Pollution, deforestation, ozone depletion – there are numerous factors culminating in climatic changes that today threaten not only human beings but the very existence of our planet. To reverse this negative trend, several eco-warriors have sprung since Rachel Lious Carson wrote her seminal work, “The Silent Spring” in 1962 that kicked off environmental movement in America and the world over. Here, we bring you the Indian eco-warriors – some well known and others who have begun to influence future generations in India.
Crusading through films
A leading Indian film maker specialising in films about wildlife and the environment. He has won over 300 awards for his work spreading awareness about biodiversity and species conservation, including helping conserve and protect key species such as whale sharks, elephants, tigers, vultures and horseshoe crabs. With over three decades of filmmaking experience, Mike has produced over 600 films that have proven to be a powerful tool and proof of the difference a film can make in bringing about changes locally, nationally and globally.
A soul stirring eco-warrior
A physicist and a philosopher, ecofeminist and antiglobalisation author, Vandana Shiva established Navdanya in 1991, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade. In 2004, Shiva started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley, in collaboration with Schumacher College, Britain. She is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalisation, along with Jerry Mander, Edward Goldsmith, Ralph Nader, Jeremy Rifkin and a figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalisation movement.
Hope in high altitude desert
This retired octogenarian civil engineer is an ice man with a difference. Popularly known as ‘The Glacier Man’ for his efforts to save a dozen artificial glaciers, Chewang is generating water and greenery in the barren landscape of Ladakh.
Charting a better destination
This bus conductor from Tamil Nadu is a true eco-warrior who has single handedly planted 380,000 saplings for more than a quarter of a century now. Besides, he lectures college and school students to raise their environmental awareness. No doubt his efforts will lead to a brighter future.
Heralding green hospitals
Founder & CMD of Guwahati Neurological Research Centre in Assam, Dr Borah is not only a renowned practicing neurologist but is also heralding a new renaissance by building hospitals using local materials like bamboo so that people can accept it as their own. Impressed, the World Bank awarded GNRC a grant worth USD150,000 earlier this month to help scale up operations. Discussions are on for West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. An empanelled hospital for Bhutan, proposals for Myanmar and South Africa are now on the 65-year-old doctor’s to-do list.
Dirty battles for a clean cause
He single-handedly won numerous landmark judgments from India’s Supreme Court since 1984, including introducing lead-free gasoline to India and reducing the industrial pollution fouling the Ganges and eroding the Taj Mahal. Recipient of several prestigious awards like the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1996 and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1997, Mehta’s public interest environmental litigation cases have formed the foundation for the development of environmental jurisprudence in India.
Influencing thinking or shaping destinies
Established in 1974 the New Delhi based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is an environmental think tank for over three decades now. Among many of TERI’s initiatives is the Lighting a Billion Lives Initiative launched in 2005 which aims to bring electricity to energy starved rural areas of India through solar energy. The initiative has taken solar energy to remote places like Sundarbans, West Bengal and Thar Desert, Rajasthan.
Delhi Metro, Kalindi College
Energy from the tube
Millions in Delhi use its tube, known as the Delhi Metro, which is helping make the capital city more liveable. A group of undergraduate students from Physics and Computer Department at Kalindi college, Delhi University, discovered an innovative way of harnessing wind energy churned out by Metro trains to generate electricity. The project, undertaken by Kalindi College, has also got the backing of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which allowed the students to install a turbine on trial basis at one of the underground metro stations. Enthused, the project got EUR 21,217 sanction from Delhi University as well. Harnessing renewable energy is the need of the hour when no country in the world has developed low carbon economy.
A grassroots champion
Sanjit Bunker Roy attended some of the prestigious and elite schools and was a national squash champion. After conducting a survey of water supplies in 100 drought prone areas, Roy established the Social Work and Research Centre in 1972, now called Barefoot college. Its mission soon changed from a focus on water and irrigation to empowerment and sustainability. The programmes focused on setting up water pumps near villages and training the local population to maintain them without dependence on outside mechanics, providing training as paramedics for local medical treatment, and on solar power to decrease dependence and time spent on kerosene lighting.
Cooking on clean, cheap technology
This Pune-based organisation sells biomass stoves and fuel to domestic and commercial users and claims it is 30-40 pc cheaper than LPG. The fuel comes in the form of pellets made from agri-waste. Though agri-waste has been used to generate power, this was the first time it was being used for cooking. In 2011, the World Economic Forum identified First Energy as one of 25 firms globally “whose cuttingedge technologies are transforming business and society”. Developed in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, First Energy is targeting households in villages and small towns, encouraging housewives to give up cooking on chulhas (stoves).
Energy from the Tub Not a paper tiger
An Indian environmentalist, a political activist and a major proponent of the green concept of sustainable development, Narain has been with the India-based Centre for Science and Environment since 1982. She is currently the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, the director of the Society for Environmental Communications and publishes the fortnightly magazine Down To Earth. Recipient of Stockholm Water Prize in 2005, nothing escapes Sunita – whether it is water conservation, over use of pesticide, soil degradation, air pollution, cola controversy or Maggi. Sunita has helped make Indian government and business accountable.
T V Anupama
Kicking a healthy campaign
Pesticide-ridden food is a norm in India. However, with a no-nonsense food regulator around, one cannot take a chance. This is exactly what is happening in India’s southern state of Kerala where TV Anupama, the food safety commissioner is busy conducting raids on adulterators and has even banned a popular spice manufacturer from selling adulterated products.