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India’s fourth-largest airport, the Cochin International Airport in the southern city of Kochi, announced on Tuesday that it is now “absolutely energy neutral,” The Economic Times reports. The airport is co-funded and operated by the Indian government through a public-private partnership.
The airport’s energy neutrality is possible thanks to a 12-megawatt solar system consisting of more than 46,000 panels installed on a 50-acre site. The system can generate up to 60,000 units of electricity daily.
According to Al Jazeera America, the project took six months to build and cost $10 million, which the airport anticipates it will recover within five years. The panels are expected to last 25 years.
The panels were designed and installed by Bosch Ltd., which has a five-year partnership with the airport, according to Catch News.
The airport began testing solar energy in March 2013, when it installed a small solar plant on the arrival terminal’s rooftop, according to The Economic Times.
The project has been seen as a model for the rest of India, and the government is urging other airports to follow suit.
India has a broader goal to derive 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, with 3 percent coming exclusively from solar. Earlier this summer, the government rolled out new incentives to encourage developers to turn to renewable energy.
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Though child marriage has been officially prohibited in India since 2006, the practice is still all-too-prevalent -- an estimated 43 percent of women there are married before they turn 18, and that number tends to be higher in poor, rural parts of the country.
There are some signs of progress on the issue, as brave young women like Santadevi Meghwal, with support from civil rights activist Kriti Bharti, are attracting international attention in their efforts to fight back against the practice.
Still, there is frustration among some activists that the legal process to revoke these marriages is too slow -- in the case of Meghwal’s marriage, which she was unknowingly entered into when she was just 11 months old, they began the effort to nullify the marriage in May and expect the matter could take a year or more to be resolved.
That is unacceptable, Jason Jeremias, co-artistic director of Price of Silence, a New York-based performing arts collective for women’s rights, told The Huffington Post. Jeremias’ group has brought together an international coalition of activists who are demanding that India’s laws change so that “child marriages are ‘void’ instead of ‘voidable.’”
“If we’re talking about a childhood marriage, we’re talking about an illegal marriage, so the process should be almost automatic,” Jeremias told HuffPost. “There should be an automatic, streamlined process for annulling these that allows easy access for those who are most vulnerable. If that’s not happening, the process is broken and needs to be fixed.”
The coalition -- which also includes Mumbai-based FemPositive, Feminism in India and 16 December Kranti Official, a Delhi anti-rape group -- launched a campaign gathered around the #FreeSantadevi hashtag in May.
The campaign centers on a Change.org petition and a social media drive where supporters are encouraged to share photos of themselves holding signs sporting the #FreeSantadevi message. Their goal, in addition to ending child marriage in India, is to attain a swift annulment for Meghwal in addition to reversing a $25,000 fine her village’s council charged her family as punishment for refusing the arranged marriage to her would-be husband.
Photo messages, which included contributions from as far away as Tunisia, Hong Kong, Panama and Honduras, and a letter co-written by leaders from all four organizations were delivered to Indian government officials last month.
A copy of the Change.org petition, along with its over 5,800 signatures, were brought to government officials last week. And next, the coalition hopes to recruit supporters to deliver additional photos and letters to Indian embassies throughout the world.
“We want to keep the pressure on so that the Indian central government gets the idea that this is getting pressure from every end until they make a statement to streamline the law,” Jeremias said.
While annulments of child marriages are a faster process than divorces which, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, can be a process that currently takes more than a decade in India, annulments are most often delayed by a husband refusing to show up for a hearing, dragging out the process. Jeremias believes the law should be changed so that a husband’s absence in such a setting should be grounds for the annulment’s approval.
According to the international coalition Girls Not Brides, an estimated 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year worldwide, though rates of child marriage are on a slow decline. These girls are at increased risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications, as well as HIV/AIDS infection and domestic and sexual violence.
The three countries with the highest child marriage rates, according to UNICEF, are Niger, Bangladesh and Chad. In order to combat the practice, activists in India and Ethiopia have created educational and economic incentives with some success.
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A 20-year-old woman whose parents entered her into a marriage when she just 11 months old has now rejected that marriage and is fighting to have it annulled.
According to an interview with Gulf News published last month, Santadevi Meghwal discovered at the age of 16 that she had been entered into an arranged marriage when she was not yet a toddler. When her would-be husband and in-laws showed up at her home in the western state of Rajasthan, she refused to leave her house.
Meghwal, a college student studying to become a teacher, was disenchanted at the sight of her “husband,” who she described as crude and aggressive to the Sydney Morning Herald. Further, his family wanted her to abandon her education and become a housewife, which is not the life Meghwal has in mind.
Her “husband” went on to stalk her when she went to college and threaten her, actions that eventually led her parents to support her decision to reject the marriage, even after her village’s council, called a caste panchayat, urged her family to pay a lofty fine of 1.6 million rupees (over $25,000) and banished them from the village in lieu of sending her to live with the man, who is now 28.
Meghwal then turned to Kriti Bharti, a child rights activist with the Saarthi Trust NGO, for help. According to NDTV, they are working to have the marriage annulled by mutual consent and planned to pursue legal action concerning the fine threatened by the village council.
An annulment could take as long as a year or more to process and her “husband’s” family could still present challenges, but Meghwal is undeterred.
“I am not bothered,” Meghwal told Gulf News. “Let them drag the case. I know the law is on my side and I will win the case.”
Bharti, who is trained as a child psychologist, has a growing record of getting child marriages annulled, winning 27 annulments through May, according to the Guardian. The first of them was awarded in 2012.
While child marriage in India is technically illegal, the country is home to more child brides than anywhere else in the world. According to UNICEF’s latest estimates, 43 percent of Indian women aged 20-24 were first married prior to the age of 18.
Rates of child marriage in India are highest in poorer, rural parts of the country such as the state of Rajasthan, where Meghwal lives. And while the practice is generally on decline among brides younger than 15, the marriage rate has actually increased for brides ages 15 to 18, according to the Girls Not Brides organization.
Being married as a minor puts girls at increased risk of HIV and domestic violence, according to the International Center for Research on...