- Water shortages across the state of Tamil Nadu, India have left the 4.6 million people in the city of Chennai without water, forcing the government to ship it in by truck.
- A protest over the shortages in the city of Coimbatore on Wednesday resulted in the arrests of hundreds who staged a demonstration in front of a local government building.
- Experts say the drought is caused by the late monsoon season and poor government planning, but has been exacerbated by climate change.
- According to a new government study, 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.
Hundreds of people were arrested in the state of Tamil Nadu, India on Wednesday after protests over state-wide water shortages broke out.
The protestors demonstrated in front of a local government building in the city of Coimbatore and carried empty water containers. Most of the protestors who were arrested were reportedly members of the main opposition party in the state.
According to India Today, police arrested the protestors because they had not received permission to hold the demonstration. Currently, it is unclear how many people were arrested. CNN reported at least 550 people had been detained.
Indian newspapers seemed to be split on the number, with some publications reporting 400 people were arrested, while others cited police reports saying it was actually closer to 700.
While the water shortages are statewide, they are the most extreme in the city of Chennai, which is the state capital and India’s sixth largest city. The drought has essentially left the entire city of around 4.6 million people without water.
Over the last few weeks, the four reservoirs that supply water to the millions of residents in the region have nearly run dry. As a result, the state government has had to truck in tons and tons of water.
#ChennaiWaterScarcity Scenes of the dried up Thiruneermalai, Chembarambakkam, Perumbakkam and Korattur lake in Chennai.— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) June 15, 2019
All major reservoirs supplying water to Chennai dry up, read: https://t.co/r1YCRn1Pf3#தவிக்கும்தமிழ்நாடு pic.twitter.com/3Qr3jvIZk5
Now, every day, hundreds of thousands of residents are forced to wait in line for hours in the summer heat just to fill plastic containers with water, while many others are still left without any at all.
The shortage has been described as one of the worst in years, and it also comes as the region is facing an extreme heatwave that has already killed hundreds of people. Schools, businesses, and restaurants have been forced to close.
The water crisis has also caused unrest in the community. People have started fighting over water, with clashes breaking out across the city. According to reports, trucks transporting water to the people have been hijacked, and the drivers have even been attacked.
What Caused the Shortage?
There are several causes for the recent shortages in Tamil Nadu.
The main reason for the water crisis is the fact that the seasonal monsoon rains are late. The monsoon season usually starts in early June and is essential for replenishing India’s water supplies each year.
However, so far, it has barely rained at all this season. As a result, the state’s Madras High Court has accused the Tamil Nadu government of negligence and poor management.
The court argued that the government has just passively waited for the monsoons to come, rather than being proactive about it, despite the fact that a late and dry monsoon season was predicted.
Another cause of the shortages is the lack of proper infrastructure. Even when the monsoons do come, the state’s current infrastructure often is unable to store water adequately. Experts say that is largely due to the fact that the state does not have rainwater harvesting or recycling.
India also relies on groundwater collection. However, groundwater has been depleted by years of drilling into the earth and urban development that has destroyed the wetlands.
That groundwater depletion is especially bad in large cities, and disproportionately affects low-income families who rely almost entirely on groundwater.
A Growing Crisis
India experiences droughts every year and smaller towns have even run out of water in the past.
According to a 2018 report from the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), a government think tank, droughts all over India caused water shortages that impacted 600 million people.
Only one in four Indian households have drinking water at home and nearly 200,000 people die each year because of inadequate water supply or water contamination.
However, Chennai is the first major city to have such a severe water shortage.
According to NITI, at least 21 cities in India, including the capital New Delhi, will run out of groundwater by 2020, impacting around 100 million people. Additionally, 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.
All of these problems are expected to get worse with climate change, which experts say will make monsoon rains more erratic and water shortages more common.
This is especially problematic for India, where about 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture, and about 80 percent of water goes to agriculture.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Al Jazeera) (India Today)
Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem
The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.
Instulting the Anthem
Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.
The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.
The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.
Concerns for Freedom of Speech
The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.
They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”
Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.
This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.
Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.
See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)
Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse
The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.
Priest Sparks Outrage
Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.
Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.
To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.
Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.
“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”
In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.
Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”
Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.
Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims
Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.
According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.
Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.
The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.
While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”
With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.
The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.
See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)
Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases
Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.
Cases Going Up
The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.
On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.
At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.
Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.
Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.
Doubts About Government Response
The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”
However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.
“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.
He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.
Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.