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Saturday, 3 March 2012

Discovery, beyond channels

Discovery, beyond channels
Delhi has become a more environmentally sensitive city than it ever was. And it is the city’s children who have taken the lead in going green.

NEW DELHI: Delhi has become a more environmentally sensitive city than it ever was. And it is the city's children who have taken the lead in going green. Over 2,000 eco-clubs in various schools have not only trained them in sustainable practices like paper recycling and water conservation but made them aware individuals.

The city offers a wide variety of programmes that can help children get closer to nature and appreciate our eco-heritage. The government-sponsored eco-clubs at the school level are a fantastic way of participating in environment programmes. Students are encouraged to adopt green practices at home and community with help from trained teachers.

"We have involved several NGOs to help out the schools. They organize sessions on paper recycling, compost-making, mushroom culture and waste recycling among others. Tree plantation is another activity that the children are involved in," says a Delhi government official involved with the eco-club programme.

Schools have tie-ups with other agencies like the WWF, Centre for Science and Environment and the Intach as well. The WWF is even open to organizing nature trails with children even if these are not sponsored by their schools. "Normally we prefer to hold our nature walks and sensitization programmes with schools but if a sizable group of youngsters approaches us, we do take them on as well. Trips to Sanjay Van and Lodhi Garden are common where one can learn about the native tree species, butterflies and birds," says an WWF official.

Youngsters interested specifically in bird watching have a huge pool of experience to draw from. The Delhi Birders, a group of dedicated bird lovers in the city, organizes regular weekly walks to birding destinations across the city, including the Bhatti mines, Aravalli and Yamuna bio-diversity parks, Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Sultanpur.

Surya Prakash, a member of the Delhi Bird Club, is involved in several initiation programmes for children. "Usually I conduct my nature walks in co-ordination with schools but if there are children serious about taking this up as a hobby, they are more than welcome to join us. They can start by applying to the birding group that only requires an online registration," he says.

The two bio-diversity parks in the city are also open to public and welcome children keen to learn more. Faiyaz Khudsar, director of the Yamuna bio-diversity park, says: "Schools often bring students to us but even families come here very often. The bio-diversity park has a lot to offer in terms of great birding, a butterfly park, local species of trees etc. If we are informed of visits in advance, we can make suitable arrangements."

Rakesh Khatri, executive director of the Nature Foundation India, has come up with another novel environment training programme for children. Khatri teaches school children how to make sparrow nests. "Sparrow numbers are declining in the city largely due to shortage of nesting space. I teach children how to make sparrow nests using coconuts. We also organize environment summer camps where we take children closer to nature, focusing on sustainability and conservation," he says.

What is great about being involved with the environment is that one doesn't need to attend classes for it. In Vasant Kunj, a group of youngsters came together to stop people in the colony from wasting water. The team goes around the colony each day, asking people to switch off their water pumps if their tanks are overflowing.

Vaishnavi Varadrajan was in Class X when she and her friends started touring their colony to stop people from wasting water. "We used to see overflowing tanks in the morning when going to school. My friends and I, including some other children from junior classes, started visiting homes and asked residents to turn off their motors so that tanks would not overflow. Some of them were of course not happy and used to set their dogs at us," she says.

In Asiad Village, another group of friends in the age group of 10-14 years took up the maintenance of a neighbourhood park. They painted the fence, planted trees and watered the plants. Next on their agenda is to ensure that waste in the colony is disposed of properly.

Aditya Gupta, a student of an east Delhi school, says, "Environment is an important subject in school and we are encouraged to take up green activities at home or in the colony. In my area, my friends and I have adopted a park and each Sunday we teach younger children in the colony about ways to save water and electricity. Sometimes a neighbour joins in to talk about plants and animals."

"It is extremely encouraging to know that when elders seem to be unconcerned, Delhi's children are taking a lead in saving the environment.

The city offers a wide variety of nature-related activities that do not require too much school time or money. Even if it is something as simple as adopting a park, children learn a huge amount about their surrounding environment while becoming responsible citizens," said a government official

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