localities and unlawful inhibition. And hence if you link it with unemployment or security issues, we can see climate change as a directive factor. If only we are wise enough to connect the dots.

Am I losing hope? Not at all, like I said this training was a morale booster for me, I am ever determined like my fellow Pakistani delegates to create awareness among common man. We aim to conduct similar trainings and look forward to form a local network for Pakistan. The motive of this local network will be addressing climate issues in Pakistan, generate mobilization and create pressure on government to take action. So I am more than enthusiastic to work for climate change in Pakistan. Like my fellow delegate Farwa Tassaduq, of Pakistan Sustainable Network (PSN) shared: “As youth is a new force in South Asia, arranging such campaigns and trainings can act as a potential way to raise awareness in the masses. The experience has strengthened my aspirations to keep on struggling for this cause by uniting different youth organizations working on the similar objective of climate change in the Pakistan. By utilizing the power of youth, environmental awareness can be raised to make local, regional as well as global policy makers to understand the urgency of the situation.”

The enthusiasm of all South Asian youth was phenomenal. The ideas and experiences shared assured that no matter how grave the issue is, at least young people of South Asia are willing to play their part. It is a heartening sign as this region despite all its ups and lows, still has its youth as its greatest force. As long as they are ready to combat climate change and work for change, the future of South Asia is promising.

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