At 12.30 PM, I walk into my younger one’s school to pick him up. I feel scared and angered in equal measures when I am greeted by little faces covered in masks instead of their usual twinkling eyes, or their smiles as they see familiar faces. Is this the life that we envisioned for our children? Climate change is real. And it’s time we realised that.
Schools across Delhi/NCR will remain shut down for the next two days. The AQI levels are severe and even after running the air purifier for the entire night in my house, the display screen only reads-very poor. The situation is genuinely grim.
The only light I see is the aware present generation asking the right questions, keen to learn from the mistakes we made and ready to find solutions.
We spoke to a few young crusaders who have taken it upon themselves to bring about a change and create awareness for climate change.
1. Amaira Chawla – Age-5
“Did you also have pollution holidays? What about masks and air purifiers? Did you also use them?” are the honest and innocent questions that 5-year-old Amaira poses to her parents, teachers and school authorities.
She does not understand why she can’t go to school or go out to play anymore.
“I have been at home for almost a week and a half now. I cannot even step out and play with my friends in the evening. Even if I do go somewhere I have to wear my mask and then go,” says Amaira, her frustration audible.
Amaira’s mother tells me that the pollution is causing Amaira to cough incessantly and despite several visits to the doctor, she has not seen any improvement. Her mother, like many, is worried.
Little Amaira wonders if her parents lived the same way. Her queries make the adults look elsewhere, as they have no answers.
“We have to find a way to stop people from suffering like this. I just want to go back to school and play outside,” says the girl who is perhaps too young to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, yet, understands that something is wrong and that we need to act fast.
2. Abhiir Bhalla – Age-18
Abhiir describes himself as a student environmentalist. Studying at Ashoka University, Sonipat, Abhiir suffers every time the pollution levels spike. “I have a form of bronchitis, which isn’t life threatening, but every year, since I can remember, I have had to use the nebuliser because my airways get choked up,” he says.
It was in grade 6, during a school workshop, that he started understanding about global warming and the impact that it has on us. It propelled Abhiir to be an active participant in various awareness programmes.
“When I was in grade 9, I started taking an active interest in working on issues around air pollution. I have worked with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Delhi Metro, and also with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on various issues pertaining to the environment,” says the proactive teenager.
“One of the biggest projects that I started is called Swacch Chetna, an alliance between my former school and the Delhi Metro. We involved students from various schools and undertook cleanliness drives and plantation drives at metro stations.”
Abhiir was also responsible for spearheading various initiatives in school like the solar panelling and waste segregation. “One of the biggest life lessons that I have gathered from working on environmental issues, is that every day is a day toward saving tomorrow,” says Abhiir.
3. Haaziq Kazi: Age-13
At the age of 12, Kazi declared during a Ted-Ed Club talk that he falls under the category of people who solves problems rather than create them.
During the session, he said, “On July 2013, a young whale had hit upon the shores of northern Netherlands. The people were very surprised to find an unusually bloated stomach. When they opened it up, they found among other things, two hose pipes, a 9-metre rope and 37 pounds of plastic. Its cause of death: intestinal blockage.”
It was this video that moved Kazi to become an innovator and a climate-change activist.
ERVIS, Kazi’s first innovation, is a prototype ocean cleaner ship that can suck out plastic from the ocean’s surface. Picture an enormous vacuum cleaner with compartments that can process waste, collect waste oil, and treat different sizes of plastic by analysing and segregating it!
He kept working on his model to perfect it and ensure that it does its job well. In this report, he says, “To be honest, nobody thought ERVIS had a future at the time. My mum was super supportive. They were always proud of me about how I applied my thought process to a problem that I felt passionate about, but that was about it.”
4. Aman Sharma – Age-16
“I have felt very passionately about the environment and especially about all living creatures for the longest time,” begins Aman. Holidays for him usually meant spending time in forest reserves and his love for bird-watching started out then. “Just seeing the kind of destruction that we have been doing to the environment and in turn to these creatures breaks my heart,” he says.
“Did you know that Delhi is the second most bird-rich city in the world?” he asks. “We have flamingos, pelicans, and even cranes that visit Delhi every year,” he says with passion, “The ignorance is what makes people turn a blind eye to the suffering that these creatures are going through. We also end up exploring the natural spaces that these creatures use for our own gains and in turn we put them in so much distress.”
Not one just to speak about these issues, in May 2019, Aman also petitioned to the Prime Minister and the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Development urging them to take note of the environmental concerns that we are living with.
“I managed to gather around 3.3 lakh signatures for my campaign and we delivered it to the PM’s office as well in September.”
As a next step, Aman says that he will also be filing a Public Interest Litigation with a prayer to bring about immediate changes to combat the pollution levels.
Aman himself follows many sustainable practices, some of them include not using single use plastic, carrying his own bottle of water when he steps out, and carrying a cloth bag when he goes shopping. While these are small steps they go a long way in protecting the environment.
5. Aditya Dubey – Age 16
Aditya has actively been involved in launching various environmental campaigns.
“Since 2016, I have been running two community service campaigns (i) Plant A Million Trees Initiative: which works in the field of tree plantation, reducing air pollution and reduction of usage of single-use plastic; and (ii) Save The Street Children Campaign: which works for the welfare of street and underprivileged children.”
Identifying single-use plastics to be one of the biggest pollutants, Aditya filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal urging e-commerce platforms to rethink the amount of plastic they use. He says, “The Tribunal has called for a status report from the CPCB and in view of clear case of violation of the Rules by these companies we are likely to succeed.”
“I have also launched a campaign against plastic bottling companies as these plastic water bottles constitute a major part of the plastic waste generated in our country and are choking our landfills. I have requested them to either switch from plastic bottles to recyclable glass bottles or provide an undertaking that will ensure 100 per cent collection and recycling of the plastic bottles sold by them.”
These are just five children doing their bit for climate change. What’s heartening is to see so many of them come forward and do small acts, which they believe will go a long way in protecting and restoring our environment.
If you know of such green warriors, write to us.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)