How much water does a train use?


Does a train use water? Who knew? Well, some high school students in Chennai, in the south of India, can tell you all about it.


As part of a school project at the Daniel Thomas Matriculation School in Koyambedu, to the west of Chennai, they did a study of the water usage of the Mangalore Express.


Visiting the railway station and talking with the yard manager in charge of keeping the trains ready, they learned about the storage points of water on the train. Most of the water is kept on top of the train. When the compartments are air conditioned, then water is stored underneath the train and has to be pumped.


The students calculated the amount of water being used – and how it can be conserved. “Even we didn’t know that much information,” one of the train officials commented.


The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), based in Chennai, conducts programs like this in schools all across south India, and even in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The program is offered jointly by Wipro, an Indian IT company based in Bangalore and CPREEC, Chennai.


Generating data that can be useful to engineers and scientists, these studies engage students in scientific field work that is precise and meaningful.



Who needs water?


Why is it important for students to know about water use? As we all know the world is running out of water. In India, with over a billion people, with widespread drought conditions, and with disputes between states over river water,  there is already a growing crisis.


But there is hope and a ray of light around the corner when a future generation is being trained to think and act in terms of conservation.


This work gives these students an eye-opening glimpse of the problems at hand and tools for knowing how to search for solutions.



Birds, squirrels, frogs, and fish


At another school, L’École Chempka in Trivundram, Kerala, also in south India, every student in the school is involved. Assigned to a particular wetland and guided by a teacher who has been specially trained for this program, the students visit the wetland three or four times. They come up with a report, cataloguing the biodiversity of this spot – the trees, plants, insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish. They develop a complete map of all the species and how they are all interrelated as part of the eco-system.


In a world where species are going extinct faster than we can discover them, what better way to shine a light on the inter-connectedness of natural species and the need for preserving them?



Catching rainwater


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In Nerul, in Goa, on the west coast, in a village school run by the parish, students installed a percolation pond for their school. Working hard out in the sun for two months, they dug up the ground and carried away stones. Now, water flows into the pond from surrounding areas, for storage. The Parish Priest, Father Bolmax Periera, could often be spotted among the students, encouraging them and lending a hand.


A percolation pond, a shallow pond that catches rainwater, prevents excess evaporation and erosion. It helps the water to be conserved and filtered into the ground, improving soil moisture and mitigating drought.



Working together with Wipro


Mr. Arasu, the Senior Environmental Education Officer who administers CPREEC’s Earthian program, explains that the projects chosen may relate either to water or to biodiversity.


Recalling the day he met the Wipro Earthian team – Mr. Mr. Abhijit, Mr. Paul Zacharia, and Ms. Arathi Hanumanthappa in early 2015, Mr. Arasu muses, “Dr. Sudhakar of CPREEC introduced us, and this was the start of a really great time working together.”


A major highlight of the program happens every year in February Wipro when holds an annual award event to recognize the accomplishments of the students.


Mr. Arasu reflects, “The children travel to Bangalore for the event. They are shown royal hospitality and treated like special guests. The Chairman of Wipro, Mr. Azimpremji takes their questions, ranging from “Why do you care about the environment?” to “What do you think of smart cities?” Music, wildlife photographers, and artists make for a lively atmosphere, and the students get to know others who, like themselves, are captivated by the world of nature.



Reaching tens of thousands of students


Every year CPREEC promotes over 400 of these projects in nine Indian states and two union territories: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Goa, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


Just in these states alone, CPREEC enriches the lives of tens of thousands of students with the Earthian program.


There is no lack of enthusiasm among the students. Getting out of the classroom for a day in the countryside is a big hit, and learning is fun. Each project to be undertaken is designed and submitted by a group of five students guided by a teacher. Then the students carry out their project.


Some of the students go on to become scientists or engineers; others, no matter what their chosen field, will always carry with them a deeper understanding and an enduring love for nature and the environment.


This innovative program is working to create a new generation of environmentalists in India, a land where the environmental movement first got its start many centuries ago.


Traditionally, in India, there has always been a deep reverence for nature. In recent decades, the overwhelming influences of the modern age have sometimes pushed this ancient worldview into the background.




But now this age-old love of nature is finding ways to reassert itself in a new generation of environmentalists.