My name is Ridhima Pandey. I am a 12-year-old girl from Uttarakhand in Northern India. Uttarakhand is a state renowned for its natural beauty, and dominated by the mountains of the Himalayas. The Ganges river flows through the region, but recently drought and hotter temperatures throughout the year have been reducing its level. And now when it does rain, it rains very heavily. I was only five when devastating flash floods hit my home state in 2013. Many animals and people died because of those floods, many children lost their parents, their homes, everything. Those floods terrified me.
When I became old enough, I started asking my parents why all this was happening? What is the reason for these flash floods? How can we stop this happening again in the future? I started learning about climate change, and it blew me away to find out that actually we humans have contributed to this destruction ourselves. I decided that I want to protect our environment and our future any way I can. For this reason, I filed my first complaint against the government of India for their inaction. I was also one of the 16 children in the Children vs Climate Crisis case in September 2019, filing an official complaint in New York City to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
What is distinct about the climate strikes in your country?
I think the strikes are mostly the same around the world. We are all doing this for the same reasons. But when I joined the strike in New York in September last year, I was amazed that a strike could be so huge, with so much energy, and with people of all ages. There are so many restrictions in India – we have to get government permission before carrying out any strikes, and we can’t even imagine striking outside the parliament. These difficulties dissuade many people, but that’s why I believe it’s our responsibility to make people aware about the climate crisis, so they will join us willingly.
What are your plans for April? What do you expect from world leaders?
I had planned to join several of my friends from other regions in India to strike in April, but the country is on lock-down due to Covid-19, so our plans are cancelled. We are now striking from home under #ClimateStrikeOnline, and doing it together through video calls. Right now the world is witnessing the Covid-19 epidemic, and trying to mitigate the situation, but in many ways it’s already out of our hands, so ‘lock down’ is the only option. For me, this response tells us a lot about the climate crisis. The IPCC says we only have a decade left to respond to the climate crisis, so we have to learn from this crisis, and world leaders need to act strongly and proactively together in order to save lives, rather than only when a disaster becomes impossible to ignore.