It’s official, Rhiannan Iffland is the greatest living female cliff diver on the planet. Minutes ago, she soared from atop the world-famous Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina and landed over 21 meters below with a perfect score.
Undefeated in 2019, Rhiannan has won all seven stops on the Red Bull World Series this year, from El Nido, Palawan to the final stop in Bilbao, Spain. Although today’s competition was the second to last stop on tour, Rhiannan seized her grip on the King Kahekili trophy, her fourth in a row, with an even 1,000 points accumulated over each stop.
In addition to her seven straight victories, Rhiannan also achieved the first-ever perfect score for a female athlete on her final dive today – four 10’s – which added up to the highest ever competition score for a female athlete.
“To finish on four tens, I’m still pinching myself,” Rhiannan shared in her post-dive interview with Red Bull.
With her first win at Mostar today, a UNESCO heritage site, Rhiannan can now claim dominance at every stop on tour.
Since entering her first Red Bull competition as a wild card in 2016, Rhiannan has been an absolute force. With this win, Rhiannan proved that she can perform when the pressure is on as well as when she’s earned a victory lap.
“That wasn’t really running through my mind, the overall series win, but to finish it at the penultimate stop is really special. I came in here this weekend knowing that I’d have to be extra mentally strong and that was my game plan, to dive like I have been diving the rest of the year.”
Even though the first place trophy is all but locked up in her trophy case back home in Newcastle, New South Wales, Rhiannan still has a chance to attain the perfect season with another win at Bilbao on September 14th.
“Halfway through, I started to think about a clean sweep, an undefeated year and that’s now the goal, especially after coming here and achieving this. I think it’s looking pretty good so I’m going to train really hard in the upcoming weeks to Bilbao.”
If you’d like to learn more about Rhiannan’s proud heritage as a native Australian, check out her Rainbow Dive documentary set in the outback.
To follow along with the career and training of such a dominant champion, check out Rhiannan’s social media.
Floods are now an annual nightmare in many parts of southern and western India. Valleys in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala that weren’t considered flood-prone until recently are at risk.
These floods appear to be getting more severe. Climate change is causing stronger and more erratic rainfall with recurrent floods in low-lying areas while population growth is putting more people in risky areas. And another problem comes from deforestation in the mountain range where much of the water first fell: the Western Ghats.
The Western Ghats run for 1,600km in parallel with India’s west coast, from Gujarat right down to Tamil Nadu at the tip of the subcontinent. It is – or was – a picturesque landscape of serene valleys, steep gorges and virgin forests. Yet recurring floods and landslides in the mountains, hills and areas downstream (between the Ghats and the sea) show that India must rethink its environmental law to balance the needs of nature and humans.
The mountains are teeming with life. Though they cover only a small part of India’s total land area, the Ghats are home to more than 30% of the country’s species of plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, including both wild elephants and tigers. Its combination of unique species and habitat loss means Unesco has recognised it as one of eight global “hottest hotspots” of biodiversity.
Climate change is already having an obvious impact, with unprecedented rains in monsoon seasons and severe drought and dry rivers in summer. And as the human population has grown, people have chopped down the forests and replaced them with spice, tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Thousands of illegal stone quarries now also operate in the Ghats, where mountainsides are demolished to generate stones and sand for the construction industry. Deforestation and the use of highly destructive explosives mean these areas are prone to increased seismic tremors and landslides.
Large dams on major rivers offer renewable energy yet also raise another set of environmental problems. In Kerala, many are located in eco-sensitive parts of the Western Ghats, with some dating back to British rule. As demand for energy increases, India plans to build more dams which in turn could lead to massive deforestation and ecosystem destruction. All this makes flooding more severe, as deforestation in the catchment area of a river reduces the land’s ability to retain water.
Whether triggered by damming, deforestation, or exacerbated by climate change, human-induced natural disasters in the region have pointed to a need for stronger environmental protection laws.
How to protect the Western Ghats
India’s 1950 constitution claims that protection of environment is a fundamental duty of every citizen, and though it does not explicitly contain a right to a clean environment, legal authority for environmental lawmaking is derived from the document.
Over the years, the country’s central government has enacted various laws that are applicable to the Western Ghats: the Environment Protection Act 1986, the Forest Conservation Act 1980, the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2002 and so on. However, these laws are not implemented efficiently, which makes me wonder if areas like the Himalayas and the Western Ghats – internationally significant ecosystems and biosphere reserves – need their own special laws.
Additionally, India’s water laws are inadequate. Existing legislation primarily focuses on pollution control, meaning the law has little to say about preventing or even managing floods which result from mismanagement of dams or too much riverside development.
The problem is enhanced in case of rivers that flow across state boundaries. Some of the major floods in the past couple years happened after dams at or near full capacity in one district or state were opened, letting water flow downstream into another area. Recently, a draft dam safety bill has been proposed to address these problems.
Similarly, discussions over climate change and environmental lawmaking should involve more grassroot level participation. For most people, poverty and earnings still matter more than climate mitigation or adaptation. Hence people’s perception should be moulded to recognise and realise how deforestation or climate change impacts their daily life.
The Western Ghats are south India’s lifeline, with millions dependent on the range either directly or indirectly. These mountains need protection. However, while new development in the region continues to be human-centric, the entire concept of nature preservation is relegated. To protect the Western Ghats, what we require is an attitude that recognises the significance of these mountains, and that will involve specific laws.