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Severe Water Shortage in India Sparks Protests

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  • 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.

Protests

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.

Water Crisis

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.

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)

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Pro-Democracy Demonstrators Attacked After Violent Protests in Hong Kong

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  • Protests in Hong Kong over the weekend became violent after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who vandalized the Chinese liaison office.
  • Protestors in a train station returning home were later attacked by a group of men who beat them with batons and metal pipes, leaving at least 45 injured.
  • Many were outraged by the attack and claimed that it had been initiated or at least supported by pro-government authorities and the police.
  • Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned both the vandalism and the attacks during a press conference Monday.

Violent Attack in Train Station

A mob of men attacked antigovernment protestors in a Hong Kong train station on Sunday, after protests turned violent when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who had vandalized the Chinese government’s liaison office.

Pro-democracy protestors were reportedly returning from a demonstration when they were attacked by a group of men wearing white t-shirts who chased after them and beat them violently with bats and metal bars.

The protestors tried to flee, and the attackers chased some people into open train cars, where they continued to beat them. The attackers reportedly injured 45 people, leaving one in critical condition.

Those injured included pro-democracy protestors, as well as journalists and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.

“They repeatedly went into the train and were using batons to indiscriminately attack all the people in the train,” the lawmaker later told reporters. “Many journalists, even a pregnant woman, all ordinary citizens of Hong Kong, were attacked by those gangsters.”

It is not clear who the attackers were. Many believe they were members of organized crime groups known as triads. The incident angered people across the country, with critics and protestors accusing pro-government officials of hiring the men to launch the attack.

Video footage that has surfaced showed pro-China lawmaker Junius Ho, shaking hands with some men in white and giving them a thumbs-up. Ho later denied that he had any connection to the attacks and was just greeting people who approached him.

Many also accused the police of ignoring the attack and not doing enough to help. Some argued that it was hypocritical for the authorities to crack down on the pro-democracy protestors but not the men who attacked them.

Lam Cheuk-ting told reporters that the police response was slow and inadequate. He said that the men were seen gathering hours before the attack, so the police should have had time to properly assess the situation and respond.

He also said that the police did not show up until after the attack, and when they did come, it nearly an hour and a half after the first emergency call. When the police finally did show up, they initially reported that they did not find any weapons and let the attackers leave without making any arrests.

However, footage taken by photojournalists showed the riot police speaking with two men in white shirts holding metal bars or sticks, and then patting one on the shoulder before walking off.

Some have even argued that the attackers colluded with the police, but during a press conference on Monday, police officials denied that they conspired with the men, and said they later arrested some people associated with the attacks.

The police also claimed that they were slow to show up because they were busy responding to the protests.

However, pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan pointed out in a tweet that “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio.” 

Continued Protests

The attacks at the train station came after a long day of protests took a violent turn.

Over the last few months, Hong Kong has seen massive and ongoing protests over a bill that would let the government extradite people accused of committing specific crimes to countries or territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with.

Many oppose the bill because it would allow extraditions to China, and see the bill as Beijing attempting to extend its authority over the people of Hong Kong and their personal freedoms.

Lam suspended the bill in June, and earlier this month she said the bill was “dead,” but protesters have continued to call for a full withdrawal.

They have argued that even if Lam’s administration keeps its promise to not pursue the bill, any leader after Lam could still take up the bill and pass it unless it is withdrawn.

In addition to calling for the bill to be withdrawn, the demonstrators have also expanded their list of demands to call for Lam’s resignation, an investigation into the police’s actions against demonstrators, amnesty for arrested protestors, and universal suffrage, among other things.

As the protestors’ demands have changed, so have the nature of the protests. While the first wave of protests were largely peaceful, over the last few weeks they have become increasingly violent

Protestors have clashed with police, who used pepper spray and hit the demonstrators with batons and shields as well as other forceful tactics.

Sunday’s Protest

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets for a previously planned peaceful march.

However, the demonstration escalated when thousands of protestors marched past the point where the police had said the demonstration should end. The police had tried to keep the protestors away from an area with government buildings, but the protestors went past them.

Many of the protestors went to the Chinese government’s liaison office where they reportedly covered the office with spray paint and graffiti. They also threw ink and eggs on the crest of the Chinese government that is displayed on the building.

The protestors were eventually pushed back by police who used tear gas and rubber bullets. It was also reported that the protesters threw eggs and other things at the police as well.

The Hong Kong government condemned the protests in a statement.

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government strongly condemns the protesters who blatantly challenged the national sovereignty by maliciously besieging and storming the CPGLO building as well as defacing the national emblem,” the statement said.

“The HKSAR Government is concerned that a small number of radicals incited the masses in an organised manner, challenged the rule of law, and even stormed the CPG’s office in Hong Kong,” it continued. “Such acts threaten the law and order in the SAR and ‘one country, two systems.’”

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam responded on Monday, condemning both the attacks and vandalizing of the liaison office, which she said: “hurt the nation’s feelings.”

“Violence will only breed more violence,” she later added.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (BBC)

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Ebola Outbreak in Congo Declared Global Health Emergency

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  • The World Health Organization declared the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
  • Since the outbreak began in August 2018, over 1,600 people have died. 
  • WHO does not see Ebola as a current global threat, but wants to draw international attention to the outbreak to increase global engagement. 
  • This is the worst outbreak of the disease since the one between 2014-2016, which killed over 11,000 people.

Emergency Declared

The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Wednesday.

The outbreak began in August 2018 and has killed over 1,600 people, with over 2,500 confirmed cases. It is considered the worst outbreak since the one that began in 2014 and ended in 2016, which killed over 11,000 people. 

On Monday, the outbreak escalated when the city of Goma, which sits on the border of Rwanda, saw its first confirmed case. Goma is home to nearly 2 million people and has an international airport. This put pressure on the WHO to evaluate the situation.

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts,” WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system. Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders — coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities — to shoulder more of the burden.”

By declaring it an emergency of international concern, the WHO is hoping to draw worldwide attention to the outbreak so that global efforts can help to stop it. 

The WHO also released recommendations for the DRC to follow during this emergency. This includes strengthening at-risk populations, conducting cross-border screenings and screenings at main internal roads, and using optimal vaccine strategies, among other practices.

They also listed recommendations for neighboring countries, which includes working urgently with partners to improve their preparedness, and mapping population movements and sociological patterns that can predict the risk of disease spread.

As of now, the WHO is not concerned about a global outbreak. 

“Risk remains very high at national and regional levels but still low at global level,” their statement continued.

Because the risk is not yet global, the organization wants to emphasize that countries should not restrict trade and other business with the DRC. In fact, they believe that if countries do so, the outbreak would only worsen.

“No country should close its borders or place any restrictions on travel and trade,” their statement encourages. “Such measures are usually implemented out of fear and have no basis in science. They push the movement of people and goods to informal border crossings that are not monitored, thus increasing the chances of the spread of disease,” WHO’s statement reads.

Setbacks in Treatment

The DRC has faced many challenges while dealing with this outbreak. Earlier this week, Dr. Tedros spoke about how attacks on Ebola responders have made things difficult. Since January there have been almost 200 attacks resulting in seven deaths. 

“We are dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous viruses in one of the world’s most dangerous areas,” he said in a statement. “Every attack sets us back. Every attack makes it more difficult to trace contacts, vaccinate and perform safe burials. Every attack gives Ebola an opportunity to spread.”

According to a New York Times report, some of this violence comes from mourners who are upset with responders after losing loved ones to the disease. One person who works in burials told the Times that mourners have threatened to throw workers into open graves. The report also said that in once instance, a mourner brandished a hand grenade, resulting in everyone scattering and a 3-year-old Ebola victim not being buried. 

Mourners are not the only ones believed to be behind the violence, however, the DRC is still looking into who else is participating in attacks and why.

The WHO has also criticized for being slow to respond to the outbreak. This was their fourth meeting discussing whether or not to declare an international emergency of this kind. Many believe they should have declared it at one of their earlier meetings. 

Still, progress has been made in treating the outbreak. Right now there is no complete cure for Ebola, however, research published earlier this month showed that two experimental treatments were found to be effective. 

Vaccines have also been effective during this outbreak. According to the WHO, over 161,000 people in the DRC have been vaccinated and over 10,000 people in three surrounding countries have been vaccinated as well. 

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The Atlantic) (USA Today)

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Amnesty International Condemns LGBTI Discrimination in South Korea Military

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  • A report by Amnesty International outlines the discrimination and abuse that gay men serving in South Korea’s military experience. 
  • Article 92-6 in South Korea’s Military Criminal Act criminalizes sex between two men in the military. 
  • Amnesty International says that this law opens the door for gay soldiers to be mistreated, which has included verbal taunting and sexual assault. 
  • Soldiers who spoke to Amnesty International said their experiences have been humiliating, have taken a toll on their mental health, and have even led to some attempting suicide. 

Amnesty International Releases Report

Amnesty International is calling on South Korea to appeal its law that bans same-sex relationships between men in the military after their report shows that soldiers experience abuse, assault, and humiliation as a result of it. 

In a report published Thursday titled “Serving in Silence: LGBTI People in South Korea’s Military,” Amnesty International speaks to several soldiers from South Korea’s military who detail personal experiences with discrimination. 

According to Article 92-6 of the South Korea Military Criminal Act, sexual relations between two men in the military, either on or off duty, fall under the “indecent acts” clause. This can be punishable by up to two years in prison.  

While it is still illegal for same-sex couples to marry and adopt in South Korea, homosexuality is not criminalized for all citizens. This article only applies to those serving in the military. 

Amnesty International says that by having this law, South Korea is opening the door to discrimination.

“Criminalization creates an environment where discrimination is tolerated, and even encouraged,” the report says.

“Homophobic and transphobic individuals can view this law as tacit permission to target LGBTI people inside and outside the military,” it continues. 

The report also said that the first step to ending this discrimination is removing the article.

Decriminalization does not solve the entire issue, but it is a crucial first step towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of LGBTI people,” the report states. 

Charges Made Under Article 92-6

People have been charged under this article in the past. In 2017, authorities actively looked to identify soldiers who they believed were engaging in sexual acts with other men. They ended up charging over 20 soldiers as a result. 

One man who was charged in this, who the report identifies as “Yeo-jun Kim” told Amnesty International that investigators asked him personal questions throughout the process. 

“The investigators barraged me with outrageous questions, questions about what sex positions I used and where did I ejaculate,” he said. 

He also said that they looked through his phone and asked him to identify other LGBTI people. 

“The authorities came to me like peeping Toms,” he added. “They should have maintained confidentiality. I have lost faith and trust in people.”

Soldiers Face Abuse

In addition charges, gay soldiers are often subject to physical and verbal abuse.

The report outlines the story of one soldier they identify as “U” who served around a decade ago. 

“One night, I saw a soldier being sexually abused,” U told Amnesty International. “When he got angry, the person abusing him who was his senior started to beat him fiercely and forced him to drink from the toilet bowl. A few days later, the abused soldier made up his mind to report the incident and approached me for my help.”

When the superior learned about the possible report, he threatened to beat U. 

“I was then subjected to physical violence and humiliation for three hours,” U continued. “Which included being forced to have oral and anal sex with the original victim while the senior soldier made taunting remarks, such as: ‘Don’t you want to have sex with a woman-like man?’”

U added that this assault and humiliation drove him, and three others who experienced similar situations, to attempt suicide, which resulted in them being taken to a psychiatric hospital. Three of them were dishonorably discharged, while U was taken back to his squad and labeled as a “soldier of interest.”

Toll on Mental Health

Many soldiers say that the harassment and assault they are subject to takes a mental toll on them, resulting in many going to military health facilities. The report says that the facilities often have poor conditions, cramped spaces, and soldiers often question the qualifications of those working there. 

One soldier, identified as “Jeram” was regularly groped and assaulted. He was labeled as a soldier of interest when his unit learned he was gay. He told Amnesty International that he ended up in one of these facilities.  

The hospital deemed him “rebellious” after he did not comply with some of their requests, resulting in him losing the right to make phone calls or walk out in fresh air once a week. 

“The hospital tried to diagnose me as ‘unfit for service’ with staff members even instructing me how to act mentally incompetent so that I could get discharged,” Jeram said. “I refused to be labelled in this way. I felt I had lived my life well prior to the military and knew that I was not the source of the problem. This whole experience led me to attempt suicide because I lost the will to live.”

He then said that one panelist, who he did not think was a licensed medical professional, told him during one of his reviews, “You are so disobedient. Even if I shoot you here, it will simply get covered up as a suspicious death and that will be it. Then, the compensation your family would receive will be even lower than for a military dog.”

Amnesty International’s report is the latest in international organizations fighting for rights for gay soldiers in South Korea. In March, Human Rights Watch submitted an amicus brief urging the country to repeal Article 92-6.

“Article 92-6 violates the rights of LGBT persons in two distinct ways,” the brief said. “First, it violates the substance of fundamental rights. Second, it discriminates against service members based on their sexual orientation. The criminalization per se of consensual adult same-sex conduct is a violation of the right to privacy under international law.”

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (CNN) (New York Times)

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