Children are the future, and so is apparently, climate change. Projected as an unwanted but integral part of our immediate future, climate change is definitely here to stay. And, this climate change poses a serious threat to a child’s rights such that his/her survival, food security, health, access to water and sanitation, education and protection itself is threatened.
An extremely vulnerable group, children, bear the impacts and effects of these erratic weather changes, and face psychological stress, nutritional challenges, physical abuse or development & health risks. Weather related disasters have more than tripled over the last 30 years and are on a constant rise worldwide, and that makes the future of our children, even more unprotected and insecure.
We have quite a few policies and programmes regarding climate change, disaster management and children in the country. The question is how well have they integrated the crucial component of ‘children’ within them? Let’s take a look
The Disaster Management Act 2005 has no specific provisions which address the differential vulnerabilities and needs of children. The 2010 Task Force reviewed the DM Act to report that the concerns of children are completely missing in it, and emphasised on inclusion of children’s issues in the Act . In the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), the word ‘children’ itself is found to be missing.
The State Action Plans on Climate Change for 5 states (taken up for case studies) were reviewed. Uttar Pradesh (UPSACC) does not have any considerations that addresses children’s specific vulnerabilities. Madhya Pradesh State Plan (MPSAPCC) recognises children as weaker sections of the society and vulnerable to climate change impacts, but the sketchy statement has no clarity regarding the redressal of this important issue. Assam does not recognise the issues of children vis-a-vis climate change and also has no clear mandate to address it. Himachal Pradesh and Goa both do not recognise children as a vulnerable group, although Goa does emphasize on creating mass awareness on this subject among the student community.
The State/District Disaster Management Plans recognise children as vulnerable stakeholders during any disaster, but climate change is not there in the picture largely. Madhya Pradesh plan does not talk about the climate change impacts on children or the different segments of children that need to be addressed. Same is the case with Assam, where no specific action steps have been laid to address children’s vulnerability.
Uttar Pradesh boasts of separate plans for each disaster where the need to examine children’s vulnerability for adequate planning has been mentioned, but again no definitive provisions have been made for climate change impacts. Himachal has laid stress on hands-on training for children and better mechanism to prevent human trafficking of women and children. Goa recognises children below 5 years as vulnerable groups and their need to be addressed on priority at times of disaster. However, the plan does not specifically outline provision for urban children impacted by climate change.
Vulnerability Assessment Reports and City Resilience Strategies of the 5 study cities (n the 5 study states)showed that Gorakhpur & Panjim took into account children’s vulnerabilities and also suggested mechanisms to build resilience against these issues. Indore, Guwahati and Shimla did not recognise children as vulnerable groups and so the question of analysis or recommendations did not arise.
Why is that the children’s issues in the context of climate change are a “missing entity”? Will not the impending climate change impact this highly vulnerable group? Should not their inclusion in our climate and disaster management related policies and programmes be the first step to ensure and protect their future?
Only a recognition of children as individuals with rights can pave the way for future action. In the absence of this, all efforts will be sporadic, addressing only some symptoms and not the root cause of the problems that affect children from climate change impacts.