Action stems from empathy towards nature. For me balancing science and action has always been a priority. The initial stages of Plastic Tide Turners campaign was identifying issues and perceptions with waste segregation and reducing single use plastics from our everyday life. However the visuals of a stream being suffocated with so much solid waste and untreated sewage was heartbreaking, and to add to this we caught the glimpse of a crocodile in the stream.
The project was then curated to be more inclusive of water quality, stream flooding and biodiversity for which scientific analysis and hands-on public engagement was taken up. The essays and proposals won me the Champion title in 2019 but my team and I decided to continue working on water-waste issues.
Water conservation needs immediate attention and response in the lieu of climate change. My team monitored the quality, organised clean-ups and conducted health surveys along the stream for residential societies and in informal settlements, as they are the ones to first hand experience flooding due to clogged up conditions of the streams. The information regarding importance of Bhukhi Stream and other such channels was broadcast through social media platforms and newspapers in different languages to engage more people and help them interact better with researchers and not feel left out of decisions for restoration proposals.
I was amazed to find local women who wanted to learn about the water bodies near their homes, how they cause flooding, pollution and its impact on their health. They wanted to understand how they can solve the issue. These women were mostly homemakers; they are an important stakeholder for conservation. They bring change in communities by deciding to take action. With collective action the stream is now cleaner and the diversity is slowly restoring itself due to less human interference. Chance of fair participation makes communities feel acknowledged and case studies show that inclusion increases the sense of responsibility and makes them more aware, concerned citizens. River action plans and policies have been in place for a long time yet we need to change our methods to approach these problems. Our ideas and innovations need to be at par with the ever-changing climate as older techniques might not be the best fit to address issues in the present scenario.
I was amazed to find local women who wanted to learn about the water bodies near their homes, how they cause flooding, pollution and its impact on their health. They wanted to understand how they can solve the issue.
Environmental policies rarely address female perspectives and impact of climate change on women’s health. The representation of women in government councils and policy forums is gradually increasing however not at a rate that can be called an achievement, this stems from the disadvantage of women not provided resources, education and an equal rights; Jacinda Arden, Vandana Shiva, Sunita Narain and so many women of whom I am in awe of and inspired by, are known for breaking the barriers and proving their capabilities in environmental decision making, creating magnificent change and building the foundation for the next generation. Women in conservation are filled with hope and passion and need to be given the right platforms to voice their opinions.
Read other stories in this series here.
Sneha Shahi is a conservationist and has been affiliated with the UNEP – Plastic Tide Turner Campaign. She has worked with the Centre for Environment Education on water policies and has led a stream restoration program for urban rivers. She is a first year PhD Student at ATREE studying Conservation Science and Sustainability. She is a youth climate leader for We The Change which aims to showcase climate solutions pioneered by 17 young Indians. The views expressed are the author’s own.