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1.2 Environmental Concerns and Health

In large parts of South Asia, since the mid-1980s, growth has become not only less pro-poor and income distribution more unequal, but more importantly, the nature and pattern of development being pursued has severely eroded the environment and damaged the resource base of the poor. Whether it is the indiscriminate promotion of prawn and shrimp cultivation for exports [leading to salination], displacement due to ‘development’ projects [the Narmada project in India, for example], change in unsustainable cropping pattern [for example, promoting paddy and sugar cultivation in water scarce regions etc. the net result in many cases is irreversible damage being caused to livelihoods and environments in these areas.

In all of this, research has documented that, women are more vulnerable than men and have less chance of escaping poverty than men. Poverty not only creates material deprivation but also creates conditions of vulnerability, including what people are compelled to do in order to survive. What one routinely encounters through field level surveys is the limitless extension of the working day for the poor women with effort and work intensity increasing with poverty. The exploration of how degraded environments and erosion of resource base impact the health and well being of poor, especially women, is as yet inadequately researched and still less officially recognized either in domestic and/or externally funded poverty alleviation policies and programs. The 10th IWHM will specifically address the adverse livelihood and environment impacts of ‘development’ more so in a context where states have been asked to prune their already meager expenditures on health and welfare-oriented activities in the name of reducing fiscal deficits and making their economies more ‘efficient’ and ‘productive’.

A dimension of the environment debate that needs substantial exchange of information to enable women’s groups in particular to organize and strategize, is the way the poor, the immigrants, and indigenous populations all over the world are blamed for environmental degradation; further, in the name of conservation, local people are routinely uprooted from their habitats completely obliterating the fact that it is these people, very often and through history, who have preserved their environments before they were violently thrown out or exterminated. The construction of the poor as destroyers successfully deflects attention from the role of the rich and powerful in usurping both economic and natural resources at an ever expanding rate, in undermining effective environmental protection and in refusing to invest in renewable, non-polluting energy resources.

1. Introduction 1.1 Global Restructuring and Health
1.3 Population Policies and Health 1.4 Militarism and Health
2. The 10th IWHM Agenda 3. Focal Themes

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