EXCLUSIVE

FINDING THE GREEN IN SMOG

In 2015, three toddlers filed a petition in the apex court of the country seeking measures to control the pollution in Delhi. The three toddlers, Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari, aged 6 months at the time, and Zoya Rao Bhasin, aged 14 months at the time, did this through their parents, of course. But Supreme Court largely rejected their petition, on religious grounds. We at School LIVE do believe that children are the future, hence instead of giving you another list of already repeated facts, we decided to present to you a programme that could be the change we are looking for.

Why should Delhi think over Pollution?

Delhi, time and again, features itself on the “Most Polluted Cities in the World” list. In March, 2009, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India declared Delhi as “India’s Asthma Capital”. The question is why should it bother us? And more importantly, why is it so significant that children not be exposed to such toxic air?

A survey conducted in 2015, by HEAL Foundation and ‘Breathe Blue’, found that 40% of the children’s lungs are comprised in the capital city as compared to other metropolis in India. Children are the most vulnerable to unhealthy atmospheric state as they not only breathe twice as fast as adults, but their immune systems are still at the developing stage.

Delhi is prone to such disastrous pollution, for once, because of its geography. It is landlocked, where the wind-movement often gets trapped. As the temperatures drop, dust and other pollutants further stay suspended with the trapped air.

A lot of experts will give you a lot of solutions for the problem, some of them are short term (cloud seeding and air masks, etc.) and some of course, can only be implemented in the long term. But what becomes more significant is the knowledge that we are provided today about the issue. Not only as individuals, but mobilising the futures of tomorrow, the students and the schools.

THE GREEN SCHOOL PROGRAMME

Traffic moves along a road shrouded in haze in New Delhi, India, on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. India, China and Brazil, three of the largest developing nations, joined the U.S. in a list of the biggest historical contributors to global warming, according to a study by researchers in Canada. Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Remember a few years ago, when Environmental studies was introduced as a subject into the school curriculum? Remember how we groaned about the addition of yet another set of textbooks to our already overloaded  school bags, conveniently neglecting the importance and need of the said inclusion? Well, if one notices, that has been the trend. Every once in awhile, we hear of some apparent hazard of pollution on our health, we discuss the matter, resolve to make changes; take steps, even make a few changes in our lives, but then, that’s the end of it. A few months, nay; weeks later, we conveniently forget the entire matter and get back to our old lives, following our habits.

Old habits, they say, die hard. So shouldn’t they be nipped in the bud? Taking a cue from this, The Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi (CSE), started the Green School Programme (GSP)with the sole objective of making kids aware of the environmental hazards of our lifestyle and arousing their interest in reducing our carbon footprints and making the earth, a better place to live.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi. CSE researches into, lobbies for and communicates the urgency of development that is both sustainable and equitable. CSE, upon realising that environmental issues are taken into consideration by schools only when conducting a debate on the topic or organizing a ‘Best out of Waste’ activity, came up with the Green School Programme, to legitimize the steps taken by various schools to conserve the environment. The credibility of CSE’s Green School Programme lies in the fact that the programme concentrates solely on ‘doing’ and treads beyond textbooks and theories.

Green School Programme encapsulates in itself, a community of schools, from all over India, who strive to educate and thus, better themselves in their treatment of the natural resources. Thus, each participant of the Green School Programme, undergoes an annual audit where they assess themselves on the basis of the following parameters:

Air:

Assessment of the effect of the school transport on the quality of air.

Energy:

Assesses the energy consumption by the school.

Land:

Mapping of the green areas of the school and identification of the bio diverse areas.

Water:

Assessment of the water conservation methods and sanitation methods, employed by the schools.

Waste:

Assessment of the amount of waste generated by the schools, their methods of segregation and disposal of the said waste.

Based upon the result of the said audit, the schools are, thus, categorised into the four distinct categories:

Green (schools that are 70% eco friendly)

Yellow (Schools that are 50-69.9% eco friendly)

Orange (Schools that are 35-49.9% eco friendly)

Red (Schools that are less than 34.9% eco friendly)

Thus a green school, as per the Green School Programme is “a resource-efficient building, one that uses little water, optimizes energy efficiency, minimizes waste-generation, catches and recycles water and provides healthier space for its occupants as compared to a conventional building.”

The categorization and audit not only enables the schools to examine the consequences of their actions but also allows them to improve their practices with the expert help of CSE. Needless to mention, the Green School Programme organizes events, workshops, drives and competitions to create awareness among the students and to prompt them to take immediate steps. GSP conducts workshops, each one of which focuses on one particular aspect of the environment, namely air, water, soil, waste management and the like.

However, workshops and events create, what can be termed as drawing room environment enthusiasts. The workshops, no doubt, raise awareness among students and stir awake the slumbering environment conservationist in them, but as soon as the workshops get over, the zeal to conserve the environment begins to fade away, ultimately giving way to our old habits, which are convenient and require less effort, for who wants to get up, leave the warmth of their vehicles, walk up to the trash can and throw in a water bottle? Or segregate their waste before disposing it off? Or get a leaky tap repaired?

So to combat this particular glitch, the Green School Programme designed a community portal, called the Green School Programme Community Portal. The idea behind being the provision of a means to students, where they can discuss their ideas and actively act upon them, the portal is a refreshingly new take upon the rut old ways of invoking participation.

The community portal features a forum, where the students can hold anonymous discussions about anything, ranging from ban on the use of firecrackers to composting. The members can earn green points by posting pictures of themselves, where they have helped the environment. With an option to choose from categories including food, energy, water, waste and air, the members can pick their category and select their act of conservation to gain points. However, these collection of points does amount to something. Once you log in to the portal, each member is assigned a virtual brown patch of littered land, which turns green, bit by bit, as you earn green points. If that’s not adorable, we don’t know what is…

The efforts of the Green School Programme are laudable for the simple reason that the programme prompts the students to take action, which the lessons in their textbooks and have been failing to do. In addition, the GSP organizes the Green School Awards every year, wherein the top ten green schools of the nation are awarded. The schools are also given laurels for their efforts in different fields of environment conservation (find the list on the next page!). With the GSP awards, CSE once again does it right, for isn’t a sense of achievement just the right thing to spur you into action?

All the information has been sourced with permission from the Green Schools Programme

Centre for Science and Environment, website @ http://www.greenschoolsprogramme.org/ and http://www.cseindia.org/

Box:

What We Can Still Do!

Focus on Mass Rapid Transport Systems (MRTS). These are specifically designed to carry large numbers of passengers rapidly at one time as, for instance, the Metro. Minimise the use of personal cars, and promote carpooling.

To improve air quality, minimize the burning of leaves, grass, paper and plastic waste in and around school. Also ensure proper fuel is used for generators and there is adequate exhaust facility for its emissions.

December-2016