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World Environment Day: Choked...and gasping!

On World Environment Day, HT profiles some green enthusiasts working to save the planet from being stifled by pollution.

environment Updated: Jun 05, 2018 15:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
World Environment Day,Choked,Gasping
The official twitter handle of ‘Rally For Rivers’, a national campaign conceived by spiritual leader Sadhguru, founder, Isha Foundation, to raise awareness about India’s dying rivers, shared a photo of enthusiastic volunteers from Oman conducting a plastic cleaning drive.(Sourced)

CRUSADERS. On World Environment Day, HT profiles some green enthusiasts working to save the planet from being stifled by pollution.

‘PARKS, NATURAL RESERVOIRS ARE MODERN-DAY TEMPLES’

Prabha Chaturvedi holds environment awareness sessions in schools. (Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)

The 79-year-old spunky environmentalist Prabha Chaturvedi doesn’t belive in planting trees on World Environment Day.

“We (she and her associates) don’t work towards the cause of a better environment just for the sake of it. That is why we don’t believe in ceremoniously planting trees on one particular day. We plant them just before the monsoon season,” said the president of Exnora Lucknow, a group that works for conserving the environment.

Along with members of the Paper Mill Colony Ladies’ Association and Exnora Lucknow, Prabha works at various levels to help protect the nature. She is especially credited for the renovation and maintenance of the parks in Paper Mill Colony.

“We started 25 years ago, in 1994. The Paper Mill Colony was constructed in 1960 by the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA), and as part of it, five to six parks were also created. However, 30 years later, the parks were in a terrible condition,” recalled Prabha, while narrating the beginnings of her journey as a committed environmentalist.

“They weren’t parks at all. There was rubble all over the place, a lot of filth and garbage. People used to climb the walls of the parks and some also used them for marriages.” Prabha said, adding that unable to accept the mismanagement, she decided to form a group of the colony’s women to work on the problem.

“Through public cooperation, we were able to bring about an appreciable change in the condition of the Akshay Barman Park here. Following that success, more women of the colony joined us and all the parks in this area started improving slowly,” she said.

Prabha also holds environment awareness sessions in schools. “ We have covered almost all schools in the city. It is important to educate the coming generations about conserving the environment, as it is the children who will have to take care of the resources in future. I leave no opportunity to talk to children about environment,” said Prabha.

Her dedication to the cause is evident by how she compares parks to temples. “These parks and natural reservoirs are modern-day temples. Saving them is the biggest prayer one can offer, the biggest religion one can follow,” she said.

GREEN WOMAN WARRIOR HOPES TO BRING ABOUT A CHANGE

Ekta Shekhar with husband Ravi. (HT Photo)

Varanasi: Be it engaging with budding artists to paint or teaching over 500 school children the importance of conservation of trees, this activist has been striving to spread a message to save the environment.

Meet Ekta Shekhar, the activist, who led several awareness marches in Varanasi and adjoining areas to make people aware about the environment to motivate people to plant more saplings. She also organised a solar energy based auto rickshaw rally between Varanasi and Lucknow, covering Allahabad and other cities on the way. In May, she also organised a unique protest in which activists marched with coffins and demanded the Pollution Control Board officials to take measures for controlling pollutions. They also staged a sit-in protest with coffins.

“Mother nature is very kind. She gives everything free. Nature provides free air to breathe and free water to drink. Forests thrive and rivers flow freely in Mother Nature’s lap. But man’s greed led to indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources which has further resulted in global warming,” Shekhar says.

Global warming is serious threat to environment. Extreme weather conditions—chilling winters, scorching summers and devastating floods— are outcome of global warming. As trees were hacked haphazardly, the pollution level increased and there has been alarming rise in air pollution. Because of air pollution, many people are contracting respiratory diseases.

She, however, is confident of bringing a change with the support of people by motivating them to plant more saplings. Ekta’s creative campaigns drew attention towards growing air pollution.

She actively campaigned and urged political parties to include their planning for environment conservation in their respective poll manifestoes.

She has been working for the environment for the last six years. At present, she motivates people to turn to solar energy based vehicles and other equipment that can be operated through solar energy to reduce the dependency on electricity.

“I am making a serious effort. Because of our efforts, now a large number of people know what is good and bad for the environment. Many of them strictly follow the dos and dont’s,” Ekta says.

Efforts to motivate people in order to encourage them to start using environment-friendly vehicles, stop wasting water and exploiting natural resources will continue. Planting more and more trees is a way to purify air which has become polluted because of the gases emitted by diesel and petrol operated vehicles.

Her husband Ravi Shekhar says, “She is also going to become a mother next week as she is nine months pregnant. Even in this condition, she organised a demonstration and walks for the cause of environment. She is also attending awareness rallies for the cause.”

Ravi goes on to say a would-be mother is serving Mother Nature and he supports her as much as he can. But she is the lead campaigner who works tirelessly and has motivated several fine art students who draw painting on walls to create awareness about the environment.

Surabhi recently completed her MFA from MGKV. She works as a volunteer with Ekta for the environment cause. Surabhi, along with other volunteers, has drawn a number of paintings on walls in various areas of Varanasi, appealing to people to contribute to the efforts. “I want to be a professor. Even after joining the varsity in future, I will continue working for the environment,” she says.

NATURE WARRIOR WHO SHOOTS WITH A CAMERA

Satpal Singh on a ‘shooting’ spree. (HT Photo)

Lucknow: Nature, for the residents of Alinagar, a small village in Lakhimpur Kheri, goes beyond their farms, cattle and wild animals they have seen. It stretches from mountains till the ocean, to which they were introduced through pictures taken by a fellow villager.

“I try to make the people of my village understand how vivid, rich and beautiful our planet is. This makes it easy to understand the issues related to environment,” explained Satpal Singh ,28, an acclaimed photographer.

Despite having received several photography awards, Satpal decided to continue to work from the village. His aversion to city life and concern for depleting environment are the reasons . “I want to begin the process of change from my home and my village,” Singh said.

Born in a farmers’ household, Satpal took up photography as a hobby exactly a decade ago. He bought his first camera-a DSLR- with money borrowed from his mother and didn’t reveal it to his father or other villagers till late. “I thought people would make fun of me for moving around with a camera,” Satpal said . He came over this inhibition slowly after his pictures started getting appreciation.

Satpal was awarded in several photography competitions in the country. He also received an award from the chief minister of Uttarakhand. The biggest recognition came when he won the Nature’s Best Photography Asia Award in 2015 and was called to Washington DC, USA for the award ceremony. The award not only put Satpal on the world stage but also changed his perception towards nature. “I met some very motivated people, dedicated to protecting the environment they live in. Interaction with them introduced me to a facet of environment conservation I was unaware of,” Satpal said.

The stimulus he got in the US made Satpal relocate to his village and begin work for environment conservation. “I want everyone in my village and nearby towns to understand the importance of clean environment. Once it is done, people will start taking steps to protect it themselves,” he said .

Apart from pictures, Satpal opened a public library in the nearby town of Mohammadi where locals can read about nature. He also organise free photography classes for villagers. Those who cannot afford a camera are taught using a camera phone. Plan for an interactive online sessions is also in the pipeline. His lessons start with the phrase,“A picture is worth a thousand words” and those who truly understand it are better photographers, according to him.

Married, with two children, Satpal divides his time in taking picture of the nature around him, reading, completing assignments and farming. “I come from a family of farmers and working in field is an inseparable part of me. It helps me to stay grounded and relate more closely to the environment I wish to protect,” Satpal said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”