activism Environment

Meet Sumair, the teen environmentalist who wants to save India’s marine life

Sumair Handa Bakshi and the Save The Spirit Of The Sea team at the Kalindi Kunj Yamuna Ghat cleanup in Delhi

Sumair Handa Bakshi and the Save The Spirit Of The Sea team at the Kalindi Kunj Yamuna Ghat cleanup in Delhi   | Photo Credit: by arrangement

Sumair Handa Bakshi from Delhi of Save The Spirit Of The Sea talks about his 2020 campaign and upcoming film about saving the Ganges, which are supported by Yuvraj Singh and Hazel Keech

“I believe that activism is more than just talking about issues that are prevalent in society,” starts Sumair Handa Bakshi, “but actually working on them and engaging others to start contributing efforts towards making a change, that too in a continuous manner. In a sense, we want Save The Spirit Of The Sea to be an organisation run by the youth and owned by the youth.”

Turning points
  • December 18, 2015: “We got a petition signed by locals of Delhi and held a peaceful protest outside the Japanese Embassy, New Delhi against their Taiji Dolphin Slaughter. This was our first official event and we were joined by at least 50 people and three vans of police who were under the impression that a full fledged protest was about to be conducted. Nevertheless, each person who attended the protest and signed the petition had engaged with a cause of great importance.”
  • October 2019: “I attended a beach clean up organised by the Earth Day Network at Juhu Beach in Mumbai and I was later awarded an Earth Day Network Rising Star for my efforts towards conservation.”
  • December 2019: “I gave a TEDxYouth talk ‘Traditions and Conservation’ about the dualities of environmental conservation and maintaining customs and traditions.”

Recently, the Delhi-based social enterprise went viral for their January 15 cleanup of Kalindi Kunj Yamuna Ghat in Delhi which will feature in an upcoming film by the team. Let’s dial it back, though; eight years ago Save The Spirit Of The Seas started as nothing more than a website that Sumair designed for himself, along with social media. The core idea at the time was to engage his peers about the under-discussed causes in society. Fast forward to the present and Save The Spirit of The Sea is a 15-strong team and is a registered organisation as a Section 8 Company.

Sixteen-year-old Sumair and his team are particularly looking forward to their latest project: ‘Save The Spirit of The Ganga’, to be launched officially in April with a short film, which is yet to be named.

Production included a lot of on-location shooting, including a trip to Bihar to film in Vikramshila, Bhagalpur. This marked a special moment for Sumair who says they were blessed to be able to see and film dolphins in the Ganges river. “There isn’t much of a spotlight upon these creatures and most people don’t even know about their existence. The aim of our film of course is to awaken the world about the existence of such incredible species and the reality of their plight, which we witnessed firsthand, due to the pollution present in their habitat.”

Behind the scenes

“We raised ₹10 lakhs and started filming last November. We partnered with the India Film Services to create the first video and are a team of 15 Indians currently.” The project is also partially-backed financially by YouWe Nissan, as well as social support from Yuvraj Singh and Hazel Keech.

Sumair Handa Bakshi and the Save The Spirit Of The Sea team at the Kalindi Kunj Yamuna Ghat cleanup in Delhi

Sumair Handa Bakshi and the Save The Spirit Of The Sea team at the Kalindi Kunj Yamuna Ghat cleanup in Delhi  

But Sumair is more focussed on the idea of government intervention and the big picture. “This project should catalyse broader and bolder movements by authorities such as the enforcement of laws, and implementation of conservation facilities to help protect the species of the River Ganga ranging from dolphins to sharks to gharials all under severe threat. Through social media and relatable, conscious content we aim for the youth to be able to relate to the cause and the message we are trying to portray. We hope this would be able to leverage human resources through aspects of volunteerism and philanthropy to help increase the platform of the River Ganga.”

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:30:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/sumair-handa-bakshi-interview-save-the-spirit-of-the-sea-river-ganges-2020-campaign-and-film/article30819796.ece

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