Held in connection with World Environment Day celebrations
VELLORE: It was an interesting and practical experience in learning about environment for 60 students from 10 government schools in rural areas around Vellore, who were taken on a 4-km ‘eco trail’ from the base village of Keezhkothur to tribal hill village of Thandayankottai in Keezhkothur village panchayat in Anaicut panchayat union. The ‘eco trail,’ held in connection with the World Environment Day celebrations on Friday, was organised by Students Partnership Worldwide (SPW), Vellore, and the Forest Department.
“We were told about the need to plant saplings, protect trees, preserve environment and implement rainwater harvesting measures,” said Sathya, a student of Government High School, Vanjur. On reaching Thandayankottai, the students visited the Eco Resource Centre. They saw traditional articles such as musical instruments used by tribals, and charts containing details of locally grown trees.
They were also explained the importance of composting biodegradable waste and recycling non-biodegradable waste, and steps to be taken by them to prevent global warming. They were also introduced to topical environmental issues such as climate change.
Each student was given a green bag and badge. Bobby Benedict of B & B Builders, Vellore, sponsored their visit.
Sara Bhattacharji, head of the Low Cost Effective Care Unit of Christian Medical College Hospital, planted saplings along with the students in Thandayankottai.
She, along with Emma Koshy, country director, SPW India, interacted with students of the local Panchayat Union Elementary School.
Ms. Emma said that the SPW, in association with the Forest Department, is implementing a Sustainable Livelihood Programme (SLP), which aims at promoting a holistic vision of development that includes income-generation, natural resource management and people’s empowerment, use of appropriate technology, financial services and good governance.
In this project, the SPW is assisted by foreign volunteers Jerry from London, and Fionn Quinlian and Geraldine Wilcocks from Australia, SPW India volunteers Mani and Helen from Chennai and SPW Vellore volunteers Nagesh from Thandayankottai and Palani from Katpadi.
Ms. Jerry said that she teaches local women to make bags and badges, visits houses in Thandayankottai and nearby hamlets and imparts health education to them as part of the SLP.
“We want to motivate the women to invest their earnings on health and education of their children,” she said. Noting that child labour and malnutrition are major problems affecting people here, she said that she also focussed on these issues to help the people tackle them. Nine children who have completed Standard V in the local school have been admitted to a high school in Christianpet near Katpadi. Helping ‘out of school’ children get enrolled in schools is one of the important tasks undertaken by SPW.
Earlier, A.V. Venkatachalam, Conservator of Forests, and T.V. Manjunatha, District Forest Officer, Vellore, inaugurated the eco trail at Keezhkothur. Mr. Manjunatha told The Hindu that the department, in association with SPW, its non-governmental organisation partner, would soon be finalising the package for tourists undertaking the eco trail to Thandayankottai, which is one of the villages adopted by the department under the Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project. The financial proceeds of the package would go to the Village Forest Committee, he said.