Are you someone who cares deeply about stray animals in your locality, but is not sure how to help them? Do you cringe every time you walk past a beautiful lake that is changing into a dump? How about actually doing something to address the problems that the natural world around you faces? Meet Arun Krishnamurthy, a popular name in school circles, and his dynamic brigade of young volunteers, who chalk out innovative ideas to save the planet.
Finding inspiration from his zoo-volunteering days in school was the starting point, confides Arun, who conceptualised the idea of setting up Environmental Foundation of India ( EFI), a voluntary organisation that focuses on finding small ways to preserve biodiversity.
“I used to live near Vandalur zoo, and during one of my visits to the zoo I noticed a group of people teasing the animals. I stopped them and later when I spoke to my friends about it, we all decided to get involved in zoo volunteering. That’s where I learnt how to observe and bond with animals,” says the environmentalist.
Setting the stage
Soon he met his mentor, Dr Supraja Dharini, creator of TREE Foundation and was introduced to sea turtle conservation. He served as the national coordinator for Roots and Shoots, world renowned environmentalist Jane Goodall’s network for youth involved in nature-conservation, in his college days. While his job and post-graduate studies required him to travel to different cities, his passion for creating a strong youth network finally saw him set up EFI. He dwells on their USP.
“We believe in working for an issue and not just talking about it. We wanted to bring in a younger leadership,” he says, opening up about how EFI has councils comprising school students who take charge and set the stage for action by planning projects, researching for solutions, finding new volunteers and brainstorming for ways to highlight their ideas.
Trials and tribulations
While finding ideas is simple, implementing them is the daunting task. Exhibit A: The Sparrow Nest Conservation Project — creating nests for the disappearing birds in cosy nooks in the city — was conceived in one day, but it took almost two years to implement. Arun narrates, “We had to find the material that birds use. We experimented on locations like fruit bearing plants and nectar bearing flowers preferred by the birds to plant the nests, and even researched about the altitude and wind-motion to get it right.”
Power of communication
EFI has to its credit documentaries Kurma, on sea turtles, and Elixir Poison, on conservation of urban water bodies, that created waves in International Film festivals. They have started spreading their message with street plays as well. “We looked for innovative ways of communication for our programme,” Arun explains.
At present their key eco-projects range from herb conservation and creation of eco bags to student-centric activities such as Sparrow-species Conservation, and zoo-volunteering on Sundays. The ‘green architects’ chip in to physically clean lakes in Tambaram, as well as shrinking water bodies in Perambur, as part of their Lake Conservation Programme. “We set up herb gardens to attract other species of birds. We organised nature walks there to create awareness that it’s not just for human consumption, even birds and stray animals in the locality are dependent on it,” says Arun.
The way ahead
At present EFI has a committed 872-strong volunteer base. It has plans to cater to the health care of stray animals in the city with a mobile clinic facility. If you want to volunteer with EFI, write to firstname.lastname@example.org