Reverend Emmanuel Chikoya from Council of Churches in Zambia shared that nature has blessed Zambia with huge deposits of minerals, which has attracted investors (or rather infesters as he prefers to call them) for extractive mining activities. This in turn has led to a massive reduction in forest cover due to felling of trees; contamination of underground water, making water unsafe for human consumption; and serious health hazards. Unplanned construction of dams is drying up the rivers. Even those who sacrificed their ancestral land for construction of electricity plants, are not the beneficiaries of the electricity generated. All this has resulted in large scale displacement of people to areas which do not have even the basic necessities. To top it all, local communities lack the knowledge and expertise to negotiate with the multinational corporations, and more often than not are taken for a ride.
Of late, Zambia has been receiving much less rain which has adversely impacted food grain production. Focus on production of crops like tobacco, instead of food crops like maize, has added to the problem. In an exclusive interview given to CNS (Citizen News Service), Reverend Emmanuel said that: "All religious bodies, including the Church, can play an important role in protecting the climate. In Zambia, the Council of Churches believes in helping people to live a dignified life on this earth, rather than preparing them for a life after death. It is the primary mandate of the Church that all human beings must be good stewards of the natural resources given to us by God and use them responsibly. Increase in agricultural production has to go hand in hand with soil and environmental protection. Religion must not only remove myths and wrong perceptions, but also use the principle of 'love one another' to promote good practices, clean energy and clean environment."
Triple tragedy: Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown
Luisito Pongos from Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) Japan who facilitated this workshop, reflected that one of the worst natural disasters that Japan experienced was an earthquake in 2011 that hit its north east region- which is called the rice bowl of Japan- followed by a devastating tsunami that also led to a nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. There were an estimated 22,000 deaths and more than 70,000 people, mostly migrants- 9000 of them being Filipinos- were affected. A large majority were marriage migrants- women of neighbouring countries legally married to Japanese men. Those who survived faced an acute shortage of food and shelter. Many migrants lost their documents, which resulted in losing their jobs and/or not being able to go back to their home country because they did not have their regular travel documents.
Even though the affected people were relocated to other safer areas, the disasters affected the livelihoods of many migrants settled in Japan, thereby also affecting their families in their home countries.
One silver lining has been the closure of several nuclear power plants in Japan. Currently only 9 out of the 54 nuclear power plants are in operation and the country is moving towards cleaner alternative energy sources, thanks to a strong people's movement.
Human activities abet natural disasters
Eni Lestari and Iweng Karsiweng from Indonesia shared that Indonesia is a disaster prone country. In 2018 alone there were 5 big tsunamis and earthquakes. But no government support or compensation was given to the affected families to rebuild their lives. As many migrants working abroad came from 3 of the affected areas, it put them under an additional pressure to send more money back home to help their families.