HYDERABAD: And yet another World Environment Day arrives today. While corporates make some noise about CSR and plant trees as a part of their initiative, some communities will take out cleaning drives and talk about awareness. However, post June 5, hardly anyone will bother about the environment and the planted saplings will wither away with the seasons. The truth of the matter is that a sustainable eco-conscious lifestyle needs to be adapted that can self-resurrect itself when needed, rather than choosing alternatives to certain aspects of our lives. In order to affect that, we need to go back to the basics.
Students in the city are slowly realising the importance of such an attitude, and with some encouragement from schools, they’re turning into the much needed green champions that we need. Like the eight grader Ayush Agarwal.
The young turks
A student at Delhi Public School (DPS), Ayush sprung to action when he noticed the lights on inside the house of his vacationing neighbours.
“We stay in an apartment complex. At the time of leaving, there was a power cut and my neighbours did not realise that they left the lights on. I noticed this and requested the committee for the duplicate key and switched them off. I also informed them and they were glad.”
Also a part of a group called Schneider Electric – Conserve My Earth that held an awareness campaign at his school, he is now the ambassador who represents the group on behalf of DPS. Apart from that, there are a lot of eco-friendly activities that he takes part in and feels quite strongly about marking World Environment Day.
“Everyone contributes to the better of the planet; some do it regularly and some on days like these. It is always good to have days earmarked so that environmental protection takes place at a faster pace,” he says, but not before adding that a collective effort will make all the difference.
Another is Haritha Naidu. Sensitised to the issue through her classroom lessons and her own observation, Haritha is eager to do more for the environment. “We were taught how our lifestyles pollute the water resource and that the Ganga would take years to be cleaned and rejuvenated. So, at home, I have swapped the plastic bags for cloth bags.”
Sahishnu Rao is a ninth grader who has an affinity for plants. And so he makes it a point to recycle the sheaves of print outs his father brings home from work. “Plants are cut down for paper. If we can effectively recycle them, we wouldn’t need to cut down as many,” he says.
As these children take there lessons back home, that change begins from home could begin to be true.
Schooling a change
About a decade ago, school curriculums were asked to include Environmental Science as a compulsory subject. But, when it comes to science, or any other subject for that matter, practical application always trumps theory. Which is perhaps why some schools in the city have begun to make green initiatives a part of their routine.
“We ensure that students in our school understand all the concept of live and let live. When they take the word back to their parents, it is going to spread much farther and that is the change we are looking for,” explains Sudha Rani, a teacher and nature lover at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School. Hosting plenty of activities that are age-specific, the school ensures that students at all levels understand the urgency of the cause and the need to act.
“The younger children understand the concept of water. So they report leaking taps to teachers in-charge and appropriate action is taken,” Sudha informs. Other activities include their zero-energy hour every Monday and Friday, gifting saplings on birthdays, and replacing mementos for all the visitors with saplings as well.
While a designated day helps as a conversation starter, these schools understand that the process has to be year long. “One or two days marked during the year surely help us go back and give attention to the problem, but it cannot rest,” she says.
Echoing a similar thought, principal Rama Devi says, “This day helps capsulate everything that needs to be done, but the action should be a continuous process.”
At St Joseph’s Public School in Ramanthapuram, a student is elected as the Environment Minister who ensures that saplings are planted and taken care of. Says Haritha who studies there, “The minister is democratically elected by us. So, we are consciously choosing someone we believe will help us with the green cause. It is the minister’s job to monitor that wastage by students is at a minimum and that a penalty is levied when necessary.”
Arun Krishnamurthy who founded the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) that is based in Chennai but has initiated many lake clean up initiatives in Hyderabad, points out that more and more schools need to adopt this approach and break away from just being theoretical.
“Schools focus a lot on books and academics while everything that is happening to the planet is going on very silently.”
To help start that change, EFI launched the Science Badge Fellowship. “Science Badge is open to students who genuinely feel for the environment. The scholarship is fully funded for a year and applicants will be trained in environmental photography, filmography and conservation. Our aim is to trigger young talent,” he informs.
But it isn’t just the education sector that needs to change, other sectors have to move collectively towards directly engaging in such activities.
“Corporates in the name of CSR spend a lot of money on hats and T shirts. Instead, they can find facilitators, like us, to give them advice and invest their money in the actual process,” says the 27-year old former Google employee who passionately took to saving and reviving many dying lakes in both Hyderabad and Chennai.
“Nature can take care of itself, we just need to appreciate it. The rise in sea level affects all of us, the rains in the city are an example for it. People choose short term convenience over long term conservation and that needs to change,” he says, hoping the new government will put this on its agenda as well.
Here are some activities that are being implemented in a few schools in the city. They can be emulated in your own school or even locality:
Reusing old clothes, like pyjamas and salwars, by converting them into cloth bags
Gifting saplings, planting them and ensuring their growth
Forming student groups and delegating one day every week to check on plants, leaking faucets, etc
Observing energy hours according the season
Creating compost pits and recycling bio-waste
Going on nature camps and building a relationship with the environment
What is today
World Environment Day falls on this day every year and was designated by the United Nations Environment Programme, an agency of the United Nations, that works towards developing environmental policies with developed and developing nations. Catering to a particular aspect of the environment every year, this year the organisation decided on sloganeering ‘Raise your voice, not the sea level’ to focus on the phenomenon of raising sea levels due to global warming. India is one of the countries that needs to immediately pay attention to this as it could be adversely affected given it has one of the longest coastlines.