It did not have many takers when it was launched 15 years ago. Now a programme to create awareness about green issues among youngsters boasts of 100,000 students in over 1,000 schools across India.
Pollution testing, garbage disposal, waste management, tree plantation...the Programme for Environmental Awareness in Schools (PEAS) 'catches them young' on many subjects of concern.
"When children speak, adults listen," said Ken R. Gnanakan, the Bangalore-based educator who launched PEAS.
"As an environmentalist, I can proudly say India's environment is in the safe hands of children who are not only aware of environment-related issues but are also ready to contribute for the cause of environment."
"Believing in the fact that children can make a difference, PEAS is engaged in numerous activities for awareness as well as action programmes," said Gnanakan, 68.
The PEAS network is operational in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi, Gnanakan told IANS.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar, "Wealth out of Waste", organised by ITC Limited in Bangalore.
Schools participating in PEAS have set up eco-clubs through which students work for various causes of environment in their community.
Some of the main lessons taught to the children in PEAS are conservation of energy (paper, water and food material), pollution testing, method of garbage disposal, innovative waste management, importance of tree plantation, and finally developing a sense of responsibility and consciousness towards nature and people.
"Children need to make their voices heard as they hold the key to the future and thus children need to get involved in issues of importance like environment," said Gnanakan.
He is associated with various universities in India and is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Boston. He has written 10 books on various aspects of environment protection.
On his experience of working with children, Gnanakan said it showed that more than adults, children are more concerned about the environment.
"The government of India is yet to take up the issue of environment seriously. They have several plans, but when it comes to implementing them, it shows no initiative," said the environmentalist, who pioneered the use of waste plastics for road surfacing in the country.
The main aim of PEAS is to work with and within schools in order to build up an eco-culture. To fulfil this, PEAS encourages teachers, administrators and children to work together.
PEAS has been organising rallies, street plays, seminars, workshops and slide shows where school children take part actively. It conducts regular field trips to national parks and zoos, to give children first hand experience about nature and wildlife.
"Through PEAS we have also involved various communities to work for their immediate environment. We have taken up issues of public grievances to the government for immediate redress," said Gnanakan, who also dabbles in poetry.