There’s a war going on at the Janki Devi Memorial College in Delhi.
Every day, a group of students puts up posters about conservation and climate change. And every day, some other students tear down or spoil them.
“People tear down our posters because they don't realise the environment is their problem,” said Megha Chhabra (18), a first year student of sociology (honours).
Chhabra is part of the college environmental club, Avani, which has 20 more students. The members of this club have taken the institution’s environmental cause upon themselves. They scout the halls reminding students and teachers to turn off lights and unplug appliances.
Sometimes, said Chhabra, people laugh at the club because they don't agree with the cause.
This week, though, none of their posters have been touched.
Chhabra said she considered this a sign of changing attitudes.
The club's membership has also been on the rise. When it began five years ago, it was half the size.
The numbers are very encouraging to Vandana Madan (46), an associate professor of sociology at the college and Avani’s faculty advisor.
“The students of this generation are so much more environmentally aware than in the past,” she said. “They know something is wrong and they want to help.”
Janki Devi, an all-women’s college that is part of Delhi University, might also be unique in the sheer number of its environmental projects.
In 2007, it won second place in a national competition for the best rainwater-harvesting programme. The award came with Rs. 1 lakh, which they used to start new projects.
The signs are there everywhere on campus.
Six new solar lights line the field. Recycling bins collect office waste paper and 240 kg of it is recycled each year. Signs labeled “wet” and “dry” stand next to a compost pit.
These projects have all come up this year.
Madan is a passionate supporter of environmental causes. “She’s an amazing person,” said Chhabra. “Without her, our club wouldn't be so strong.”
In 2004, she worked with principal Indu Anand to revive the school’s rainwater harvesting programme, first started in 2001 by a professor who has since retired.
The original rainwater harvesting well, eight feet deep and twelve feet wide, lies just behind the administrative office.
The water-level under the school has risen by about 10 metre since the scheme began, according to estimates by the Centre for Science and Environment, which worked with the college on the project.
Once a year, one of the office attendants, Vijay Maurya (30), climbs into the concrete-lined cavern and carefully cleans the round stones at the bottom.
“By doing this, we can actually save water,” said Maurya who took classes at the CSE.