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National Youth Day 2024: Meet Five Young Warriors Who Are Doing Their Bit For A Green And Healthy Planet

National Youth Day: Here are the inspiring stories of five young eco-warriors who are doing their bit to make this planet

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National Youth Day 2024: Meet Five Young Warriors Who Are Doing Their Bit For A Green And Healthy Planet

New Delhi: January 12 – India marks National Youth Day, commemorating the birth anniversary of influential spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda.

The decision to celebrate Vivekananda’s birthday as National Youth Day was taken back in 1984, and it was first marked on January 12, 1985. The day honours Vivekananda’s teachings and emphasizes the importance of youth in nation-building.

To mark this day, Banega Swasth India looks at the inspiring stories of five young eco-warriors who are doing their bit to make this planet a more liveable space for each one us – a planet, which is green, healthy and pollution free.

Meet India’s Young Warriors

The 9-Year-Old Green Warrior – Eiha Dixit

At just nine, Eiha Dixit is a proud owner of a plant bank and has founded her own NGO – Green Eiha Smile Foundation that is enabling creation of mini forests, parks, green belts and providing shade and cleaner air in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh where Eiha lives. One of the keynote speakers at the United Nations World Peace Summit 2022, Eiha has also won the Prime Minister National Child Award 2019 and the Water Hero Award given by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India. She is also the brand ambassador of Mission100CroreTree and Clean India, Green India.

It all began at the age of four, when this young warrior decided to grow saplings in a bid to make her surroundings green and beautiful. Five saplings, every Sunday and hundreds on special occasions – with this as her motive, Eiha kick-started her Green project alone. Eiha says,

This is our last chance to save our planet. There is a saying, which I believe in, we can cure many of the diseases through kitchen and garden and building a greener environment around ourselves. We all should beautify the earth while we are alive by increasing greenery. I am doing my bit and will continue to do so till my last breath.

Till now, more than 20,000 saplings have been planted by Eiha. Apart from growing saplings, Eiha has been making seed balls out of seeds from fruits, which she mixes with compost, soil, and cocopeat. Once dried, the seed balls are thrown into forests and vacant lands in the rainy season to sprout and grow. In addition, Eiha has also established a plant bank at her home, using plants donated by people who can no longer care for them. Eiha collects the plants and donate it to people for free of charge who wishes to take the responsibility. Eiha also collects single-use plastic bottles and makes them into plant holders.

17-Year Old – Nirvaan Somany, Who Upcycles Discarded Jeans Into Sleeping Bags For The Homeless

How our favourite blue denim jeans are polluting the planet is something I realised back in 2019. To give you an idea, according to various studies it is estimated that a pair of jeans and its raw material represents one third of its ‘water footprint’ (the total volume of water needed to produce a good or service). In the jeans case, it is about 3,000 litres out of a total of 11,000. As per an Oxfam study, emissions produced by manufacturing jeans are comparable to flying a plane around the globe 2,372 times or a petrol car traveling more than 21 billion miles. All these worrisome statistics made me want to do something and that was the start of my initiative ‘Project Jeans’, says Nirvaan Somany from Delhi.

With the help of his mother, who is a Fashion Designer, Nirvaan started to repurpose used denims into washable and insulating sleeping bags for the homeless, thereby reducing landfill waste from the planet, providing better protection from harsh weather conditions for the homeless and impacting the lives of those in need. Till now, he has repurposed more than 8,000 pairs of jeans and distributed thousands of sleeping bags.

Nirvaan has also donated sleeping bags for those impacted by the earthquake in parts of Turkey and Syria, last year in February.

With the hope to take his initiative forward in the future, he says,

We all should be doing our one bit towards the the environment. Even a small initiative and endeavour can go a long way. Lastly, I want to urge that we as consumers should think twice about buying new clothes and definitely reuse the old ones.

15-Year-Old, Aniketh Kalagara Is On A Mission To Battle The Issue Of ‘Perfectionism’ And Help Youth Fight Mental Health Stigma 

Bengaluru’s Aniketh Is On A Mission To Address The Effects Of ‘Perfectionism’ On Youth’s Mental Health

Through his Project Ridere, Aniketh Kalagara has been working towards raising awareness among young children and their parents about the issue of ‘pressure of perfection’ among youth aged 10 to 18 and help them understand the importance of fighting mental health.

The project has been driven by Aniketh’s personal experiences, explaining the start of his initiative, he said,

At the age of seven, in United States, I was bullied by many people for my physical appearance. I had this constant pressure of being perfect. This pressure led me to want to start my project, as I understand there are many teenagers like me, who also fall into this trap.

Aniketh conducts multiple mental health workshops and sessions for the youth under the guidance of four medical experts and educators, addressing mental health effects of ‘perfectionism’, such as anxiety, low self-esteem, etc.

As a part of the project, he also educates families of youth about the importance of a parent-child relationship. Till now, he has impacted lives of more than 400 families.

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25-Year-Old Soumya Ranjan Biswal Changed The Fate Of Olive Ridley Turtles In Odisha, One Beach At A Time

Odisha is the largest mass nesting site for Olive Ridleys in the world. Unfortunately, human activity has caused extensive damage. It has not just contributed to climate change but has also resulted in the death of sea turtles in the state, due to an increase in pollution along the coastline. “While growing up, I was so used to the sight of Olive Ridleys coming to the coastline for nesting. It was magical. Over the years, I started noticing that the beautiful sight changed as the coastline welcomed dead Olive Ridleys. When I started to learn know more about the reason, I realised it is all because of us humans and our pollution causing activities,” says Soumya who decided to give gave up his BTech degree in order to get Olive Ridleys back to Odisha Beaches.

Also Read: Meet Ramveer Tanwar, Who Gave Up His Lucrative Job To Revive Water Bodies And Build Urban Forests

Soumya along with some volunteers started to organise weekly beach clean-up drives in order to protect the mangroves and the wildlife species from dying and to ensure the hatchlings make it back to the sea safely. Till now, they have organized more than 350 beach clean-up events. Their volunteering also includes night patrols during the nesting season and guarding eggs from predators.

Last year, Soumya also did an 800-km bike awareness campaign in Odisha, which got them into the Limca Book of Records. In coordination with the state government, they covered more than 1,200km. The impact of his work has led to a decrease in the mortality rate of sea turtles from 100 to 30 in Odisha beaches.  Additionally, people are now more aware and conscientious about the importance of mangroves, leading to the flourishing of existing mangrove biodiversity.

23-Year-Old Ridhima Pandey, Who Has Been Fighting The Cause Of Environmental Pollution Since The Age Of 5

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In 2017, when Swedish teenage climate activist and cultural phenomenon Greta Thunberg filed a landmark complaint at the U.N. accusing several countries of inaction on climate change, she wasn’t alone, in India, it was 12-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Haridwar, who filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal for not treating climate change seriously.

Her journey started, when she was just five-years-old. She had seen devastating visuals of Uttarakhand floods in 2013, which left a lasting effect on her memory. She started to have nightmares of floods, cloud burst, losing her house and parents to heavy rain, and eventually dying due to flood. The young girl didn’t want to live in this constant fear so she approached her parents. As her parents were environmentalist, she learned about the concept of global warming and how it results in flash floods. That’s the day when Ridhima decided to start taking small actions for her planet. She started taking steps like avoiding single-use plastic, reducing her carbon footprint by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, saving water, going to tuition on cycle, and urging her parents to do the same. “Despite making efforts, I couldn’t see the desired changes and that’s when I realised the gravity of the issue and filed a petition in 2017. I, as a citizen, felt that government has the power to make and amend laws and act against polluting industries but it wasn’t doing enough, as promised in Paris Agreement 2015. Hence, the petition called out the government’s inaction and urged IT to take concrete measures.”

Though the petition was dismissed, but she escalated it to the Indian Supreme Court and since then she has been educating fellow children about climate change. She has also been actively participating in climate strikes in bid to start a conversation. In 2019, 11-year-old Ridhima along with 15 other young climate warriors, including Greta Thunberg, from 12 countries around the world presented a landmark official complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest the lack of government action on the climate crisis. In 2021, Ridhima and 13 other youth activists filed a legal petition to the UN secretary-general urging him to declare a “system-wide climate emergency”.

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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India. 

Highlights: Banega Swasth India Launches Season 10

Reckitt’s Commitment To A Better Future

India’s Unsung Heroes

Women’s Health

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