The Human Impact

The night the rain fell: Living in fear in India’s Himalayas

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

It poured and poured and didn’t seem to let up. I could hear it crashing down relentlessly. It was so loud that I had to get out of bed to check whether the window of my hotel room was open. It wasn’t.

The pitch blackness outside didn’t help to allay my anxiety. All I could hear was the thunderous noise of the rain beating down and rushing waters of the Alaknanda River on the banks of which my hotel in the Indian Himalayas was located.

Being the Twitter-freak I am, I shared my discomfort with the rest of the world.

“Heavy rain in Karanprayag. Love rain in Delhi, fear it in Uttarakhand,” I typed on my phone, just praying that my internet connection would hold long enough for my tweet to go through.

It may seem odd to fear the rain. But my fear was justified.

I had spent days listening to painful stories from survivors in India’s northern Uttarakhand region of how incessant rains last month caused mighty Himalayan rivers to overflow – inundating villages and towns and triggering massive landslides, causing thousands of people to perish.

Heroes and politicians, Indian floods show the good, bad and ugly

What many journalists and aid workers say is true – it is only in times of crisis, such as disasters and war, that you observe the best and worst of humanity.

In displacement camps where survivors have fled, for example, a cyclone which has flattened their village or a raging insurgency which has killed their loved ones, amid stories of pain and suffering, you will often hear incredible accounts of survival and hope.

It is no different in India.

In the two weeks since deadly floods hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, there have been tales of young children being rescued by strangers, of local shopkeepers opening up kitchens to feed hundreds of marooned survivors, and of the tireless work of army, air force and other service personnel who have evacuated over 100,000 people by land and air in the largest ever rescue operation in India. Tragically, they lost 20 men when a helicopter crashed during the operation.

Child rape victim jailed in India: A journalist’s “immunity” breaks down

Her story is like so many I have heard in my years of reporting on the plight of girls and women in India.

It is a story of rape. A story of police insensitivity, of ostracism, of fear.

I think I’ve heard enough of these stories to be immune, unaffected by the tale of suffering that each victim recounts in the aftermath of her sexual assault.

But I am wrong — perhaps because this girl is just 10 years old.

Her vulnerability is overwhelming as the shy, dark-skinned little girl with sun-bleached black bobbed hair sits nervously on a charpoy, in a pretty turquoise salwar-kameez with bright pink trim.

What’s the climate friendly way to go on holiday?

 

Before you pack the bags for this year’s holidays, it’s worth considering how you’re going to get there – and how much of a problem that might create for the world’s climate. Turns out there’s some unconventional wisdom from scientists – and if you can stand a little company, a road trip might be greener than you think….

What’s the climate friendly way to go on holiday this year?

Turns out the answer is much the same whether you live in London, Los Angeles or Lagos – and it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your car at home.

New research by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway and the Austria-basedInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis tracked the climate impacts of various ways of taking trips of 500 to 1,000 kilometres (300 to 600 miles).

Postcard from Brazil: A woman free in Rio, not in Delhi

I have lived in the Indian capital for several years and, like many other women in this metropolis of 16 million, I soon learned how to deal with the lecherous stares and dirty comments, the drunken men in cars who follow my auto-rickshaw home from work at night.

I have learnt to be aggressive, to talk straight and serious when addressing male strangers, to not make eye contact, to not extend a handshake and to certainly not smile, share personal details or be friendly when dealing with men I do not know.

Some may think this is a little severe, but when you are bombarded with reports of crimes against women — of men throwing acid in women’s faces, of women being dragged off the street and gang-raped in moving cars, of little girls being lured, raped and murdered, of women being stalked and harassed, most here will likely agree my actions make sense.

Will China end its forced abortions?

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng made international headlines last year when he escaped house arrest, foiling guards and security cameras around his home in rural China, to flee to Beijing where he took refuge in the U.S. embassy. He was eventually given permission to go to the United States to study.

But before his dramatic escape, Chen, one of China’s best-known human rights icons, came to national prominence in 2005 when he accused officials in his home province, Shandong, of forcing pregnant women to undergo late-term abortions to comply with China’s strict family-planning policies.

Chen’s whistleblowing initially prompted the government to sack and detain several officials. However, he was later jailed for four years on what he and his supporters contend were trumped-up charges designed to end his rights advocacy.

Extreme measures to “protect” daughters in India

Gurpreet Singh is a determined man. But he is an even more concerned father.

The 32-year-old investment adviser is leaving India and migrating to Australia. There is nothing new in that — tens of thousands of professional Indians emigrate every year.

Unlike most of them, Singh’s reason for leaving is not the pursuit of greater economic returns, but a search for something increasingly perceived by parents to be lacking in India — security for their daughters.

It was the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi last December that jolted Singh, like millions of middle-class urban Indians, and awakened him to the brutalities women and girls face in this largely patriarchal country.

Actor, dressed as woman, feels Egypt’s sexual harassment

Would men stop sexually harassing women, or at least understand what it feels like to be verbally and physically abused, if they were to experience it themselves?

One TV programme in Egypt has looked at the issue of sexual harassment by doing just that.

“Awel el Khayt” – roughly translated as “The Thread” – is a seven-episode series aimed at covering longstanding socio-political and economic problems in the north African country.

Could there be another female F1 driver? Susie Wolff thinks so

When Susie Wolff first got behind the wheel of a race cart as a young girl, the experience didn’t give her the thrills.

“My first time out on the race track, I remember carts flying past me – much quicker – and this little boy – really aggressive – hitting me as I was going past,” she said.

She thought about giving up but her father – a racing enthusiast – encouraged her to be persistent and the second time around young Wolff was thrilled by the speed, the adrenaline and the competitive spirit of racing.

India’s drought: A natural calamity or a man-made one?

It’s that “Will they? Won’t they?” time of year in India. The annual monsoon season is due and – given that the country’s mostly rain-fed agriculture makes up 15 percent of gross domestic product, with hundreds of millions of Indians dependent on it – these rains are a serious business.

Before its onset in June, right through the end of the season in September, we track the monsoon’s trajectory, pore over data, question forecasters, speak to pundits – all in hope of getting an accurate analysis on whether India will receive timely and adequate rainfall.

This year, initial forecasts predict an average amount of rainfall.

However, for some states like India’s drought-hit western regionof Maharashtra, even if the rains are plentiful, it won’t solve itswater crisis.

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