Indigenous folk worst hit by climate change

  • Nation
  • Friday, 02 Oct 2015

KUCHING: From the haze in Indon­esia to floods in Myanmar, rural indigenous communities contribute the least to climate change but suffer the brunt of the after-effects.

In a declaration, indigenous communities from 12 Asian countries, including Jaringan Orang Asal SeMal­ay­sia, called for action, saying the protection of indigenous peoples and the planet’s sustainability was “not up for further negotiations”.

“They add the least to global warming yet are severely impacted by it. Devastating floods in Myan­mar, typhoons in the Philippines, droughts in Thailand and haze from Indonesia are just some of the catastrophes in the recent past,” said the declaration, following a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties in Thailand recently.

Asia is home to 260 million indigenous people, with many still living the lifestyles of their ancestors.

World-changing events, the declaration said, had resulted in worsening food security, destruction of livelihoods as well as land and resources, displacement, health problems and more suffering for millions of indigenous peoples.

It listed “an alarming increase” in diseases linked to increasing temperatures, vector- and water-borne diseases like cholera and dengue, and cold spells resulting in health issues such as bronchitis.

On forest fires, the declaration said the true effects of biodiversity loss were not even fully known.

From an economic angle, it said the most obvious effect was higher costs due to land demand for biofuels.

“We should not be looked upon just as ‘vulnerable people’ but as people with invaluable knowledge, values and systems that can provide solutions to climate change,” it said.

As an example, the declaration highlighted traditional mixed crop farming techniques that would better prevent ecosystem degradation.

Climate change, said the groups, was also due to the failure of a development model dependent on using natural resources with no consideration for sustainability and social equity.

The declaration also urged the United Nations to include indicators on the extent to which indigenous people’s rights and safeguards were respected.

“This is the time for action. The protection of indigenous peoples and sustainability of the planet are not up for further negotiations.”

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