Youth

Waving the green flag

CAUSE AND EFFECT Ananya Ashok  

The mail in the Madras Naturalists Society inbox said: “I've been selected as the messenger from Tamil Nadu for the International Youth Forum Go4BioDiv India 2012 happening parallel to COP11, Convention on Biological Diversity. This youth forum will happen at Sunderbans, India with 25 messengers from various countries representing a marine world heritage site each and 10 representatives from India for our coastal states and union territories. The theme for this year is ‘Conserving coastal and marine biodiversity for sustaining life and livelihoods'. I look forward to an enriching experience which would go a long way in conserving Tamil Nadu's coastal and marine ecosystems.” It was signed: Ananya Ashok, IIIrd year, B.FSc (Bachelor of Fisheries Science) at FCRI, Tuticorin, International Climate Champion - British Council, India, Founder-Pallikaranai Task Force.

Why Pallikaranai I asked, when we met on the beach. Like a lot of young residents around Pallikaranai marsh, she walked to school through mounds of garbage, watching and inhaling burning garbage. But unlike a lot of children, she determined to fight the scourge. Not for herself, not for fellow residents, but to preserve the unique bio-diversity that the marsh supports. “I was wired for it,” she said. “I'd bring worms and dead butterflies home, take care of stray animals. People still leave abandoned pets near our house. It's my fascination with marine creatures that took me to FCRI. Mom was quick to name me Pied Piper of Kovilambakkam,” she smiled.

Marsh matters

She started the Pallikaranai Task Force. PTF spoke to school kids about the ecological importance of Pallikaranai marsh, organised a workshop supported and guided by British Council's National Action Project on Pallikaranai Marsh. “Threat to Bio-diversity” was its theme, and volunteers spoke of waste management and held a competition on Bye-Bye Garbage. “We had nearly 100 students from 15 schools around Pallikaranai. “Our main appeal was garbage should be reduced at source level,” she said.

She explained her British Council connection. “I was one among the 20 climate champions with the British Council from four countries who attended the International Climate Champions camp on study of the climate change's impact on desert ecosystems (every year they choose an ecosystem) at Jodhpur, Rajasthan in February 2012.” She will next be part of Go4BioDiv India 2012. “I applied for the position of “Messenger”. Selection is based on your field work. The meet propagates the role of youth in conserving bio-diversity. I am one of the 10 from India. I will represent Tamil Nadu and Pallikaranai marsh is my specific project site. I will present the views of marine bio-conservationists. I shall interact with other messengers from across the globe.” She will travel to Sunderbans in October.

Alongside, she will tackle subjects such as oceanography, taxonomy of fishes, aquaculture, marine and aquatic biodiversity, monitoring pollution in marine environment, fish stock assessment and fish processing for her FS degree, compete for best-speaker award (she won it in 2009 at the vigilance awareness week at Port Trust, Tuticorin speaking on “Corruption eradication”) and attend the Altemus International Leadership Training Program if the funding comes by. “It will be about sustainable aquaculture, I have to do a community service project after completion.”

“My school (Ashram, where she was Student Council President) and parents gave me freedom, opportunities and support to pursue my interest. Whatever I do, I'll be back at Pallikaranai, talking about and working for marine bio-diversity conservation. I'll continue my community awareness projects. I plan to compile a case report of Pallikaranai marsh.” It's ironical, she added, that Pallikaranai marsh was identified as a wetland in 1985-86 and in 1987, around 30 hectares were allocated for dumping solid wastes generated in the city.

Environment Impact Assessment and strategic environmental development studies and their results should be viewed seriously before starting “development” projects in ecologically sensitive and bio-diverse areas, she asserts, and makes an appeal: “Create awareness, gather people in groups, ask for a policy-making role for youth, step into the scenario, make things happen and ensure that the movement is sustained.”

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 3:32:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/youth/waving-the-green-flag/article3477186.ece

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