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03/22/2013

How a river's fury leads to trafficking in India

Guwahati

Heavy monsoon rains frequently flood the Indian city of Guwaharati.  (REUTERS/Utpal Baruah)

Is there a connection between climate change and trafficking women in India?

There is, says an online story by the pulitzercenter.org.

Guwahati, a city in northeast India, lies on the banks of the mighty Brahamputra river. In the summer, it is sluggish; in the monsoons, it flows with a fury and is known to wash farmland, houses, anything that it comes in contact with. It also kills people.

Deforestation and the effects of climate change make the flooding more severe and unpredictable, says the writer of the story.

"It is from within these desperate communities that the women go missing. Traffickers have identified their vulnerable situation and lure them with promises of a better life in Delhi. Some of the women are outright kidnapped and sold as brides or prostitutes in Delhi, Haryana or western Uttar Pradesh."

In the northwestern states like Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, there is a skewed female-male ratio, as low as 720:1000, because female fetuses are aborted so that parents don’t have to pay massive dowries when the women are of marriageable age.

There is “demand” for women, some as young as 12, and traffickers find them here in villages that have been struck by the waters of Brahamputra.

"The sex-ratios in the eastern states are much less skewed than in the northwest of India. So there is a gradient between poverty and environmental degradation on one side, and money and the lack of brides on the other. It is this gradient that traffickers have identified as their business opportunity."  

A new link between climate change and how it affects people? Yes.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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