Born and Raised in Taiwan, I Actually Like How Americans Judge Parents

When my second child was six weeks old my husband had a business trip to Asia for one week. One evening when I was breastfeeding the baby, my first child demanded me to pick him up and carry him to the toilet, “Mom, I need to pee, now!”

I couldn’t figure out how to deliver a 4-year-old child without interrupting the feeding. Plus, the 4-year-old was perfectly potty trained. So I told him, “Come on, honey, you know how to do it by yourself. I can’t pick you up now. I’m feeding DiDi.”

“No, no, no! I want you to take me!”

“I can walk you down the hallway.”

“No, no, no! I want you to pick me up!”

I didn’t know what to do. My husband wasn’t home to help. I was tired. Now I was trying to nurse my baby to sleep while my young child throwing a tantrum, which really adds in salt to injury when being sleep-deprived.

Then he peed his pants and had a meltdown.

“Honey, honey, that’s okay!” I tried to calm him down, “We all have accidents. Now you take your pants off and wrap yourself in this towel. Then come sit with me. We’ll clean you up once DiDi are done eating.”

But he was crying like his head is being cut off. He cried too hard to hear me.

The baby finally fell asleep. I put him in his crib. Then I picked up the crying child and cleaned him up. He must have been crying badly, because when we were in the shower, I heard the doorbell.

A police officer stood at my door and asked if everything was alright in the house.

“Yes, yes,” I told him, “My child had a meltdown. But we’re good now.”

He asked me a couple of questions to make sure I was okay. Then he wished me a good night and left.

One of my neighbors called 911 and reported the cry. Realizing that, I actually felt peace, knowing someone cares about what’s happening in my house.

I was born and raised in Taiwan. At about my son’s age, I was beaten up by my parents almost every day. There was always crying, often blood. But no one ever showed up at our door and asked if everything was alright.

Our neighbors looked at me pitifully when I walked home from school. Then they turned around and chatted in low voices. I could tell that they all know something was happening in our house. Yet no one ever asked.

I finally escaped from the horror. I fled to America, left behind an irritable father, a depressed mother, and an anxious sister.

I finished journalism school in America and became a journalist. I write about parenting, education, family lifestyle, maternal and infant health. Currently serving as the US correspondent for a Taiwanese parenting magazine, I frequently write about how people in America parent differently from people in Taiwan.

Last year, a Taiwanese couple posted prank videos with their kids on Facebook. In the video, the parents scared their 5-year-old and 3-year-old with a vacuum machine until the kids cried.  After trying to fight back and protect his little brother, the 5-year-old was spanked by the dad with a clothes hanger. The video angered its audience, but nothing happened to this couple.

At about the same time, the controversial American Youtubers “DaddyOFive” were sentenced to probation for similar videos with their kids. I wrote about the case for the magazine. A Taiwanese pediatrician commented, “Many young lives could be saved if only we judge parents like Americans do.”

I could have escaped from the horrible domestic violence much earlier if my parents were being judged. My sister didn’t have to suffer from anxiety disorder if my parents were being judged.

In 2016, 16 children under six died in car accidents because they didn’t use car seats (Jing-Chuan Child Safety Foundation, 2017). There is a car seat requirement, but no one would say anything if parents don’t use car seats or leave their children in a car alone. Those 16 children didn’t have to die if their parents were being judged.

Three years ago in Taiwan, I saw a father slapped his toddler in a restaurant. At the scene, I seemed to be the only one who was shocked. Others shushed me, “it’s none of your business to judge other’s parenting.” I silenced. I still feel bad after three years.

That night when the police showed up at my door and questioned my parenting, I knew I was being judged. Being judged doesn’t make me feel like a terrible mother, as long as I know I did nothing wrong. I don’t feel attacked or ashamed for being judged. I feel safe, knowing we, as parents and a whole-of-society, are watching each other. And by so doing, we protect our children.

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng

To-Wen Tseng

Former TV reporter turned freelance journalist, children's book writer in wee hours, nursing mom by passion. To-wen blogs at I'd rather be breastfeeding. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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INDIA: Robots, Go the Food Way

INDIA: Robots, Go the Food Way

India, basically an agrarian economy has made great strides in various fields and especially in the field of robotics. The robots have gradually entered into sectors such as defence services, agriculture, manufacturing industries and so on.

The petite man-like machines have therefore created career opportunities for many entrepreneurs in the food industry too. Do we need any extra talents to make a mark in this field?

“Not exactly, if you have the expertise and the interest to excel in your business and attract customers, success is yours,” say the duo Karthik Kannan and Venkatesh Rajendran, who took Chennai by storm with their robot-theme based restaurant, a few months back.

Launched early this year, this restaurant located on the Old Mahabalipuram Road is a crowd puller. Despite a spacious waiting lounge, on the ground floor, one can see serpentine queues to grab a table in the restaurant.

What is attractive about this theme? Robots, of course, says Karthik. People are curious about how they work here. he says as he leads us to the dining space on the first floor. Soon as you step out of the lift, you are caught unaware by a robot extending its tray to you. Unable to hold back a guffaw, Karthik points out that it is just a selfie corner and there is more suspense waiting for you inside.

Heading straight to the glass door before you, he takes you inside a dimly-lit restaurant. As your eyes get used to the darkness, the scene that unfolds looks straight out of a science fiction – a line of tall robots, with bright red eyes, turning around on their wheels.
Of the four robot waiters or servers, two are clad in a saree to suit the Indian style. Children vie with adults to reach out to the food on trays carried by the robots named Gia, Sana, Alice and Atika.

So, how do the robots locate the tables? Founders Venkatesh and Karthik have introduced a unique order system with phone tabs. The tablets display all categories of food available – Thai, Chinese et al. Once the order is placed by the customers, it is sent directly to the kitchen. When the ordered dishes are ready, restaurant staff arrange it on a tray carried by a battery-operated robot which promptly delivers it to the respective table.

Venkatesh Rajendran and Karthik Kannan

Venkatesh Rajendran and Karthik Kannan

On reaching the table, it alerts the guests to take the food from the tray and tap its hand after they are done with the task. It then proceeds to the kitchen on a fixed track around the tables.

If children, out of curiosity, go near the robots carrying the orders and block its way, alerted by sensors fixed inside them, they stop immediately. As one can get a seat only through booking, there is no jostling inside the hall to walk alongside or touch the moving machines.

In addition to the robots, the restaurant has also employed waiters to enable customers to adapt themselves to the new concept.
Why this concept? “The concept of ‘Theme-restaurant’ is taking Chennai by storm now. I am an architect (specializes in interiors) and my friend Venkatesh, a former IT employee, is currently in the food industry. Both of us wanted to combine our expertise and introduce a new concept in the city. Also, during my visits to China, I noticed that robots were a big hit in restaurants. Thus was born this concept,” explained Karthik.

How did it begin?

Karthik who imports building materials from China has his office there. Two years ago, when the concept of theme restaurants was catching up in Chennai, he took up the task of doing interiors for 747 Flight Theme restaurant. Here, he designed the dining space similar to the interior of an aircraft to give aeronautic experience to the guests. It was then Karthik met Venkatesh and they conceptualized theme Robot. It was a leap of faith for both of them and they plunged into business. While Karthik handled the interiors, imports and robot repairs, Venkatesh handled the business operations.

But the effort was fraught with challenges. The duo had to study the working of the robots (each costing Rs. 4 lakhs), obtain training in installing and servicing them. Off, they flew to China to understand all these concepts and avoid being bogged down by emergencies.
“I took up a 15-day training to solve any issue related to the running of the machines. Actually, it is easier to handle them. They are like any other electrical gadgets. You just have to charge them once in 24 hours and take care of their wheels if needed. They will not throw up an emergency and if there is one, I can handle it,” says Karthik confidently.

But, what really shook them was routing the robots to India. Little did they realize that they will face a hurdle with the customs department. “As this concept was new to India, the Customs Department did not have a unique code assigned to the product (assembled robots). We, therefore, had to pump in a lot of details about parts of the bots, convince them and use special permission. The entire operations took us 2-3 months as officials of many central departments had to be approached,” explained Karthik.

We are glad, we did it, despite odds. Today, the concept is a success and they cater to customers from down south and far from north India too. Some of the dishes their guests come looking for is ‘Wow Paneer’ and dumplings (vegetarian) and Mayonnaise chicken (non-vegetarian). But both look forward to their and myriad varieties of home-made kulfis.

What are their plans for the future? Two months ago, Karthik and Venkatesh launched the themed Robot restaurant in Coimbatore (another major city in south India). They have plans of introducing the concept in all the states in the country. “We will source the bots from China and sell it across the country. Anybody with normal intelligence and sound knowledge of handling electrical goods will be able to manage the robots and do not need any special training session,” said the duo.

They further explain that they are willing to share the expertise with interested cafeterias, pizza outlets and in the hospital sector. They are open for franchises as well. Currently, they are authorized sole distributors of these robots for the Indian Market.

The robots are only an additional attraction and have not replaced the restaurant staff. But will they eventually do away with the human resource? What do you think?

Photo Credits: The Author

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004. She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world. she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health. To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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USA: Season of Letting Go

USA: Season of Letting Go

Early on a Sunday morning, I was driving my twelve-year-old to his karate class. Along the way, we chatted while both struggling to wake up. We have done this drive together many times, and I was mentally on auto-pilot.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, can you not come in with me?”

In about a second’s time, his life flashed before my eyes. I felt a flood of emotions that could evoke tears if focused on, but instead, I asked in a nonchalant manner, “Why are you asking?”

He explained how none of the other students have parents in there, and he was right. My son recently graduated to an adult class. The vast majority of students he now trains with are either teenagers who drive or adults. There are rarely parents sitting on the sidelines. After six years of walking into the dojo at his side, I admit that it was a blow to have my motherly wings clipped. On the other hand, I was proud of him for feeling a level of confidence and ownership to go the distance on his own.

So I simply said, “Sure. I can read my book in the car.” and watched him grab his bag and head in.

This is one of many stories that I could tell about living in a season of letting go. I am forty-two years old, solidly positioned in midlife.  I am past the everybody getting careers/getting married/having babies phase and into the everyone is getting divorced/heaving health issues/dealing with ailing parents phase. I, myself, had a hysterectomy this past winter. Talk about letting go! I wasn’t going to have more children anyway, but it definitely put a fine point on the midlife timeline. And the truth is that procedure was the easiest problem I have encountered this year. Each month has brought more challenges with greater stakes.

There is a point in midlife where you come to realize that while there will be an ebb and flow to things, there is no ‘off’ switch to the deep and complex situations you will find yourself navigating from here on out.

You are the fulcrum between multiple generations, trying to support all sides while simultaneously processing your own stuff.

But the world is not a perpetually sad and gloomy place at midlife. Quite the opposite is true. Because through this somewhat stormy transition phase of life, you can see the lights that do shine that much more clearly. This will make me sound ancient, but I understand why grandparents go bananas over birth or get overly excited about a wedding. I can see how sitting at a graduation or following someone’s career can bring such joy. It’s intentional celebration of all that is still bright and brilliant in the world to balance out the darker clouds.

It’s being able to make room for new moments while having to let go of old ones.

It’s being able to remember while continuing to look forward.

Every birthday, every anniversary, and every new milestone is meaningful. I take the time to relish them more fully now. While this season has brought some of the hardest moments, it has also brought some of the absolute best moments of my life.

As my son and I drove home from karate, I let him pick the music, which right now is always jazz. After a year in the middle school jazz band with a favorite teacher, my son can’t get enough of it. As someone who has spent years listening to Disney soundtracks and Raffi in the car, I don’t have enough words to express my euphoria of hearing “The Atomic Mr. Basie” on repeat. We talked about the songs, and he shared his thoughts on the solos. He has developed such a good ear for music and fills our house with his own playing.

The more he grows, the more I am grateful for the contributions he makes in our family.

I love who he is becoming, just as much as I love who he once was. It was a perfect drive home.

Tell me, what has this season brought newly into your life? 

Tara B. (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Blog!

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WORLD VOICE: #IStandForGirls: Help Send Girls to School in Mozambique

WORLD VOICE: #IStandForGirls: Help Send Girls to School in Mozambique

Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.

Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.

In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.

This month, Kurandza has launched their second #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 200 girls to school in Mozambique.  

What is the campaign?

In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 200 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.

For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.

This is my second year signing on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.

Why girls education? 

I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.

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Nicole Melancon (USA)

Third Eye Mom is a stay-at-home mom living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two children Max (6) and Sophia (4). Her children keep her continually busy and she is constantly amazed by the imagination, energy and joy of life that they possess! A world wanderer at heart, she has also been fortunate to have visited over 30 countries by either traveling, working, studying or volunteering and she continues to keep on the traveling path. A graduate of French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she met her husband Paul, she has always been a Midwest gal living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. This adventurous mom loves to be outside doing anything athletic (hiking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or simply enjoying nature), to travel and volunteer abroad, to write, and to spend time with her beloved family and friends. Her latest venture involves her dream to raise enough money on her own to build and open a brand-new school in rural Nepal, and to teach her children to live compassionately, open-minded lives that understand different cultures and the importance of giving back to those in need. Third Eye Mom believes strongly in the value of making a difference in the world, no matter how small it may be. If there is a will, there is a way, and that anything is possible (as long as you set your heart and mind to it!). Visit her on her blog, Thirdeyemom, where she writes about her travels and experiences in other lands!

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INDIA: State of Kerala Ravaged by Floods, Still Gasps for Survival

INDIA: State of Kerala Ravaged by Floods, Still Gasps for Survival

Map of Kerala State

Map of Kerala State

Heavy rain during June and July is a normal phenomenon in the state of Kerala in South India. This year, the effect of the South-West monsoon was more profound not only in Kerala but in the neighboring state of Karnataka too.  Though meteorologists are of the view that it is not unusual, climate experts feel that it is a fierce reminder to India about climate change.

Though Kerala experiences heavy rain due to the South West monsoon, this year the rain was unprecedented not only in Kerala but in major parts of the adjoining state of Karnataka too. Even in their distant dreams, people of Kerala did not expect to face a calamity due to rain, which was a normal phenomenon all these years.

Kerala Ravaged by Floods

Kerala Ravaged by Floods

On August 9, large parts of the state woke up to large-scale devastation as the monsoon renewed its date with the state. There were flash floods and landslips in several places and the State Disaster Control sources were caught unawares.

Within 24 hours, death toll began to rise and the Indian government employed personnel from the Army, Indian Air Force, Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to the worst-hit districts of Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Malappuram.

People Wade Through the Flood Waters

People Wade Through the Flood Waters

“On August 12 we were given the first alert, when the authorities said they would be opening the Idukki dam (built on the Periyar river), which was reaching full capacity after a span of 26 years, if it overflows. Unfortunately, heavy downpour forced the authorities to open all the sluices within 24 hours and there was chaos and disaster all around,” explained Bindu, a resident of Ernakulum, presently relocated to Chennai. Deadly landslides bashed Idukki district, which was known for its tea and cardamom plantations, winding roads and scenic resorts. As Idukki is situated at a high altitude in the Western Ghats, people were unaffected by natural disasters such as storms or hurricanes but little did they think that torrential rain would displace their livelihood. “Our place was always referred to as Kashmir of Kerala. My heart bleeds when I see my hometown battered brutally,” said Anand Kuttan, whose entire family is employed in the tea plantations in Munnar (Idukki district).

By August 13, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red alert to eight districts – Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and  Kannur. It was extended to others in the next few days.

But the scope of the disaster had outpaced efforts to cope with the disaster and the state had set up several flood monitoring stations and all of them notified extreme flood situation. The two regions that bore the brunt of the rain fury (August 19, 20) were Kuttanad and Chengannur.

Fishermen

The government took all efforts to help stranded residents. They involved all kinds of aircraft and boats. But, the real heroes who stood by the government and rescue personnel were the fisherfolk. They hurried to the flooded areas with their boats in which they navigate the high seas. In fact, they were the first to rush to Chengannur to rescue the marooned by the Pamba river. Said Bindu, “While the Army and government agencies could only  concentrate on towns, the fishermen deftly reached out to those in remote areas.”

The fishermen battled the adverse weather, held on to trees to veer the boats in the right course and faced the challenge of a strong water currents. They helped rescue heavily pregnant women, infants and almost swam in and out of all homes in a number of villages looking out for disabled persons and elderly.

“Women had no stamina, especially the elderly.  They had very little endurance, especially after the loss of property and near ones, they could not bring themselves to board the rescue boats,” added Bindu.

“They had to be cajoled and even bodily-lifted. We Keralites are attached to our homes and we could not bear to see it ravaged,” wailed Suresh her brother.

Relief operations
Sanitary Napkins Being Transported to Kerala

Relief Materials Being Transported to Kerala

Rain battered Kerala breathed easy only after August 19. According to officials over 2.55 lakh people were displaced and there was a steady rise in death toll.

But, despite being handicapped in all ways, Keralites rose up to the occasion. They did not panic, though their morale was badly down. Several NGOs and private relief teams swung into action from nearby Tamil Nadu and all over the country. Relief material began to pour in and they were housed in over 7, 24, 600 relief camps all over the state.

Rainfall pattern
Rainfall Pattern

Rainfall Pattern

According to the IMD, in just 20 days (August 1 – 20), Kerala had received the highest amount rain in 87 years. Idukki district alone received a breaking record of 1419 mm in August (till 20). Scientists opine that this is a once in a century rain which has displaced more than 1.3 million people in the state.

According to farmers, they have received nearly two and a half times the normal amount of water across the state, during mid-August. “We depend on the right amount of rain at the right time for our livelihood and food. How do we cope with this situation,” asked, Lakshmanan a farmer of Ernakulam?

Thousands of hectares of agricultural land are under sheets of water. Paddy and banana were the worst hit by the flood and they are yet to know the actual loss which they expect to be very high. The state has also lost poultry, milch animals, and ruminants.

Expert warnings ignored

The floods have washed away multi-storeyed buildings, commercial establishments, bridges and eroded roads. Several tribal communities, hilly areas and villages are still surrounded by the swirling flood waters and totally cut off from the rest of the state.

The flooding also affected the Kochi airport as it has been built on the floodplains of the Periyar river. According to officials, the airport has been carved out of paddy fields. “All rivers have a floodplain that is used to hold water and if the government does away with such an integral part of the water body, who can we blame now?” ask activists and experts.

Rainfall Pattern in mm (1960 - 2016) in Kerala

Rainfall Pattern in mm (1960 – 2016) in Kerala (Courtesy: Regional Weather Forecasting Centre and Area Cyclone Warning Centre, Chennai)

With millions displaced in flooded Kerala, climatologists warn that devastating floods of this enormity will become a norm if the Indian government has a callous approach towards climate change.  This is a major challenge that is staring at the country now and most of its plans to deal with it are more rhetoric and lesson planning and policy decisions.

Eco-system of Western Ghats

The situation has created awareness among the residents about the importance of preserving the environment and its role in climate change.

After reading the report submitted by scientist Madhav Gadgil (headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2010), many of us feel that the problem faced by the state due to the floods was partly man-made, said Aparna, a resident of Ernakulam.

The report submitted in 2011 by Madhav Gadgil had identified that nearly 37 percent of the Western Ghats, covering an area of 59, 940 sq km was ecologically sensitive.  Here, good natural vegetation and forests spread over 1,500 km cover six states – Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and includes protected areas and world heritage sites.

A high-level working group had also recommended that state governments should prohibit projects and activities in the ecologically sensitive area which have a maximum destructive impact on the ecosystem “Wish we had taken proper steps to preserve the fragile eco-system of the Western Ghats and followed environmental laws. Above all, we feel that the government should have strongly recommended a ban on new industrial and mining activities.”

Families in districts such as Idukki and Ernakulam, where destruction was gargantuan are critical about the attitude of the government. They opine that without a concern for the environment, hotel owners, real estate sharks, and land mining mafias were encouraged to set up business here and this has spoilt the ecosystem of the state.

Wetlands and lakes, which is where the floodwaters should have taken refuge have all given way to concrete structures. “If the government does not form committees and involve more officials to conserve the environment, all the highlands, Midlands and coastal plains in the state will suffer damage of increased magnitude due to unjustified human intervention,” opine some of the residents of Kerala.

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004. She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world. she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health. To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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World Voice: South Indian Shores Lose Land to the Sea #ClimateChange

World Voice: South Indian Shores Lose Land to the Sea #ClimateChange

As the South-West monsoon gained strength in several parts of India (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and other parts of the southern peninsula) throughout the month of June, wind-generated waves lashed various parts of Tamil Nadu (South India).

The effects were profound near the Pamban bridge, which connects Palk Straits (Rameswaram) to India. The sea was rough and winds blew at high velocity. In fact, gusty winds accompanied by giant waves rose above the cantilever railway bridge, an engineering marvel and pride of India.

Rail commuters were frightened out of their lives as they were only used to the gentle sway of the 2.3 km long bridge, as the sea below is usually a calm one. Further inland, in Chennai, the waves wreaked havoc on more than 500 meters of the shoreline along Pattinapakkam, a locality close to the sea.

Sea Water Rising Above the Pamban Bridge Near Rameswaram

Sea Water Rising Above the Pamban Bridge Near Rameswaram

On June 28 evening, (full moon day) when the fisherwomen were going about their daily routine, giant waves crashed into their hamlet, damaging large portions of their homes. The waves unleashed large amounts of energy bringing down walls in the houses and taking away a lot of sand too. The waves rolled relentlessly for a day or two.

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

Vasanthi, a resident could hardly come to terms with the loss and could hardly excuse herself for having built her home quite close to the waters. She stood staring at the mound of debris which was all that was left of her home, which had been built with her one year earnings.

Residents of the hamlet said that sea which had been rough for more than 24 hours, finally invaded the shore shattering as many as 70 houses. Many of them were seen trying to salvage whatever they could from the wreckage after the onslaught.

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

Peter Aloycious, another resident pointed out that the sea has been advancing in the last few years and destruction of houses have become a common phenomenon in these hamlets which house more than 1,000 fishermen families. “A small portion of my earnings is spent on piling sand bags in front of my house to prevent intrusion of sea water. But I have realized, that it hardly helps,” explained Peter.

Mr. Balachandran, Director of Area Cyclone Warning Centre, said it was just a weather-related phenomenon and there is no need to panic. “These are wind-generated waves which are especially strong during full moon days. They occur in a specific area based on several factors such as water currents, monsoon rain, change in density and salinity of sea water.” he explained.

The Meteorological Department official further said the phenomenon occurs as there is a constant exchange of energy between ocean, land and atmosphere. He also explained that TN coast is much safer compared to the Arabian Sea coast as the winds are stronger there and cause a heavy damage.

“For instance, high-energy swell waves, which are common during June, cause extensive damage to coastal areas in Kerala in south India. These waves are generated in a wind field, that travel away from it. In fact, they are formed miles away from the area where they would crash on land. Actually, you cannot gauge the impact till the swell reaches the shore and at times they look flat in the deep sea. But as they near the shore, they pack up energy, grow huge and land so hard that they take back huge mounds of sand with them,” elaborated Balachander. “Fishers in South India call the swell as Kallakadal, meaning deceptive sea.”

Experts in ocean science say that reasons for such rough sea condition can be ascertained only after a detailed analysis. But they agree that climate change is real and it has been causing extreme weather events in India.

They point out that we have been given plenty of warning signs by nature. “For instance, the floods, caused by heavy rain that inundated the metropolis of Chennai; Cyclone Vardah, which was the fourth and most severe tropical cyclone of 2017 that struck Andaman and Nicobar Islands and south India; severe cyclonic storm Ockhi that devastated several parts of India and Sri Lanka in 2017 are all due to climate change,” said Dr S. Srinivasalu, Director, Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University.

He pointed out that over 41 per cent of the Indian coast has been eroded due to climate change. “There is also a rise in sea level and this has submerged three islands out of 21 in the Gulf of Mannar. There is also a slight increase in ocean temperatures and acidification of sea water. This has affected fragile ecosystems in India _ Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay,” he said.

He further elaborated about the studies that have been conducted about adverse impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms and coral reefs. He said Bethnic calcifiers are not able to precipitate calcium carbonate in the ocean and this has affected skeletal grown in reef-building corals. The acidification has also reduced the survival of larval marine species and this in turn has affected the food chain.

“The decrease in the carbonate ions in the water will finally lead to brittle coral skeletons and slow growth rate in coral reefs. In future, erosion of reefs may be faster than calcification. This will impact the natural eco system, food cycle and the humanity at large,” he said.

Research by universities here shows that we are likely to lose considerable land mass along the coast if do not pay heed to the alarming signs of climate change.

Environmental changes have not only impacted the life of fishers but also people of  diverse fields. The agrarian economy of the county is also facinchallenges dueue to changes in the weather patterns.

The changes in the ocean will affect the communities whose livelihoods are dependent on it. Rapid urbanization and high pollution levels near the coastal regions have a telling effect on coastal ecological sensitive areas, which actually act as a shield during tsunamis or cyclones.

But, Dr. Srinivasalu is happy that due to some proactive measure taken by the Tamil Nadu government there is a significant increase in the mangrove cover at Pichavaram (It is the world’s second largest mangrove forest located near Chidambaram in Cuddalore district). It is actually a success story created in a span of 10 years post-tsunami (that struck in 2004), said the director who has been mapping the ecologically sensitive areas in the state.

With sea water set to rise, we need a lot of natural buffers along the coast such as mangroves, creeks and estuaries. The experts opine that satellite images do show an increase in mangroves in Pitchavaram,  a coastal area near Cuddalore but we need to do implement more measures to protect us from the devastating effects.

If we fail to address the issue, the southern states will soon be grappling with issues like water crisis, ground-level ozone concentrations, change in the nutritional quality of food and so on due to irregular rainfall pattern.  “The number of cyclones lashing the south has decreased but their intensity has increased. They cause heavy rainfall in a short span of time. The result is there is heavy leaching and erosion of soil by rainwater,” said experts.

For a state like Tamil Nadu, where the influence of the sea plays a major role in society, unless concrete and long-term measures are implemented by the government it cannot escape from nature’s fury.

Pic Credit: Author

Tell us about localized climate changes in your city/country. 

Lalithasai

Lalithasai , a journalist par excellence, with an experience of over 25 years, has penned innumerable articles for the betterment of the society. For over two decades at The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), she had written with sensitivity and understanding about marginalized women and children. She has also covered public education, communities, urban affairs and development in Tamil Nadu (India). She was actively involved in reporting extensively about the affected families in the fishing hamlets in India, when the tsunami struck in 2004. She has interviewed senior editors and liased with major media organisations to understand the situations and plight of women. Lalithasai who has many feathers in hat, has had her humble beginnings in a middle class South Indian family, but has risen to be an inspiration and tall leader for her own sisters and mothers in the world. she is a mother of two grown up children. Her son is an environmentalist and holds a position of repute in Henkel in Germany. Her daughter is a doctor,who is planning to pursue the subject in mental health. To know more about LalithaSai, please visit - http://www.lalithasai.com/

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