By Sriya Narayana

“Take a cloth bag when you go shopping,” say young children to their parents, as they keep a watchful eye on their enviable surroundings. The youth of Madhugiri Educational District in Tumkur, Karnataka, South India, have the privilege of growing up in the lap of nature surrounded by endless green hills, under a rare blanket of sky where sparkling stars are still visible. The satellite city of Bengaluru (which is around 70 km [44 miles] away from the district) was observed to be at risk of increased plastic pollution when CPR Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), the Pollution Control Board, and the Educational Department linked hands in 2020 to safeguard the region.

“We had to postpone this program due to the pandemic, though we still managed to conduct training online,” says Ravishankar, Project Officer at CPREEC. He reveals how young boys and girls who went through the training started taking their own bags when they went shopping, steered clear of snack brands that came encased in glossy plastic, and displayed a remarkable curiosity and enthusiasm for the educational material that CPREEC provides. “Rural students take this seriously,” says Ravishankar, noting how those who are accustomed to living in nature’s beauty are fiercely protective of it.

The start of the campaign

CPREEC kicked off their on-the-ground campaign in the years 2021-22 when pandemic restrictions eased, visiting as many as 800 schools and training 120 teachers on the ill-effects of plastic and practical ways to avoid them. “We broadcast 3D films on biodiversity, water and waste management, distributed posters, and did demonstrations with local authorities,” he says, adding that the life cycle of plastic – the manner in which it inevitably returns to us through our food, water and air – was a point of focus, as was the effect on cows being vulnerable to plastic inhalation. Schools in the area also performed street plays about the subject, while plastic waste segregation began to become the norm in several institutions. “We could see the before-after effect in three months,” reports Ravishankar, who is accustomed to waiting much longer for results.

On October 2, on Gandhi Jayanthi (Ghandi’s birthday), he had the opportunity to be in the audience for a change, witnessing a celebration where a retiring schoolteacher chose not to do the typical confetti and platitudes, but instead give a meaningful message to the next generation – about using cloth instead of plastic. “Mrs. Mahalakshmi from Government High School distributed a hundred cloth bags on the occasion instead of holding a party with the students,” he says of the event that was covered in local newspapers. Ravishankar speaks of the unwavering support of government employees who chip in, not for the limelight – of which there is none, but because they care deeply about the issue and want to spread the seeds as far as they can. “K. G. Rangaiah, Deputy Director of Public Instruction and T. A. Narendrakumar, Deputy Project Coordinator of Madhugiri Educational District wanted to take this program to five more talukas (districts),” he says. “And recently, the Science Teachers Association in the region called to say they can see the impact for themselves and that they want to continue the program.”

Where there are children…

Ravishankar’s trademark perseverance is rooted in the belief that where there are children, there is hope. Every day, he sees evidence of how one is never too young to nurture the magnificent environment which will someday be their legacy.

How you can help

By donating to Forest Voices of India, you’ll be supporting this work of engaging a generation of children in India in this work of protecting nature and declining to use plastic. Donations go to support charities in India. Thank you!

« »