Heatwaves, cool waters, green shoots…

The heatwave under which the world is reeling is a petrifying reminder of how the human species’ extreme greed, selfishness and thoughtlessness are contributing to devastating climate change. In utter helplessness, this summer we’ve watched most regions of India reeling under a record heatwave. At least 37 cities recorded temperatures above 45 deg C, with some exceeding the dreaded 50 deg C mark, forcing schools to have an extended summer vacation. The extreme heatwave is caused by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and green covers, which are replaced by buildings, all this resulting in an explosion of greenhouse gases and global warming, which has now reached alarming levels.

Many European countries, considered a dream summer escape for well-heeled Indians, experienced heatwaves, resulting in several deaths. In Greece, five hikers died due to extreme heat. Urban India is hit much more than rural India; the garden city of Bengaluru experienced an unprecedented water crisis last year and as I write this edit, Delhi’s Education Minister Atishi Singh and some other AAP leaders have begun a hunger strike at Rajghat, demanding release of water from Haryana to save the parched citizens of Delhi, which is now experiencing a water crisis.

Amidst all this gloom, the cheerful news is that with the environmental protection being added as Rotary’s seventh area of focus, Rotarians across the world are engaged in meaningful projects to save Mother Earth. These include water conservation and augmentation, building of check dams and water bodies, greening the earth by planting trees and mangroves, creating eco parks to give the much-required lungs to cities gasping under the thick layers and levels of pollution. As pointed out by Meenakshi Venkataraman, director, Projects (2022–24), Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group, and TRF Cadre, Environment, in a recent issue of this magazine, climate action not only prevents emissions but protects our health by reducing deadly particulate air pollution from fossil fuels. Examples include helping low-income taxi drivers to access e-auto rickshaws and increasing urban tree cover to reduce excessive heat. Clubs in India can do projects to give out clean cookstoves; such a project using induction stoves powered by hydro energy is being done through a global grant in Nepal, RID 3292. Funding an EV charging station by a club is another great way to promote the elimination of polluting petroleum products.

With the kind of destruction of our planet that we are seeing today, only passionate, collective and affirmative action on climate change will save our world. It came as a shot in the arm of Indian Rotarians working for sustainable livelihood of our annadata, the farmers, and greening our country while doing so, when this year’s Programs of Scale grant worth $2 million, given out every year by TRF, was awarded to the Rotary Club of Delhi Premier for sustainable farming. This issue carries a detailed article on how this club has been greening the desert areas of Rajasthan by building check dams and conserving water bodies, which has not only increased the income of farmers substantially but also arrested and even reversed migration to cities from villages.

But this is only the beginning; the enthused club members have already raised an additional $2 million (over ₹16 crore) from CSR funds of Indian corporates for expanding their work on sustainable farming, and are confident that much more money will come in for this heartwarming cause as companies see verticals related to their area of business in this work.

Good luck and godspeed to this club!

Rasheeda Bhagat

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