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Tribals, the climate change warriors at Copenhagen

india Updated: Oct 29, 2009 01:08 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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Climate change is upon them and is changing life as they knew it.

With rising temperature and erratic rains threatening their very existence, India's most vulnerable want to be heard and helped.

“Hear us” is their call and to be heard, 16 of them will be at Copenhagen in December as countries will sit down once again to discuss climate change.

“The landowners in our village have been reduced to rickshaw pullers because of declining rainfall,” said Jasan Bhai Maldhari from Kutch in western Gujarat.

Gujarat’s rising farm production may fall after 2020 with global warming drying up water sources, agriculture ministry has warned.

In a report in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified 400 million Indians living in impoverished villages, coastal areas and Himalayan region as most vulnerable to climate change.

Maldhari, 55, will be among the Dalits and tribals from the coastal regions of Orissa and West Bengal, backward areas of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and hills of Nagaland representing India’s poor at the Danish capital.

They’ll submit a community charter on climate change.

The charter, released in Delhi on Wednesday, seeks insurance cover for crops, traditional farming practices and permission to grow and rejuvenate forests, and warriors against climate change tag for villagers.

“When I was young, the poor in our village used to earn enough from their land, not anymore,” said Maldhari. “Emissions and dirty water from industries have made soil infertile.”

Thousands of kms away in Orissa, Dongria tribe is facing a similar situation.

“There are less rains. We haven't had a good crop in last four years,” said Sindha Wadaka. Her tribe has been reduced to only 9,000 and in Copenhagen, she'll tell the world how climate changed it all for her people.

Many of her tribesmen have been forced to move to the cities and government stats say that the number of such climate change refugees is rising. Rapidly changing weather trends have forced them out of their fields.