The Science Express - Biodiversity Special (SEBS) chugged into Secunderabad station on Tuesday, making its 34th pit stop since it began its journey in New Delhi on June 5 this year. An initiative by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Government of India, in collaboration with the Max Planck Society, Germany and Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre, the SEBS’ stop here was planned to coincide with the CoP-11.
The 16-coach mobile exhibition is on its fifth phase this year, having been revamped a bit to reflect the current decade - 2011-2020 - which has been declared as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification. The exhibits spread over 12 coaches are divided into seven distinct sections. As you enter the Express, you get a feel of biodiversity on the planet in general and in India in particular. With facts like India hosting eight per cent of the biodiversity in the world on just two per cent of the world’s landmass, it tries to drive home the point of the country’s importance and the eventual responsibility it has towards conservation of the eco-systems.
The next four sections are dedicated to the various regions in the country, viz., the North-East, the Western Ghats, semi-arid desert regions and the Deccan area. The coaches are lined with simple-to-read info displays of the various wild animals and vegetation found in these areas. Interactive display maps are put up, equipped with buttons that light up areas where certain kind of endangered animals are found, microscopes with slides of various bacteria that are helpful to the eco-system, live models on rain water harvesting, preserved exhibits of butterflies, bird flock formations strung from the ceiling, besides the chaotic pendulum apparatus - an example of how a slight change results in unpredictable patterns. Besides the ecological aspect, these coaches also reflect the cultural aspect with exhibits of the kind of textiles and designs that are indigenous to their regions of origin. The last four coaches are dedicated to showing climate change and the legacy of science from India. While a quiz on traffic practices and a couple of blocks of wood explain how the activities from our day-to-day lives leave large carbon footprints, educators who are present in every coach elaborate on the displays and explain alternatives to fossil fuel.
Pointing out that most of the visitors, who are school children, are only aware of a scientific generation that is more contemporary, Nita Sebastian, one of the educators, says, “Kids think that Abdul Kalam is the ultimate scientist and are not aware of pioneers like S Chandrashekar and Vikram Sarabhai. Also when it comes to alternatives to non-renewable energy, they are familiar with solar and wind energy but not with wave energy and are unclear about biomass. This is the kind of awareness we’re hoping to spread.” The Express will be in city till Oct 19.