Educating youngsters about the need for conserving this valuable resource is key to enhancing their understanding of nature
I love interacting with children because they are genuine with fewer inhibitions. Moreover I believe they are inclined towards nature instinctively. It is challenging to answer their questions. But once they connect with you, miracles happen.
Last year, I was able to make a special connection with a kid not during an outreach programme, but in a completely different scenario. It was a crucial reflection point in my life.
I was driving through a remote village in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu. The sky was super blue embedded with clouds.
At the end of the road, there was a small village with old houses. It was like entering into a period film set. There was a dry pond. It had cracked so much that I could put my palm into the crevices. Interestingly, small pits were dug inside the pond. I went to take a closer look. But the villagers stopped me. They thought I was an intruder. After I made them understand about what I do, they explained to me why the pits were dug.
During tidal variation, these pits are filled with water. The water was murky and dirty. It was like a puddle formed during rains on a muddy road.
I saw a little girl accompanying her mother. She was carrying a small pot. Kneeling down on the cracked earth, she used a small mug to fill the pot. This is the water people in that village use for their basic needs.
I didn’t know whether to focus on capturing that moment on camera or empathise with the little girl’s plight. She spoke to me about rivers turning dry, cracked beds of ponds and reservoirs, which were once the sources of water for them.
The entire month was filled with such stories of sorrow, despair and hope. I see farmers selling their land because agriculture is no longer profitable.
There are people who walk for miles to access drinking water. Farmlands are being sold as into real estate developments.
At the end of the day, these are the people who are affected because of the ‘use and throw’ society we live in.
I believe such incidents should be highlighted to children early on. Stories on nature and the intricate network that binds people, forests and wildlife will have an emotional and ecological impact on their minds.
Learning to care
I remember a quote by Jane Goodall that has been my favourite since school: “Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”
We can build an environmentally-conscious society if we guide children and educate them about nature through an innovative and sustained manner. This will not only make them aware but also will deepen their understanding, empower them to think, care and act towards protecting our priceless natural heritage.
(The author is an award-winning nature photographer and co-founder of Youth for Conservation. In this monthly column, he talks about his passion for nature, photography and conservation.)