The International Climate Champions, 2011 from Chennai speak about their commitment and plans to save the environment.

The conversation over lunch may have varied from the inhabitants of Mogappair West to the meal's spice levels, but it returned repeatedly to common themes such as climate change and the environment and more importantly, how to make projects targeted at these themes effectively. On a rainy Thursday afternoon at the British Council, Ramesh Rajesh, Asiem Sanyal and Prajitha. T, who joined the team of International Climate Champions from Chennai this year, met with few of their seniors, to exchange some notes.

Shruthi.K.N., a climate champion from the 2008 batch, and Swathi Paul from the 2010 batch were sharing some of their experience with the new entrants. “Earlier this year, I interned at the ‘Environmental Education Department' at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi,” said Shruthi, confidently. “I helped draft booklets for rural areas which explained simple concepts on how to save electricity,” she continued.

The group may have been interrupted with instructions to line up for a ‘smiling' photo shoot, but Shruthi was urged by the others to continue talking about her experience at TERI, the partner organisation, which along with British Council runs this youth-oriented programme.

Swathi shared her thoughts on the documentary she intends to make mid-next year on the water crisis in Chennai. “I had previously made a short-film in Tamil on packaged drinking water,” said this student of Anna University. “Water crisis is a global issue and climate change contributes to the salinity of water resources, reduces the number of migratory birds and affects the potability of groundwater,” she added.

Thoughts were shared on how to link Swathi's project to a documentary another new entrant to the programme was making in Tuticorin. “Through this programme, the idea is to also link several projects,” said Anu Thampi, project manager, International Climate Champions at the British Council, Chennai.

Effective networking is the key to linking projects together and the group had already started discussing ways to help each other out in the projects they are all involved in. While Shruthi and Swathi who have been in the programme for a few years now were confident about their visions, Ramesh, Asiem and Prajitha were ready to listen to any inputs they could get to improve the projects they are currently working on.

Social Action Project

Ramesh Rajesh, final-year, EEE, Sri Venkateswara Engineering College: “Although I am pursuing an EEE course, my interests lie in environmental sciences. I am hoping to launch a ‘Social Action Project' in a small village near Sriperumbudur which will look into waste disposal, constant current cuts, issues relating to sanitation, among other things. The first phase will involve a survey which will map all these problems. The idea is to come up with sustainable solutions to these issues.”

He suggested sustainable solutions such as a setting up compost pits and solar-powered cookers and lanterns that can be used to tackle power shortages in the area. “Since Sriperumbudur is a rapidly industrialising area, the objective is to make the inhabitants aware of their rights,” he added. During the local body elections, Ramesh had already made contacts with the local councillors, which he believed would be a fruitful partnership.

Self-Sustaining Project

Asiem Sanyal, final-year, B.Sc Advanced Zoology and Biotechnology, Loyola College: “The Pallikaranai Marsh is shrinking at a very rapid pace. I want to set up a ‘Self-Sustaining Project' to educate few people in the area who will in turn educate others. This would be about how the shrinking of the marsh impacts migratory birds and the depletion of diverse species. Since many factories around this area are using the marsh as a dumping ground, it is important for the community that depends on the marsh for its livelihood, to know about their rights and be capable of representing themselves.”

He is looking at a tactical approach of educating children through workshops and nature walks. Since language is a barrier for this student from Nagpur, he has a ‘green team'— a group of volunteers working with him to help him see this project through.

Environmental Journal

Prajitha.T, final-year, Journalism, M.O.P.Vaishnav College for Women: “I plan to set up an ‘Environmental Journal' online which will deal with local environmental issues such as illegal garbage dumping, sewage overflows and water contamination. I also want to network with those environmentalists who have been involved in smaller projects. In addition, as a final phase to my project I want to review eco-technologies such as energy-efficient cookers and environment-friendly electrical appliances. People only look at the initial cost of setting up energy-efficient appliances but instead, they should think about the long-term impact.”

She is looking at furthering her project with getting community support from the residents of a particular area by talking to the local councillor and finding practical solutions to civic problems. Through the youth club in her place of residence, she has worked towards making her apartment block, completely plastic-free.

This year 17 climate champions have been selected from across the country which includes seven from south India. “The objectives are to spread awareness about the environment by selecting good communicators who can talk about situations,” said Ms. Anu. “This programme gives them an opportunity to not only network with their peers but also meet policy-makers,” she added.