March 21 – India
The High Court of northern Indian state of Uttarakhand declares the Ganges and Yamuna rivers living entities and grants them legal status as persons in an attempt to help in their cleaning and conservation. To protect their rights, the rivers have two appointed legal guardians. The Ganges River is the holiest for the Hindu population, but also the most polluted. People also rely on its waters for their livelihood.
March 23 – Afghanistan
After a year-long battle with Afghan forces and its Western allies, the Taliban militants capture the crucial town of Sangin, securing the strategic district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand. The Taliban can now connect Helmand with Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. The district is also known for its lucrative opium production. Because of its strategic importance, the Allies invested in its defense of Sangin with many casualties among the NATO troops in the past few years. The loss of Sangin highlights the Taliban’s resurgence and security challenges in Afghanistan.
April 30 – Afghanistan
In its April 2017 Report to the United States Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) states that preventing insurgents from increasing their control of the country continues to be a challenge for the Afghan forces. Afghan forces now control 60 percent of the country and the Taliban 11 percent. General John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, says that he is particularly concerned about the high level of Afghan forces casualties. The Report also states that there are 8,300 U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan who mostly train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. Between January 1, 2015 and March 30, 2017, a total of 33 U.S. military personnel were killed and 161 wounded in action. General Nicholson stresses the importance of the U.S. continued involvement in Afghanistan by arguing that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region has the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world and the U.S. counterterrorism mission there plays a key role in the U.S. national security.
Full SIGAR report.
July 13 – India
India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT), the highest authority in environmental protection, issues several ordinances in an effort to clean up the Ganges River. The new regulations ban dumping of waste or human remains in waters of the Ganges, nor within 550 yards from its shore. They also ban construction within 100 yards from the shore of the river. The NGT also directs the state of Uttar Pradesh to move its tanneries, the leather-making industries, to other locations and set up anti-pollution devices. Anyone violating these provisions can be fined up to $770. To oversee the implementation of these ordinances, the NGT formed a supervisory committee.
The Ganges River provides livelihood for more than 500 million people who live along its banks. But it is the world’s most polluted river, with millions of gallons of raw sewage, domestic waste, riverside cremation, or dead bodies simply set afloat and industrial contaminants dumped in it every day.
More on the importance of the Ganges River, its pollution, and challenges to restore it
July 20 – India
Members of India’s parliament elect former governor of Bihar, Ram Nath Kovind of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the country’s next president. India’s position of the president is largely ceremonial, but it is prestigious with such powers as calling elections, breaking ties in Parliament and issuing death-row pardons. Also, Kovind’s electoral success will help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political agenda as both are from the same party. What is rare about this election is that Ram Nath Kovind comes from the lowest caste in Hinduism’s hierarchy, the Dalits, one of the most deprived and discriminated social groups in India formerly known as untouchables. This might help secure the Dalit vote in future elections for the BJP.
What is India’s caste system?
September 11 – Bangladesh
In response to recent persecutions of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, which has led to more than 430,000 of them fleeing to Bangladesh, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein denounces their treatment and says “the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The recent violence was sparked by attacks by Rohingya militants on 30 police posts in northern Rakhine region on August 25. The militants claim to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority from state repression. In response, Myanmar’s security forces and local militia initiated a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya civilian population killing many of them and burning their villages. Aid agencies and the UN are working to provide food, water and shelter for the huge influx of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world with no home or citizenship.
More on the Rohingya people from Amnesty International
November 8 – India
Pollution levels in India’s capital, Delhi, have reached 30 times the World Health Organization’s safe limit in some areas. Conditions worsen every winter when famers in nearby states burn leftover crops in their fields. Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted capital cities. Because of poor air quality four out of every 10 children in Delhi suffer from severe lung problems.
Experience how it is to drive through Delhi’s smog.
“Air pollution” from the World Health Organization
“Case studies of healthy, sustainable cities” from World Health Organization
December 12 – India
India’s court sentences six men to death and two others to prison for brutally hacking to death a Dalit man who married a girl from a higher caste. One of the men sentenced is the bride’s father who disapproved of the marriage. The court also issues directions to the government of India to enact laws to curb “honor” killings, which are meant by caste supremacists to deter intercaste marriages. Under the guise of ‘honor’ killing, castes are promoted and perpetrated.
What is India’s caste system?