This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Charkha Features. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Meet Nitant Chavan: A 15-Year-Old Traveler And Environmentalist

More from Charkha Features

Nitant Chavan, a 15-year-old adolescent from the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, befriended the bicycle when he was just a toddler. His bond with the cycle grew deep with age and his escapades in the wilderness connected him with nature. Hailing from a small village called Varavade, located on the edge of the river of the same name, Nitant grew around paddy fields and mangroves.

The slow pace of village life was conducive to his love for the cycle and environment. It provided a space to Nitant and helped him bond with the trees and the flora and fauna. The expanse around the village enchanted him and he decided to explore it. As he cycled from place to place, he sensed the depletion of the ecosystem and decided to raise awareness about it.

Nitant Chavan is an avid cyclist and environmentalist.

After completing Class 4th from primary school in his village, Nitant had to enroll in a school in the nearby town of Kankavli for further studies due to the lack of middle or secondary schools there. When it was time to go to high school, Nitant decided to cycle the distance of 8 kilometers to and fro between the village and school in Kankavali while other children from his village travelled by local bus service. During the weekends and holidays, he started visiting the lustrous countryside regularly.

Nitant’s Journey To Environmentalism

When Nitant was in Class 6, he participated in a 480-kilometre bicycle rally organized by Rashtra Sevadal – a youth wing of the Socialist Party of Maharashtra, for conveying the messages of equality and fraternity. The rally’s starting point was Meeraj – a town in western Maharashtra’s Sangli district and it ended at Malvan in Sindhudurg district. Eleven-year-old Nitant was the youngest one to finish a 480-kilometre cycle rally.

After the rally, he became a wanderer determined to explore the tract without any stated purpose. “He would plan his own route and travel 20, 30, or at times 50 kilometres in a day. On Sundays and other holidays, Nitant wakes up as on the first bell of the alarm at 5 in the morning. On other days, the alarm keeps on ringing while we have to wake him up. But on his planned trip he readies himself in no time and our ‘gypsy’ sets out for his pilgrimage,” shared his mother.

Once in the wilderness, his dialogue with nature begins. Nitant is not merely a wanderer – he’s also a keen observer of the ecosystems and biodiversity. Before the monsoon, he makes it a point to toss the seeds collected over days into the mud. He’s also an avid bird watcher. The unplanned development has taken a toll on ecosystems in the Konkan region. The widening of the Mumbai-Goa highway has resulted in the felling of ancient trees and mangroves have been destroyed alongside the destruction of the birds’ abodes.

Cyclist Nitant has been witnessing the destruction during his adventure on two wheels. Nitant’s resolve to protect the green gets a renewed impetus with the felling of each tree for development activities like widening of the Mumbai Goa highway or for building hotels and car parks.

The district of Sindhudurg is known for its natural beauty; it has 121 kilometres of seashore where kayaking, rafting, and other water sports are organized. However, tourism has also added to the destruction of the scenic beauty of the coastal and marine biodiversity. Nitant is worried that the identity of the district which is associated with its richness of nature and which draws many tourists to the district, will be lost due to the mindless development in the name of tourism.

About a year ago, Nitant got associated with an adventure group called ‘Kankavali Cycle Riders’. He loves taking on a challenging goal set by the group like ‘Competing for 100 K.M. in a day’. Although he likes being associated with the group, he also loves to go cycling alone.

The solitude gives him the space to communicate with the trees and the ecosystem. While he’s keenly observing the fauna, trees, ecosystems, stones, water bodies,  and animals; he’s able to notice the changes taking place in them. Still a teenager, he would love to make a career out of his strong inner calling. While striking a dialogue with the moving wheels of his bicycle he’s able to connect with the environment, open sky, birds, animals, trees, and plants.

Cycling And Environmentalism

Nitant has earned a name in the district and several children approach him for guidance. He’s become a coach to these children as they have become part of his gathering. Cycling is both healthy and eco-friendly.

Lately, the number of cyclists has increased in the Varavade – Kankavali region. People are pulling out their rusted cycles from their backyard. They are using these cycles not only to complete chores but to explore the region. The younger children from the neighbourhood have started cycling with Nitant leaving mobiles and televisions behind. Such is the influence of this teenage prodigy. Nitant’s tribe is growing.

The parents of younger children are not worried to send their wards with Nitant for longer rides. His younger sister Maitreyee doesn’t leave her older brother and tries to follow him. She too has completed 25 and 50 K.M. rides. Nitant is also a blogger, after returning from excursion he pens the experiences of his journey.

He’s trying to spread awareness about our ecosystems. He is not into the empty rhetoric of the ‘save nature, save trees’ kind of activism and his actions compel others to respond.  Nitant is also a National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadet. Nitant has completed 200 kilometres in a day and has broken his own record by completing the 300-kilometre journey from Kankavali to Panaji in 24 hours. More challenges beckon him, and he is out to chase his dreams.

The cycle journey is a solitary pursuit – one is all alone in the lows or highs of the passage. One gets to interact with new people and witness the beauty of the forest. The journey allows you get to see the several forms of nature. With each travel, Nitant adds few more names of people to his ‘bank’ account. It’s not a financial bank, it’s a bank of friendship and kindness.

His aim is to get acquainted with the state and the country while on two wheels and he wants to spread the message of ‘Hirve Jagu Hirve Japu’- ‘Live Green, Nurture Green’. Nitant intends to spread this tenet to the entire country. He will soon start his journey to trace every Indian state on two wheels and start a dialogue on the environment in every city he visits.

This article has been written by Alka Gadgil and Sarita Pawar  from Maharashtra for Charkha Features

You must be to comment.

More from Charkha Features

Similar Posts

By Maria Khanam

By Satyaprakash

By Connecting Dreams Foundation CDF

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below