Nine thousand children are taking part in the Green School Movement, an inspiring large-scale eco project, in which 350000 trees will be raised and planted across the Villupuram District of Tamil Nadu, India.
Guided by their teachers, the children do all the work themselves in their school nurseries- from sowing seeds, filling pockets, transplantation, watering, weeding, and maintenance of saplings. They even make compost at their own homes, thus giving them knowledge and responsibility for the whole process, from start to finish. The project was launched in June, and each school has been given 2000 seeds to nurture into saplings, which will be planted early in 2016 in the school premises and the children’s homes and communities.
For over a decade, Project Green Hands, an environmental initiative of the Isha Foundation, who is funding the programme, has so far successfully overseen the planting of more than 25 million trees in its efforts to revive and restore Tamil Nadu’s severely damaged green cover. Now, Pitchandikulam Forest has been invited to be the technical partner in implementing the project in 176 schools in our own district, in partnership with the Tamil Nadu’s School Education Department and Project Green Hands.
Pitchandikulam is uniquely placed to share its deep knowledge and experience accumulated over the past forty years of eco-restoration work in the bioregion. In particular, Pitchandikulam Forest’s decade-long work at Nadukuppam High School and the surrounding villages, about an hour’s drive from Auroville, serves as living model of what can be achieved by careful, painstaking long-term work involving local communities and integrating environmental education and restoration efforts with the rural culture and socio-economic sustainability.
Since 2003, the overcrowded, treeless school campus with no toilet or water facilities and an extremely low academic pass rate, was transformed into a green space full of trees, with drinking water, integrated recycled sanitation system, indigenous plant nursery, an organic vegetable garden and an advanced environmental education curriculum that has so far been extended to over thirty other local and regional schools.
Today, the Nadukuppam Environment Education Centre, which grew out of the school project, provides a point for community involvement in integrated rural planning and sustainable development, and a base for many outreach activities and environmentally friendly, income-generating initiatives run by the local people.
With such a powerful example of how schools can be springboards for action, the hope is that the Green School Movement, through links and collaboration between the governmental education department, environmental organizations such as Pitchandikulam Forest and Project Green Hands, and with participation of a large number of schools and surrounding communities, can have a truly far-reaching impact on the environment of this region and the people who rely on it the most.
Pitchandikulam’s practical involvement on the Green School Movement Project will be twofold- firstly, it is providing expert training for teachers from each school, who are coming for training sessions here at Pitchandikulam and then running nursery activities in their schools.
Secondly, as part of the programme, groups of children from the participating schools are visiting Pitchandikulam to see a living indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest, what it looks like, to learn about its importance, bio-diversity, local environmental issues and solutions. They are learning through interactive activities such as bird watching, butterfly study, and other innovative ways through drama, puppetry, Q&As, interviews etc.
This large-scale tree planting project has big ambitions- to enhance biodiversity, protect the soil, restore ecological balance and provide livelihood opportunities for thousands across the state. But it is much more than that- it aims to instill in children, and by extension in their families and communities, a deeper understanding of their environment, its importance and beauty as well as the threats to its survival. It is also encouraging the belief that local people have the power to take stewardship of their environment into their own hands, and to offer them a starting point and confidence to take the initiative themselves.
For more information about Nadukuppam Environment Education Centre visit http://www.pitchandikulamforest.org/cms/content/view/35/189/
Project Green Hands http://www.projectgreenhands.org/