Lohaghat in Champawat is a small town of Uttarakhand, the state of the magnificent Himalayas. However, the great mountain range has been continuously exploited and destroyed. In the name of short-lived development, a huge amount of deforestation is taking place. Small, unplanned towns are emerging rapidly which are destroying the landscape and unbalancing the natural phenomena. As for Champawat, reduction in forest cover has led to a huge fuelwood and fodder crisis, additionally, it has negatively affected the volume of water discharged from the springs. The depleted forest cover has exposed several wild animals, this has led to ugly human-wildlife conflicts. Migration of people for employment to already overpopulated big cities is another major issue.
According to the census 2011, Champawat reports a 15.63% decadal increase in the population with the lowest female literacy rate at 65.4% only. Additionally, 21.2% of children under the age of 5 years were underweight while 20.6% of women and 21.6% of men were recorded with a low body mass index. All this has led to a desperate situation and call for immediate action.
Deepika was born in a small village that is 20 km away from the town Lohaghat and completed her primary education there only. Being a fast learner and a curious child she used to observe her father farming on a small piece of land to sustain the family. Her life changed while she had to leave her village and move to her uncle’s place in the town when she was in the 5th standard.
In a new environment, she became hesitant about expressing herself and mingling with her classmates. She lost her confidence, felt left-out and very soon others started ignoring her too. Along with her personal problems she also observed another ugly scenario around her. On her way to school, she used to notice people throwing garbage on huge piles of plastic wastes, stray animals wandering around dump yards and scarcity of water. In her village away from Lohaghat, life was simple and such a crisis was not visible. While in town, the ill habits of littering around by common people were leading to a dangerous scenario. She was unhappy about the situation but didn’t know how to deal with the issue.
The “Teach For Green” team started their session with Deepika’s class, in the year 2018 when she was a student of 7th standard. Mr Ajay who is also the founder of the organisation shares how Deepika started taking interest in classroom Do-It-Yourself activities that revolve around environmental causes. Under “Green School, Green Community” program TFG is giving exposure to students on environment-related concerns and making them understand the essence of native flora and fauna so that they can embrace the beauty of nature, adopt and promote sustainable practices in their communities.
These engagements helped her to connect with her classmates, overcome her hesitations, peer learning, teamwork, gain her confidence back. Nowadays, she is enthusiastically leading several DIY activities like making solar lamps and torches, establishing kitchen gardens, wall painting, participating in skits and street plays. Like her other friends, she is relentlessly encouraging community people to participate in several activities. Several signature campaigns have been carried out by her and her friends to engage local people in the activities. Listening to their kids, people are now managing their household wastes thus 60% reduction in plastic usage has been noticed, around 1200 kitchen gardens have been established on rooftops and backyards.
This is the story of one child, “Teach For Green” is engaged with thousands of such school students are who are leading several campaigns to build a mindset that environment belongs to us and we need to take care of it.