We’re experiencing overlapping and transnational water crises: both deadly droughts and record floods. Prolonged lack of access to safe drinking water, too. There are far too many to list but this week we’re highlighting two that could use your solidarity: Bangladesh and Jackson, Mississippi. Read on to find out why we should care & how to help.
BANGLADESH: Worst floods in two decades
Dozens of people and countless livestock have been killed in monsoon storms across northeastern Bangladesh. Almost six million people were stranded in July and are facing an immense scarcity of food, livestock, a shortage of clean drinking water and shelter. 94% of Bangladesh’s Sunamganj town and 84% of the surrounding Sylhet district submerged. The June 2022 floods are directly linked with the climate crises, cycles of poverty, and migrant justice. Bangladesh’s aquifiers are drying up. The climate crisis causes an average of 700,000 people in Bangladesh to be displaced each year. Sea level rise alone is expected to displace 1 in every 7 people in Bangladesh – up to 20 million people – by 2050. The climate crisis is one of the reasons that 25% of Bangladesh’s population is food insecure.
As Migrant Mutual Aid details in their fundraiser post (below), “Urban poverty is exacerbated in already overpopulated cities like Dhaka, where climate refugees live in squalid conditions. This urban poverty has set the stage for Bangladesh’s massive garments industry – world-famous for churning out garments at “competitive” (i.e. low) prices for global brands – especially fast- and ultra-fast fashion brands – like Ralph Lauren, Lululemon, Gap, SHEIN, H&M, Zara, Primark and Marks & Spencer. Despite disasters such as the 2013 Rana Plaza fire, abuses such as child labour, sexual abuse and dangerous working conditions continue to persist to match ever-increasing global demand. In 2020, global brands cancelled nearly USD 4 billion worth of garment orders, outsourcing the economic damage of COVID-19 to Bangladesh’s factory workers and deepening poverty cycles in Bangladesh. These phenomena directly lead to the migration of Bangladeshi men to places like Singapore, where they undertake relatively dangerous jobs for low wages. Singapore benefits indirectly from the climate crisis in Bangladesh, and directly from the cycles of poverty that produce this labour migration.
“Bangladesh – like other developing countries – bears the brunt of the global climate crisis, despite emitting less than 0.35% of the world’s greenhouse gases. The average person in Bangladesh emits 0.5 metric tonnes of CO2 per year. The average person in Singapore emits 8.40 metric tonnes of CO2 – nearly 17 times as much. Assisting climate-vulnerable developing countries to address the ravages of climate change is a matter of justice, not charity. Although Bangladeshi society has rallied together to become a leader in climate change adaptation and mitigation – so much so that its programmes are studied by other countries – this is ultimately of limited use without international justice and solidarity. Singapore is among the countries that builds its comfort and wealth from importing Bangladeshi labour – its garments and its working class men – and exporting climate change effects to Bangladesh. We owe our solidarity to the people of Bangladesh suffering the effects of the climate crisis.”
HOW TO HELP
YouthNet for Climate Justice is a youth-led movement. Since the current June 2022 disaster, YouthNet’s young volunteers are working with other local grassroots partners to deliver emergency supplies to 5,545 families across Sylhet, Sunamganj, and Habiganj. They were in operation response in the remotest locations like Osmani Nagar, Bishwamvarpur, Tahirpur of Sylhet and Sunamganj districts to support during the flooding. They provided dry foods, safe drinking water, and oral saline to the flood affected communities. Nearly 500 sanitary napkins were distributed, as well. They also reached the isolated communities in Kurigram and Netrokona districts with safe shelter support. Currently, they are distributing tin sheets to construct new homes and toilets based on the urgency of rehabilitation. However, due to the scale of the disaster, YouthNet’s work is limited by a shortage of funds. They raised about $6,500 out of their goal of $10,000 in their last fundraiser.
Funds from this fundraiser by Migrant Mutual Aid SG, a self-organised group of individuals, will go towards rebuilding efforts in Porar Char island (within Kurigram), where YouthNet has already started work with 120 families to support rehabilitation support (Tin Sheet), enhance WASH (Tubewell, Toilet) services and livelihood options like seeds, sewing machines, and livestock. They hope to fundraise SGD 10,000 to assist the cause. This is based on YouthNet’s breakdown of intended expenses amounting to 8 lac Bangladeshi taka (approximately SGD $11,700).
MAJORITY-BLACK JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: “Do not drink the water from the pipes if you can avoid it.”
The Jackson water crisis began on August 30 when flooding caused the pumps at the main water treatment facility, O.B. Curtis, to fail. This left most residents without clean water and many with no water at all due to low water pressure. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves warned residents on August 31, “Do not drink the water from the pipes if you can avoid it.” That same day, the Department of Health told the residents to shower with their mouths closed, as if that would protect residents from the toxic water.
The same thing happened last year after a winter storm. This has been happening for three decades. After every crisis the city has only gotten temporary solutions. Jackson’s residents have been under a boil water notice since July. A boil water notice is a public health advisory cautioning people to boil water prior to drinking due to possible contaminants.
Here are the words of Lorena Quiroz, the executive director of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity in Jackson: “Water is dignity, water is so much. Water is life […] We don’t do quotas. Because you know what, we wanna pick up for Grandma, for Auntie, for our neighbor who is disabled. We’re gonna give them the water. The water comes free to us, we give it out freely. All we can do is get the attention of nationals, get the attention and the resources that we so deserve here. Because our people have been enduring these situations for too long, and they deserve dignity, and they deserve water, and they deserve life.”
Why has this been ignored for three decades? And why has Jackson, Mississipppi been on boil notice for the past 7 weeks? The root cause is that Black people in the US are disproportionately hit with environmental crises. Jackson is 82.5% Black, and has been hit with multiple water crises in recent months.
Natalia Marques writes for People’s Dispatch: “After schools in Jackson were desegregated in the ‘70s and ‘80s, white residents left the city en masse. In 1960, prior to any school desegregation, Jackson was 64% white and had a population of 144,000. By 1990, although Jackson’s population grew to 196,637, the city was only 44% white, a decrease of about 6,000 white residents. Their departure meant a significant decrease in public funding as they constituted a large portion of the wealthy tax base, because whites are historically more well-off than descendants of Black slaves in the US.”
HOW TO HELP
Over 150,000 people are without water pressure right now. Mississippi’s capital lacks proper water infrastructure, and the majority Black city is in a water emergency. Instead of investing in repairing the water system for once and for all, Biden’s newly announced ‘Safer America’ plan and is giving $37 billion to recruit, train and finance 100,000 police officers. Support the people of Jackson in critical time of need: to ensure that aid is delivered directly to the people of the community in West Jackson, Cooperation Jackson is engaging in an autonomous relief effort to ensure that the homeless, the elderly, and those with limited transportation in the community get the resources they need. Ask your friends, comrades, and fellow cooperators to join. Donate generously at https://cooperationjackson.org/donate and spread the word to your family and friends and encourage them to donate too.
FEATURED IMAGE: via Pexels | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Recycling of water on sewage treatment plant