Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Friday, 17 December 2010
|A school front door in Jacobabad.|
So in summer this year the monsoon rains opened up with all the built up ferocity of a planets' worth of energy, heat and smoke from a continent on fire (Russia, Portugal, etc.), droughts across Africa, floods in South America, a mighty freeze in Europe the winter before that has to balance out somewhere. And so it rained. The mighty Indus that flows from the craggy North to the desert South of this amazing country swelled and burst into irrigation channels built by the British a hundred or so years before, channelling water where it sholdn't have been, sweeping away decades of community. Luckily, most people had time to move out before the water (less than two thousand people died, amazingly few).
|Camps of returnees, in the shadow of their former homes. Jacobabad, Sindh.|
We decided to visit Dadu and Jacobabad, the two districts al of which lost the most houses - about 150,000 each, and see how people were coping. Photos say more than I could... First we stopped in at a camp, for a few thousand folk
|Cattle, we're told are people's biggest asset. They fled together and live as an extended family. Cows cost a fortune here and loosing one could cripple your finances. They eat straw mostly, which has go to be fairly nutrient-less, but hey.|
|In the camp,|
a hand pump at work, recently installed by
Root Work, a local NGO working with Concern
an Irish NGO, who in turn have British taxpayers cash,
via the UK's dept for int'l development.
Confused? You should be.
So we travelled through Dadu, a district that lost around 180,000 houses (at 7 people per house that's a lot of people without a home).
So, cooking: See the cow dung drying in the sun, makes for good cooking fuel, saves money. Stuck in camps people don't have access to their usual source of firewood, so they pay about $1 a day for sticks and roots. This exposes a major problem here - inefficient cooking systems. Local landscapes are denuded, there are literally millions of people cutting and chopping their way through the undergrowth and the canopy, to burn semi dry or just green wood to sizzle up their meals. There's little evidence that anyone has mapped out the implication of this over the next five or ten years: what will happen if this continues, this size of population cooking their way through these few remaining trees?
Especially frustrating when you know that alternatives exist that really work: fuel efficient stoves (at least to slow down the disaster), solar cooking (ovens, parabolic water heaters, oil tank heaters, and more), biogas (cooking from the gas of our poo, or our cows poo, or both).
The humanitarian machine is incredibly fixed into its way of doing things, but it can change. It's taken years but mainstreaming concepts around gender equality and to a lesser extent protection (human rights) is becoming more recognised. Environmental impact is starting to appear as an overarching / "cross-cutting" issue but most people and organisations don't understand the link between energy, environment and human communities so it's given lip-service and spin. In fact, from an environmental perspective our aid operations are catastrophic. Consider the overall pollutants and carbon emissions of the millions of products we import from the far corners of the globe, the tens of thousands of air flights, air lifts, truck days and so on. Do we count this up? No, don't even discuss it! We are, it seems, immune to the carbon magnifying glass. "hey, we're saving lives out here, don't hassle me with that tree hugging shit" is the general impression you'll get if you bring it up.