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| Last Updated:: 30/10/2014

We Worship Things We Ignore: Jairam




 Our rivers are becoming sewers and mountains are being destroyed by mining, said the former Union Minister during the CPREEC’s Green School & Green Teacher Awards ceremony


CHENNAI: Sacred groves, green pilgrimages and reviving the painting traditions of the Kurumba tribes of the Andamans — the work of the CPR Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) goes beyond routine conservation activities. Established in 1989, the organisation celebrated its silver jubilee by bringing together environmentalists and educationalists to work for a greener tomorrow.


With speeches by former Union Enviroment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Ashok Lavasa, Secretary of Department of Environment and Forests Hans Raj Varma and Chennai’s own geneticist M S Swaminathan, the centre also presented Green School and Green Teacher awards to recognise contributions to the environment from the education sector.


Despite the Indian tradition of worshipping nature and the environment, the situation is now in a paradox with nature being abused casually. “We are a civilisation who venerate biodiversity. We pray to forests, mountains and rivers on one hand, and on the other we treat our surroundings with disdain,” said Jairam Ramesh. “We worship things that we want to ignore — our rivers become sewers and our mountains are destroyed by mining,” he said. The roots of respect for nature have to be rediscovered, he said, and highlighted how the history of environmentalism has also had a gender dimension with women being at the forefront of struggles such as the Chipko Movement.


Ashok Lavasa drew attention to how ‘faith’ needs to be translated into responsible behaviour by citizens. “I have seen people worshipping at peepal trees, lighting agarbathis to place on the sacred tree and then throwing the polythene right below,” he recounted.


CPREE has worked extensively on sacred groves, which were a sanctuary for plants and wildlife and restored 52 sacred groves, besides recently taking up greening of pilgrimage sites in places like Rameswaram.


They have also recognised schools as an important starting point for the cause of the environment, and worked with student publications, events and curriculum development.


“When we began in the 80s, there was no centre for children and this is why we focused on raising awareness, especially among teachers. We have now reached around 1,36,000 students and 52,000 teachers,” said Nandita Krishna, the founder of CPREEC.


CPREEC began the Green Schools of India programme in 2007, and this year’s Green School Award was presented to NSN Matriculation School, Chitlapakkam, Chennai, and the Green Teacher award to G Prabhakar from Keshav Memorial Boys High School in Hyderabad.


“Social mobilisation, education and regulation all are equally important. Every school should become a Green School and every teacher a Green Teacher,” said M S Swaminathan.