India has a rich tradition of conserving the environment. Amidst global cries over environmental degradation, many ordinary people and organizations in India have taken concrete steps to conserve water, soil, forest, biodiversity and even improve the syllabus of environment studies taught to the young generation. On the World Environment Day, June 5, Organiser presents some of the success stories in protecting the environment
Saving the Lifeline of Chhattisgarh
Mahanadi is the lifeline of Chhattisgarh. Also known as ‘Chitrotpala Ganga’, she is the largest river of the state associated with spirituality, Satsang, and various rituals. People of the state are dependent on her to celebrate most of their festivals. She is also the major source of drinking water and irrigation in many areas. Karneshwar Mela, Rudreshwar Mela, Kumbha Mela, Sipur Mela, Shabari Mela, Shivnarayan and Chandgahasini Maiya Mela attract lakhs of devotees. But as the demand for drinking water and pressure of devotees increase, cleanliness and a free flow of the river adversely get affected.
The Astha Manch has started efforts to awaken the people about the cleanliness of the River. It has converted the cleanliness drive into a mass movement. It started a river cleanliness drive from Sihava Mountain, the origin of the river, to Chandrahasini Devi Temple in Chandrapur. Starting from Ganesh Ghat of Sihava Mountain Sewa Yatra culminated at Chandrapur after passing through Dudhava, Charama, Gangrel, Medha, Rajim, Aarang, Sirpur, and Shivarinarayan. It covered the distance of 326 km in 18 days. During the Yatra, Mahanadi Water Conservation Committees were constituted in the 300 villages of Dhamtari, Kanker, Balod, Gariyabad, Raipur, Mahasamund, Balaudabajar, Janjgir-Champa and Raigarh districts from where the river passes through. The people living on the banks of the river pledged to keep her clean and not to let her be polluted. Also, they started conducting cleanliness drive on the Ghats once a month. They have also decided to plant saplings on the banks and create special Kunds at the river banks so that people may immerse the ashes, etc there and not directly into the river.
Birds on Egg Shells
Dr. Arun Kher from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, is a different kind of environmentalist. He paints birds of different Indian species on poultry egg shells to generate awareness about the birds. Till June 1, 2015, he had painted 650 birds on eggshells and received the certificates of excellence from ‘Golden Book of World Records’ in 2015 and ‘Limca Book of Records’ in 2009. Now he is trying to ensure his name in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’. “I don’t wish to have name and fame, but I do it because I feel it would highlight my message of preserving the birds,” says Dr. Kher.
The huge turnout to his exhibitions particularly in New Delhi, Mumbai and Thane shows the acceptance of his work. “The objective of my all activities is to generate a feeling of compassion towards the birds. Such feelings should develop among all countrymen. Only planting trees would not help improve the environment, but preserving wildlife, birds, and insects is equally important as they together complete the life cycle. I feel such work makes a direct impact on the people,” he added.
Dr. Kher is not the person who had interest in the art since his childhood. His maternal grandfather Shri Prabhakar Balkrishna Shrikhande ‘Prem’ was the student of the Mumbai’s JJ School of Fine Arts. The inclination to this art was generated by him.
Designing Environmental Studies with a Difference
Smt Jyoti Vinayak Bodhe from Pune is an environmentalist with a difference. She has played a key role in formulating the new environment syllabus for school children. The syllabus designed by her along with a team of experts is based on three main parameters—internal environment, space environment and ideological environment. “In the syllabus, we have started from our body (cleanliness and care of it), then our home, surroundings, society, people, health and hygiene, the safety of an individual, importance of conservation of trees, water and forests, how and why we should use natural resources prudently, etc. More emphasis is on different types of pollutions like water, air, sound, soil, food adulteration; causes and effects of each type of pollution on living beings, chemical fertilizers and effects of those if not used properly and also the use of natural fertilizers, importance of organic farming, overall impact on the global atmospheric conditions and finally the remedies. We have also discussed what we can all do as an individual and as a society. Steps towards reducing carbon footprints and use of biotechnology in the field of agriculture have also been stressed,” she told Organiser. She says that environmental studies should not be taught like other exam-oriented subjects, as it is related to every living being. It should be imbibed. On January 1, 2018, Shri Atul Kothari, Dr. Sharad Kunte, Dr. Shreekrish Kanetkar and Dr. Anand Bhide released the books for 1st to 10th standard studies in Marathi.
This Village Ignites Imagination
Nallamnaayakanpatti stands out. For one reason: This tiny village, off Sivakasi, famous for firecrackers, has ignited the imagination of social workers. Perennially suffering from water shortage for the past 20 years as the nature of the land itself is dry, people of this village found a way out diligently. Instead of depending on Government aid, all the 600 families in the village sat together and decided to buy and install a water machine through crowdfunding. The individual family could get water by swiping a smart card. Once this smart card is swiped and scanned, water gets released to the cardholder as per requirement just like cash out of the ATM. No maximum number of pots per family was fixed. Later it was felt that this led to a shortage of water and they rationed the quantity of water per smart card/family, which brought about self-sufficiency. This rationing also enabled them to supply the excess stored water to the Primary Health Centre, school, and library in the village. The highlight is that the villagers never thought of hitting the road with empty pots by way of protest against water scarcity. Instead, they put their heads together and found a permanent solution to the problem. For this, they raised their own fund instead of depending on a Government grant. To top it all, the water that they get is free of cost.
Rocky Hillock Turned Green
The credit for this change goes to a young boy of the village, Malali Gowda, who had closely witnessed the nature’s wrath during the Bhuj earthquake in 2001. He took a pledge to work on nature conservation. He decided to convert the rocky landmass in his village into a green belt. Malali purchased about 5000 saplings of silver oak, tamarind, jackfruit and neem from the amount that he had received as Ph.D. scholarship and planted those saplings all over the hillock. Since water was a big problem as the land had dried up, the villagers irrigated the plants using water from the bore well. Within four years of the plantation the groundwater level started recovering and now it has risen unexceptionally.
After turning the hillock green, the villagers shifted their focus to other aspects such as desilting lakes in the village. The disilting drive gave a new lease of life to 14 lakes in and around the village. One of their newest ventures is the preservation of a traditional system of medicines and healing. For it, they have taken the help of the local Vaidyas. To further promote it they have formed a committee of such Vaidyas, Nati Vaidya, to help grow medicinal herbs and plants.
Disturbing a Wild Creature is an Offence Here
At the time when there is global cry over vanishing of some rare species of birds and wild creatures, Shri Laxman Singh from Laporia village under Dudu Tehsil of Jaipur is dedicated to the biodiversity conservation. During the last about three decades, he has preserved around 200 species of birds and various insects. The biodiversity experts have identified 135 rare species of birds in Laporia village. Now the experiment of Shri Laxman Singh has been emulated by 58 other surrounding villages.
The work of serving the humanity at Laporia village began about 35 years back. In the beginning, the villagers rejuvenated gochar land and the trees and plants were allowed to grow there naturally without any disturbance of humans. The entry of goats, cows, and other animals was completely restricted. Now, lakhs of plants and trees have come up attracting lakhs of insects, wild creatures, etc. Some eco parks, known as Dev Banis, have also been created where the wild creatures are allowed to live in a completely natural way. Now villagers have also created special houses for the birds. There is a clearly defined rule in the village—no creature will be disturbed and both insects and wild creatures will be preserved equally. There is another rule that water, feed, and a house will be ensured to everyone in the village including insects, birds, animals or the human beings. Disturbing the creature is an offense in the village. To make this happen the villagers here first stopped the use of pesticides in crops and created a natural cycle where the natural life of creatures remains undisturbed
Making Manipur a plastic pollution-free State
A movement is needed to create mass awareness on how to dispose off plastic materials in a correct way
Imphal: “There is nothing like big or small in the job; the issue of unemployment is not raised if we focus to our job,” says Sadokpam Itombi Singh (36) of Manipur’s Tera Sadokpam in Imphal West District, while talking to Organiser at his Sadokpam plastic recycling plant. Itombi, started collecting used and discarded plastic materials around the state capital city soon after his graduation (BCA) from Dayanand Academy of Advanced Studies, Dehradun in the year 2005 with a hope to recycle. Without knowing the know-how of the recycling process of used plastic scraps; he hired four employees including a skilled labor from neighboring state Assam and with all odds started his own plastic recycling venture (SJ Plastic) in 2007 to earn money for livelihood and ultimately protect the nature from pollution.
Nowadays plastic is almost everything and is available everywhere; we need plastic from early morning to bedtime. Almost all the materials in our lives are made up of plastic. The basic raw material of his plant is discarded plastic materials and tonnes of such things are pumped into it, the young entrepreneur said, while observing, “We always collect and purchase used plastics for our plants from all the Districts of Manipur. A visible impact is the vanishing of plastic ragbags piled around the city and decrease in the menace of plastic pollution in the valley districts of Manipur. The ultimate aim is to recycle used plastics of the state and make Manipur a plastic pollution-free state.”
Used plastic is of no use, but it is limitless when disposed of properly. As plastic is the by-product of petroleum, recycling of it would enable to preserve oil fields. Instead of banning plastic, a movement is needed to create mass awareness on how to dispose off plastic materials in a correct way.
Itombi, the youngest son of Sadokpam Gunamani Singh, a retired Engineer in State Electricity Department and Khamnam Surjamukhi Devi, Supervisor in Department of Social Welfare, Government of Manipur, who was once unemployed are now confident proprietors of two plastic recycling plants—Sadokpam in Imphal West District and Tera Urak Industrial Estate in Bishnupur District—with an employment of 40 workers. After retirement, Itombi’s father also joined the venture and together the father-son duo is managing the affairs of the recycling plant. “Today, I feel like a father when my staff members come to me and share sorrows in their lives. I am giving a little bit of help to them as one of their family members if required. This is the happiness and ecstatic feeling in working as an entrepreneur.”
Except for plastic water bottles, which they send to Guwahati and New Delhi for recycling, all other remaining discarded plastic materials are recycled at his plant. Currently, the recycling unit produces tubs, flower pots and HDPE pipes amounting to 50 metric tonnes of ready products recycled from the leftover plastics and business volume of around 10,0000 per month. If the state government provides machineries at the subsidized rate, the problem of plastic pollution could be mitigated significantly in the state. Highlighting the importance of plastic recycling plants in Manipur, Itombi said all the products of the SJ Plastic are marked with ‘Made in Manipur’ label so as to create an ambiance to the local potential entrepreneur youths to make their efforts in saving the environment as well as earning for a livelihood with dignity.
— Wahengbam Rorrkychand Singh
Medico turns Environmentalist
Dr. Manohar Lal Bhandari is an Indore based MBBS, MD medico. He is dedicated to the environment protection so much that he has planted thousands of saplings in the city and has made it his life mission to motivate people to plant saplings, nurture them and live in tandem with nature. He also turned barren lands into lush green parks. Inspired by an article published in a newspaper on August 3, 1997, he started environment conservation from the medical college where he works. Taking permission of the head of the institution, he, along with some of his colleagues first cleaned the premises and then planted saplings under the guidance of noted environmentalist Padmashri Govindan Kuttimenon on September 4, 1997. The first sapling was planted by the then Union Health Minister Dr. Sushila Nayar. In the beginning, the forest department also extended full help. Dr. Bhandari has so far planted about 3500 saplings in the premises of the MGM Medical College. In 1998, he converted a piece of land into a Rose Garden, which has received many awards.
Dr. Bhandari has also written two books on environment protection in dialogue form—‘Bachi Rahe! Prithvi’ and ‘Jab Roothe Ganeshji’. Some plays have also been staged based on the book ‘Jab Roothe Ganeshji’. He has also written some poems in Malavi dialect, which have been published. He delivers lectures on environment protection in various colleges and educational institutions. A documentary scripted by him has received appreciation. Some of his students also develop gardens now.
Nature School for Children
Dr. Vijay Laxmanrao Ghugey is a Professor at a college in Nagpur. But, as a passion for the last 35 years, he has been working to inculcate a culture of nature conservation with the popularisation of science and scientific attitude amongst the students and youths. He set up Nisarg Vidnyan Mandal on November 14, 1991, by bringing together the like-minded teachers and students from various schools of Nagpur. It was first of its kind Nature School, which works on every Sunday under the canopy of a tree in the garden of Manewada Road, Nagpur. He teaches basic science and its existence in Nature through lectures, pictures, and exposures during the nature trail in wild. He has been generating awareness about the pressure being put upon the natural resources causing huge ecological imbalance. As per the interest of the students, he classified them in various groups for the activities like bird watching, nature walk, animal welfare, wildlife and the conservation of threatened species of creatures.
These efforts of Dr. Ghugey for environmental education, science popularisation, animal welfare and sustainable agriculture practices of organic and natural farming have received laurels. He created a good team of young energetic teachers, researchers, nature lovers and field activists. He believes that the nation can witness development meaningfully only if ecological sustainability and social equity are guaranteed. His activities are directed to challenge the current destructive path of development and helping search for alternative forms of sustainable livelihood and development.
Barren Mountain turned Green
The mountains of Hathipava in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, were seen complete barren till the year 2016. Elders recall the day when there used to be a dense forest there. The mindless deforestation damaged this mountain so much that greenery was not seen even during the rainy season. The local voluntary organizations, educational institutions, and environmentalists along with the district administration and the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas decided to change the scene. Devising an action plan, they collectively first dug 11,000 pits from March to June and then planted saplings on July 7, 2017. The drive received the support of even some judges.
Making this happen was not easy. First, there was no way to reach there even on foot. Then there was no arrangement of water there. Then how to water the saplings! After discussion it was decided to plant tall saplings, at least six feet high. After plantation, the forest department ensured fencing there. In order to ensure water to the saplings, special tanks were installed on the mountain and water was supplied through tankers. The drive has become so much popular that people from different walks of life reach the mountain and offer their services voluntarily. As a special drive, the newly wedded couples are motivated to plant saplings at the mountain. Interestingly, most of the saplings have survived and a cover of greenery is now visible. Motivated over it, there are plans now to replicate the same model in other areas also.