Downtown

The eco-warriors of Ambattur

Students and teachers of SVV ritually plant saplings in and around the campus  

Destination: Sri Venkateswara Vidhyalaya, Ambattur. Current location: Central Chennai.

I would do anything to be able to forget the drive through the busy roads of Ambattur on a Monday afternoon, with the sun beating down on me mercilessly and robbing me of my energy, and, of course, my complexion too.

With the air conditioner at full blast, I navigate my way through the deserted lanes of a village in Ayyapakkam (thanks to Google maps), with hardly any human life or vegetation in sight. As I rolled down my window to check how accurate the map has been, with a shopkeeper, I knew I was where I had to be — Sri Venkateswara Vidhyala, nestling on the the banks of Ambattur lake. On the walls of the school, I saw drawings. The premises were dotted with trees and shrubs. A sight for sore eyes, indeed!

In fact, these are what I am at SVV for. I am there to check out the green and organic initiatives undertaken by teachers and students. As part of these initiatives, they are trying to minimise waste generation and encourage green habits. What’s fascinating about this is that they pursue this mission, not once a month or a week, but every day.

Uma Kannan, senior principal, and A. Rani Srinivasan, principal, are spearheading this initiative with the assistance of the teaching faculty and a group of students from House Emerald, who now call themselves “Eco Warriors”.

Among the first activities undertaken under this two-year-old initiative is the staging of skits and mimes — performed by students during the assembly hours — to spread awareness about the importance of a clean and green environment.

Dedicating an hour (usually after school) for cleaning the campus and watering of the mini-garden at the backyard of the school, class by class, are some of the activities carried out by the students on a day-to-day basis.

“Even pencils are sharpened in a manner that promotes environment-consciousness,” says Rani. “They cannot sharpen the pencils at the desk. They have to sharpen the pencils over the dustbin so that the pencil shavings are discarded there,” says Rani.

What’s more, “there’s a rolling trophy for every class that keeps their respective classrooms spic and span,” Divyashri, a Class 8 student, tells me.

When Vishnu Narayanan, the student pupil leader, told me what they do to reduce water wastage, I squirmed with embarrassment.

“We have this daily water ritual wherein the leftover water in our water bottles is poured into planters. This way, the water, which we usually throw down sink drains, is used to plant more trees,” he explains.

“What an idea, sirji!” I find myself exclaiming, when I hear this.

Mention “junk food” and you are likely to invite the wrath of the Eco Warriors. From kindergarten to higher classes, students are encouraged, or rather allowed to pack only fruits, vegetables, nuts and grain-based items for lunch and snacks.

Why, the students are even given five millilitres of Nilavembu kashayam, almost every day.

I am surprised. Naveen Karthik, a Class 10 student and one of the Eco Warriors, surprises me more with what he has to say.

“We get the roots of the herbal plants and give them to the housekeeping staff, who in turn, brew the concoction at the school kitchen and serve it to every class,” he says.

On my way to Uma’s cabin, I notice a miniature green cubicle in one corner of the playground, housing a few grow bags that are filled with soil and saplings. During my conversation with Uma, I learn about the cubicle made from UV shade nets. Any guesses?

Times up! It’s a quasi-green house.

“It was set up in November 2015,” informs Uma. “We planted fruit- and vegetable-bearing plants to demonstrate to students that we can grow and consume organic food without the use of pesticides. At times, we prepare a dish or two using a few fresh picks from our little green house and share it with the students,” she says. Then there are various dedicated days: Eco Day, celebrated every April, where the students prepare and bring herbal drinks (like Nannari Sherbet and Arugampul drink) as part of an exhibition on the campus; Millet Day – where parents of the students prepare innovative millet-based items and the best preparation is rewarded. To prove academics and civic sense go hand-in-hand, the students take up numerous eco-friendly projects like putting up posters across the campus as reminders to turn off fans and lights before leaving the school, and even by organising exhibitions to display their application of ‘reuse and recycle’. “They exercise these habits not just at schools but at homes, too,” says Rani.


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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 2:07:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/The-eco-warriors-of-Ambattur/article14591188.ece

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