Republic Day: Let’s Celebrate These 7 Young Eco-Activists Who’ve Made India Proud

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The  71st Republic Day of India approaches, a day when our constitution came into force in 1950. The Constitution of India is a written document that entitles our country to be a secular and democratic republic, after attaining independence from the British rule in the year 1947.

Republic Day is an important national occasion for all Indians as it serves a reminder for our fundamental principles as the nation and also instills national pride in us. It is a day that must remind all Indians, especially our children and the younger generation, to become responsible citizens. At a time when our eco-systems are collapsing and climate change is becoming terrifying real, each individual action towards environment counts.

Representational image.

To celebrate individual green actions, Earth Day Network commends children and youth below 25-years of age for their efforts to conserve the environment. They are named as the #EDNRisingStar.

On the occasion of Republic Day, here are some responsible rising stars of Earth Day Network from the year 2019, who have helped our country become a beautiful place to live in, one step at a time:

1. Sumair Handa Bakshi’s journey in Marine Conservation started when he was very young. Having grown up in Botswana (South Africa), he has always lived his life close to nature. At the age of 5, he visited the River Ganga in Haridwar and was shocked to see the pollution in the river and its impacts on human and marine life.

He educated himself on the state of the river by watching documentaries about the river and on the Ganges River Dolphin. This sparked a mission in him to work on marine conservation.

In the year 2015, Sumair started his own organisation called Save The Spirit of The Sea Foundation to help protect marine life and raise awareness about their plight. He regularly writes petitions and uses the power of social media to raise awareness about the plight of aquatic life across the world.

Sumair was invited to attend a conference by PETA hosted by the founder of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, in November 2018. Sumair is working towards cleaning up the river Ganga to drive home awareness on plastic pollution and impacts on marine life. In 2018, he started crowdfunding for funds to support his campaign to save the spirit of the Ganga.

His action plan is to raise awareness and educate through demonstrations providing locals with alternative means to live sustainably and to motivate and inspire the public and school children to help clean the River Ganga so that there can be a collective change to stop pollution at its source.

2. Arpit Dhupar is a mechanical engineer by qualification and believes that we must back every innovation with a strong business plan to reach masses.

Arpit feels that technology is one of the biggest facilitators that will help us to overcome complex challenges in our country. With this vision, he started working on R&D projects which can have a meaningful impact on society, and can help transform the lives of people.

Technologies like renewable energy, pollution reduction devices, and farm mechanisation topped his interest list. Having been brought up in the city of Delhi and concerned with the state of air pollution in the city, Arpit wanted to change this situation and it led to the formation of the Chakr Innovation.

His device, Chakr Shield, is a novel technology, which causes minimum backpressure on a diesel generator. The device can control up to 90% of particulate matter from diesel engines, with no impact on the engine’s efficiency. Moreover, they do not just dump or dispose of the captured carbon.

As carbon is a useful resource, his company processes the captured particulate matter and use it to create an ink pigment. This pigment is non-toxic and is of the same quality as the ink used in industries. Each liter of ink saves 700 million liters of air that an average adult would breathe in their lifetime.

Chakr in Hindi means ‘cycle’ and they are completing the cycle of carbon. So far, they have been said to have saved over 3 billion liters of air from being polluted. It is worthwhile to mention here that Arpit was named as one of the seven Young Champions of the Earth by the UN Environment on September 13, 2018.

3. Madhav Datt is an 18-year-old freshman at the Computer Science and Engineering Department, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, and is an environment enthusiast. He found the international youth organisation Green the Gene in 2004, to mobilise and inspire youth to work for positive environmental change, through his activities, action-oriented projects, and grassroots mobilisation.

Today, Green the Gene is known to be one of the largest youth-run environmental non-profit organizations in Asia and Africa. He is working towards building extremely low-cost technology and data-driven solutions for local communities in acute environmental crises, across 62 countries with over 7000 youth volunteers.

Madhav has represented young people from 47 countries of the Asia-Pacific region as youth focal point for 6 terms. He has published over 45 international reports on environmental practices, initiatives, and development at grassroots and policy levels in this region.

Madhav was declared as the Young Environmentalist of the Year by Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India 2010. In 2013, he was also awarded project commendations by Volvo Group and the UNEP for initiating and leading projects in swimming pool water and plastic waste recycling. Madhav has been a speaker on environmental issues at several recognised events by TEDx, UNDP, UNEP, among many others.

4. Jai Chand is a 17-year-old resident of Bhangadi village in Himachal Pradesh. He has been working to reverse the impact of deforestation. It started as a small initiative when Chand, then in Class 8, planted trees along the roadside, in the school compound and on his family’s land, which had been lying barren and would yield nothing except fodder grass.

The initiative prompted his father, 57-year-old Ram Lal, owner of 10 bighas of land, to pitch in. Today, Chand stands amid more than 100 surviving trees, a mix of fruit and forest trees like deodar, walnut, and apple. He didn’t have to spend any money and managed everything within their means.

He used to get plants from forest nurseries or the horticulture department. He would go to the forests to search for small saplings, bring them home, and plant them in his field or vacant spaces.

Soon, his passion motivated students at his Government High School, Chokar, where he studied till Class 10, and students at his new school in Nohradhar to plant hundreds of trees on the campus.

In April, Chand wrote a letter to the director of the environment, science, and technology department in Shimla, about his drive. His name was then recommended for a special honour under the Environmental Leadership Award, making him the state’s youngest winner — the honour was presented by the Chief Minister last month.

5. Licypriya Kangujam began raising her voice when she was 7-years old, about the need for immediate action to combat climate change and disaster risk reduction, and has since become an outspoken climate activist.

She is known for having started ‘The Child Movement’ to protect the planet earth by tackling climate change and natural disasters that formed in June 2018.

Her personal activism began in June 2018, when she raised her voice in New Delhi to enact a Climate Change law that then began attracting several media coverage. She stood alone in front of the Indian Parliament House on 21st June 2019.

Licypriya has been invited in several national and international events and visited over 18 countries so far as a part of her movement.

She has received the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Children Award 2019, the India Peace Prize 2019, and the World Children Peace Prize 2019. Referred to as the youngest green activist of the World, she is often called the “Climate Warrior of the East”, “India’s Greta Thunberg” and “Child Wonder”.

6. Aditya Mukarji is a 15-year-old student working to promote awareness against the use of single-use plastics since 2018. In June 2018, he spearheaded a campaign with NDMC and Chintan NGO to get all restaurants in Khan Market, New Delhi to give up single-use plastics. Within 4 months, he convinced and converted nearly 80% restaurants, in this locality. Now nearly 95% of the establishments in the market have converted.

When he is not studying, Aditya goes door-to-door to hotels, restaurants, sports clubs in Delhi-Gurgaon, requesting them to give up single-use plastics and switch to eco-friendly alternatives.

At a #plasticupvaas campaign in November-December 2018, Aditya gave presentations against single-use plastics and encouraged the public to pledge to give up at least one item of single-use from their lives.

He took a series of these presentations with RWAs, Cinema complexes, and malls. Aditya actively participates in climate strikes in Delhi to draw the attention of our policymakers to the immediate need to address this emergency.

Aditya was selected by the United Nations, as one of the Youth, to attend the UN Youth Climate Action Summit 2019, at New York from 19th -24th Sept 2019. “It was a great honor to represent my beliefs and my nation,” he said.

Aditya, with support from his parents started a Facebook community page, The Alternatives, to promote reduced burden on the planet by “refusing what can not be reused”. This page now has nearly 22,000 followers.

7. Abhishek Banerjee, a Construction Engineering graduate and a student at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India started his journey with a field trip to Haroa Brick Kiln in West Bengal and was horrified to see the pathetic conditions of the worker involved in these kilns.

Abhishek says that brick-dust exposure is one of the major threat to kiln workers, that leads to acute and chronic debilitating diseases. He also found the industry environmentally hazardous. As per sources, India’s conventional brick-making industry burns around up to 40 million tonnes of coal per year, pumping out carbon dioxide and sulfur.

In 2017, Abhishek along with his classmates started Qube, a social enterprise that develops bricks called the Plastiqube, made entirely from plastic waste. The aim was to successfully develop an environmentally conscious alternative to burnt clay bricks. Hence, he along with his team decided to use plastic waste to tackle two issues with a single solution.

The plastic used for the bricks is obtained from dustbins and junkyards from the locality with the help of waste collectors, most of whom were female & unemployed. The collected plastic waste includes used plastic water bottles, polythene bags, discarded plastic containers, and more.

After the collection, they are cleaned and then shredded before they are compressed into plastiqubes. The initiative has been endorsed by his alma mater- Jadavpur University. Department of Construction Engineering, MSME, Government of India and Indian Concrete Institute. UN Environment, Forbes Asia and the Royal Institute of British Architect Journal have also recognised this proposal.

April 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the theme this year is Climate Action. How do you plan to commemorate this historic day? You can register your Earth Day 2020 event here.

Editor’s note: We celebrate these young changemakers who have, directly and indirectly, helped India reach its carbon net neutrality goals. 

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