• Ridhima Pandey has filed a petition against the Indian government for failing to adequately tackle climate change. (Hindustan Times)Source: Hindustan Times
Ridhima Pandey is on a mission to force the Indian Government to prevent further environmental degradation until she's old enough to shape the country's environmental policies herself.
Alyssa Braithwaite

3 Apr 2017 - 4:17 PM  UPDATED 3 Apr 2017 - 5:12 PM

A nine-year-old girl is taking on the Indian Government over its failure to take "effective, science-based action to reduce and minimise the adverse impacts of climate change in the country".

Ridhima Pandey has filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal - a specialised court which hears only environmental cases - stating that she is directly affected by the adverse impacts of climate change and rising global temperatures, but, as a child, is not part of the decision-making process.

"Children of today and the future will disproportionately suffer the dangers and catastrophic impacts of climate destabilisation and ocean acidification," the school student states in her petition.

"India is one of the most vulnerable countries to adverse climate change impacts, and the people of India are already experiencing adverse climate change impacts across the country. These include rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and adverse impacts due to rising temperatures."

Ridhima lives in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, which has been hit in recent years by heavy rains, flash floods and landslides, estimated to have killed thousands of people. 

India is the world's third biggest carbon emitter, and Ridhima is calling on the government to put into action the promises it made in signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

"Children and future generations have the right to a healthy environment," Pandey tells the Times of India.

"But they are also the most vulnerable to climate change and fell prey to diseases such as asthma, malaria or cholera.

"It is also mentioned in my petition that according to estimates of the World Health Organization, children suffer more than 80 per cent of the diseases attributed to climate change."

Ridhima, who is being represented by her wildlife activist father Dinesh Pandey, is demanding assessment of climate change, inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, and scrutiny of every single case of forest diversion, from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

She also wants the Indian Government to move away from fossil fuels, engage in reforestation, protect the native mangroves, grasslands and forests, and improve agricultural practices.

"Children and future generations have the right to a healthy environment."

"I have grown up in a city and ambiance at home where a lot of discussion takes place around the topic of environment," she tells the newspaper.

"I can realise that the situation is getting bleak, with a lot of deforestation in the name of development, reduction in funding for conservation-based projects and non-implementation of all the laws pertaining to environment. This makes me worried about the future for us children." 

Along with the education her parents have given her about environmental matters, Ridhima used the internet to learn all she could about climate change and various global initiatives. It took a year for Ridhima and her father to prepare the litigation.

Dinesh said he was "very proud" of his daughter, telling The Independent: "One day, she said to me 'Daddy you raise a lot of these issues and nothing is being done so why are you not raising these issues in the courts?' She then decided she wanted to do it."

Environmental attorney Rahul Choudhary, who is acting on Ridhima's behalf, said the young girl was asking her government to be accountable and act responsibly and in the best interests of future generations.

"Children in India are now aware about the issues of climate change and its impact," Choudhary told The Independent.

"The most important thing about this lawsuit is that the Government needs to realise that it is not doing anything about climate change. It is signing paperwork to show the world it is doing something but on the ground nothing is happening."

The next hearing is listed for May 4.

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