“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets credit.”
– Harry S. Truman
It’s a selfish world. A world where, even as a toddler, you are taught to put your interests above others. A world where celebrities are glorified and consumerism seems unstoppable and where anyone who thinks otherwise seems perfectly deluded. However, even in a bubble that seemingly only caters to self-interest, there are a few people who hold their own; who find happiness and solace in their quiet, selfless acts that help in making the world a better, greener place. And they are no different from any of us.
Today being World Earth Day, we list down ten such everyday Indian environmentalists, who work selflessly for the cause of saving our planet. Ordinary men & women who have accomplished incredible feats (largely without due credit) partly through extraordinary innovation & partly through determination who we hope will inspire us into making changes in our own lives.
I. Aabid Surti
...The artist and author who’s singlehandedly saved 5.5 million litres of water by fixing people’s taps.
A national award winning author, Surti was greatly bothered by the fact that Indians don’t take water preservation seriously. He was desperate to do his bit, and thus decided that he would take a plumber from door to door and fix taps for free – one building per week. As a creative artist in India, he didn’t have the necessary funds required. However, as luck would have it, he unexpectedly won Rs. 1 lakh from the Sahitya Sansthan for his contribution to Hindi literature. This helped him kick start his one-man conservation project “Drop Dead” in 2007.
By 2013, due to the project, Aabid had saved as much as 5.5 million litres of water on his own, by fixing thousands of taps in thousands of homes every week. This incredible man has since received many accolades for his project but still continues to keep his head down and concentrates on what he does best – help people save water.
II. Jadav Molai Payeng
...The man who grew his own forest.
They call him the man who grew his own forest and as such, you can imagine that the story of Payeng is intriguing to say the least. An illiterate, he was deeply disheartened by the fact that many cold-blooded reptiles died because of excessive heat, one that his uneducated mind quickly understood to be because of excessive deforestation in his native place of Assam.
Determined to make a change, at sixteen years old he started planting trees to alleviate the environmental damage and before he knew it, he ended up creating a forest! Today, the forest is 1,360 acres huge and harbours various endangered species like Tigers, Rhinoceros, and various other deer, birds, rabbits and Elephants. Jadav himself does not consider this as much of an achievement as it is a way of life and he continues to live on the outskirts of his forest where he keeps himself busy by expanding its borders.
III. GV Dasarathi
...The man who built his house entirely out of recycled goods and trash.
Another intriguing case on the list, Dasarathi is known to lead by example – and does so by living in a house made completely out of recycled products. Called “Kachra Mane” (trash house) everything in his house is recycled from the wood, to the toilets, even the refrigerator and the microwave are second hand!
This beautiful house, complete with rainwater harvesting and solar energy facilities, cost Dasarathi just 15% of what it would otherwise cost to make a similar house. Not only does it save money, but it also ensures that no precious planetary resources are wasted on creating all things he would need afresh, thereby making Kachra Mane the ideal home.
IV. Siddhant Sandagi
...The teenager who’s hell bent on spreading environmental awareness through his blog.
A teenager, Siddhant worked as a writer for youth leader magazine, where he often came across various articles related to environmental issues. Fearing not enough is being done he started his own blog, called greengains.blogspot.com. The blog concentrates completely and wholly on environmental issues, informing people about both the dangers that climatic changes possess, while also applauding the efforts of those who work towards the betterment of the environment. For one so young, his efforts towards spreading awareness of these issues is seriously commendable as his blog will surely prove to you.
V. Aparajita Datta
...The biology student who’s protecting the wildlife & birds of Namdapha National Park.
As a student of biology almost a decade ago, deforestation and excessive hunting in her beloved Namdapha National Park was a constant source of despair for Aparajita. The excessive hunting of the hornbills by the local poor tribes threatened the birds’ existence so to counter this, Datta took matters into her own hands.
She established a community based conservation programme, which helped reduce hunting, save wildlife, and also improved the quality of life of the tribe by building schools and bridges. They also supplied solar panel lamps, which helped the tribals save money. Fuel efficient stoves and water heating devices were provided too, all of which contributed greatly to the protection of the beautiful birds.
VI. Mansukhlal Prajapati
...The rural inventor who creates modern kitchen appliances entirely out of clay.
Think of a refrigerator. Now think of a refrigerator made of clay, that uses no electricity. Impossible, right? Well, not anymore. Mansukhlal Prajapati, a rural inventor from Gujarat, has built a whole range of modern kitchen appliances out of clay. Be it a fridge or a non-stick tawa, Prajapati has it all. The fact that it acts as a natural coolant helps save a lot of energy, and also reduces the emissions of CFC gases that are emitted from refrigerators which contribute greatly to global warming.
VII. Madhu Bhatnagar
...The teacher who implemented the revolutionary rooftop rainwater harvesting system in over 2000 schools.
A teacher by profession, Madhu Bhatnagar always cared about the environment. However, in 1999, when she came up with the idea of implementing rooftop rainwater harvesting in her school, little did she know that she was about to bring about a revolution. The model was soon adopted by over 2000 schools all over India, helping save millions of litres of water in the process. A firm believer that children make a difference to society, her school kids play a vital role in the rainwater harvesting programme, and she also often encourages field trips to national parks in order to help them understand the environment better.
VIII. Tilak Vij
...The man who left everything behind to create conservation centres for the wildlife of Himachal Pradesh.
Would you quit a well paying job in an air conditioned office in Germany to come and work tirelessly in the unforgiving jungles of Himachal Pradesh? Well, Tilak Vij did. Troubled by the human-animal conflicts, he decided to leave Germany and worked tirelessly to save the animals in the state.
After years of hard work, he has created six nature clubs, which have helped increase the state’s green cover while also proving a safe haven for the animals. He now plans to set up a leopard conservation centre, and will do so soon with the help of the state government.
IX. Tulsi Gowda
...The rural environmentalist who has planted over 100000 saplings.
An environmentalist from a rural village in Karnataka, Tulsi Gowda is an inspiration to many. Although illiterate, she understood the plight of the forest and started planting saplings. Today, she has planted over 100,000 saplings in all, and the number increases every day.
Apart from that, she has also volunteered to look after the various nurseries of the forest department. Her work and contributions have been honoured by the government but like all others on this list, she does it not for the accolades, but for her love for the environment.
X. The Waste Pickers
...The closet environmentalists who dispose of 80% of the 750000 tonnes of waste India generates every week.
And finally, the most important environmentalists of all. Dubbed the “hidden environmentalists”, they’re usually ignored because they’re not considered to be doing any favours to the environment. Well, it’s time for some facts. India generates 750,000 tons of waste every week, and 80% of it is disposed off/managed by the waste pickers. Sure, they do it for the money but without them, not only would the task be a lot tougher, but it would also require hiring a huge number of government workers who could be used for other work.
The waste pickers keep our roads clean, help recycling and disintegrate the waste, which helps our environment greatly, and thus, these hidden environmentalists deserve as much praise as anyone else on this list.
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