Monday, 19 November 2012

A Project to Save the Environment

Lot has been said and written about the impact of human civilization on the environment. The pace at which modern human civilization has grown in the last fifty years is amazing. This growth, however, has come at a cost. To feed the needs of the growing human race, forests across the globe have been cut down at an alarming speed. India, especially, is at crossroads thanks to its ambition to develop and the impact our growth is having on the country’s natural resources. Its lack of forest cover is a well-known problem. Discovering Mumbai presents Hari Chakyar and Anthony Karbhari, two Mumbaikars on a mission to create awareness about the environment and encouraging people to plant trees, called 'Project 35 Trees'. It’s time to Go Green!

Hari, a resident of the suburb of Ambernath, holds Bachelors in Mass Media from Wilson College. Hari’s love for the nature began as soon as he had joined Wilson, “I’ve been a member of Wilson College Nature Club since college began”, he says. At the nature club, Prof. Sudhakar Solomonraj used to take the students to regular treks and outings into forests. Hari began planting trees three years ago. While working at the nature club he realized that their tree planting efforts needed to be scaled up. “While I can continue to plant trees all my life, I’ll only be able to plant a certain number of them”, says Hari. Hari and Anthony met through a common friend at Wilson’s. Initially the duo worked on weekends, but then Anthony gave up his job to devote more time to the project and also asked Hari to talk with his employer for a sabbatical to go on this journey. That’s how Project 35 Trees was born, with a vision to paint India green by planting trees in every state and union territory of India.
The duo - Hari (left) and Anthony (right)

Project 35 Trees is about planting trees in all states and union territories of India”, says Hari. Project 35 trees is a four month journey across India, screening documentary films, talking to students about conservation and other related environmental issues. Anthony Karbhari is assisting Hari on this project by capturing the journey on his camera. To create awareness the duo travels to schools and colleges in each of the places across India that they visit, to conduct an hour long environmental program. The audience, usually, is class eight and above, but they have also conducted sessions for children as small as 3 to 5 years old (at Gurgaon). So far, the duo has conducted sessions and planted trees in Daman, Silvassa, Baroda, Indore, Jaipur, Delhi, Gurgaon, Amritsar, Jammu, Chandigarh, Manali and Dehradun

If people understood the environment around us and the problems we face, we wouldn’t have so many cars on the road today”, says Hari about the awareness of environmental issues. Making people aware of the environmental issues and getting them to contribute towards the cause is a challenge. However, it’s not the only challenge. Spreading awareness across the country means travelling far and wide. Different cultures and languages create a challenge. “Language might become an issue in the north-eastern states. In that case, we’ll have to rope in the teacher to help translate. I’m sure puppets, sounds, voices and sign language will help too”, says Hari, in anticipation of the challenges he feels they might face in the north eastern states. “One of the biggest challenges is to get the IRCTC site working for making train reservations!” says Anthony.

The journey so far has been exciting and memorable. The hospitality of people in almost all the places that they have visited so far has been very overwhelming. “We had decided that we wouldn’t stay in hotels. Our Facebook page helps us find contacts. In Chandigarh, we stayed at a Gurudwara as we were unable to find a place to stay”, says Anthony. A fifteen hour journey from Manali to Dehradoon was also an eventful experience with people sleeping in the aisle, puking with their heads hanging out of the window and so on! There has been a lot to learn too. The duo has made it a point to meet people who are working for a particular environmental cause, like conservators of forests, to get an official opinion on environmental issues. They have also visited the barefoot College and Tarun Bharat Sangh who are doing pioneering work in tapping solar energy and recharging underwater aquifers via rainwater harvesting.
At a school in Jammu

It is unimaginable how this could have been possible without the support of Hari’s friends and family. “Friends help spread the word on social media and keep in touch via phone and chat. They have also helped fund by sharing our crowd-funding page among their network”, says Hari. His office, Jack in the box Worldwide has allowed him to go on this four month sabbatical, as they know how important the cause is for him. “My family, although hesitant, wished me luck and help me keep sane with phone conversations almost every day. My sister follows the project minutely and helps share content”, he says. Financial support for the project is coming from their crowd-funding page.

The duo plan to return to Mumbai by end of January 2013. So have they been missing their home? “Although I’m missing home, I don’t really miss the hustle-bustle. Ever since both of us left Mumbai, things have been very peaceful and quiet. We are both so used to this laidbackness that we are going to have a tough time settling back in our fast, Mumbai lives”, says Hari. As for Anthony, he believes that the journey has changed his perceptions about people and he is bound to return home, a changed person. Post their return they will work on all the footage they have captured over four months. They plan to share the film with schools and colleges.

Hari believes that those interested in creating awareness about environmental issues must make a start. “It can only be done if the individual really wishes to”, he says.

You can follow the duo on their Facebook page or on Twitter – @project35trees
If you are interested in making a contribution to their project then you can do the same - here

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