The young people are the true custodian of our future so their voices must not be ignored. The children who live in urban slums in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh gave a powerful message to grown-ups to save the environment. The outcome of rising pollution in the city and other adverse manifestations of environmental hazards are often faced in the worst way by those from the lower socio-economic group.Read more Access to clean water, hygienic surroundings, clean air to breathe and eco-friendly garbage disposal were some of the dreams these children expressed in the form of paintings. Simple solutions that can increase the quality of environment these children grow up in were reflected in their incredible drawings. Saving fuel to reduce automobile emission, not burning tires in winter, recycling biodegradable garbage and handing over non-biodegradable garbage for further processing, carrying hand-bags and saying "no" to polythene, protecting water resources in the city so that those who don't have access to potable water can enjoy safe drinking water were among the most powerful messages that came out of the paintings.
22-24 January 2010 saw children from Lucknow slums painting their messages for Lucknow citizens telling them to protect the environment. As part of the Petroleum Conservation Research Association's (PCRA) fortnight of activities on "saving fuel and saving the environment," Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) helped host a drawing and painting event for children from six urban slums in Lucknow. Mr. Siddharth Mishra, Senior Regional Manager (SRM) lucknow Retail, HPCL Lucknow, Mr. Venkatesh Dwivedi, State Coordinator PCRA, and Mr. Arvind Lal, Executive Officer MIS HPCL, inaugurated the event.
This was a unique event where often those who are the keynote speakers on social issues were in the audience - straining their sensitive ears to capture the voices of these underserved children. Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and senior social activist Dr. Sandeep Pandey, senior Narmada Bachao Andolan activist and State Adviser to Right to Food Commissioner to Supreme Court Arundhati Dhuru, Asha Parivar activist Urvashi Mehta, Chunnilal, were among the other citizens who came forward to interact with the children and listen to the voices of these future wardens of this city.
HPCL supported this drawing and painting event for more than 400 children of six Asha Samajik Vidyalayas functioning in slums of Ismail Ganj, Gandhi Nagar, Madiayon, Dubagga and Janki Plaza from 22-24 January 2010. Prior to the event, the Asha Parivar education coordinators interacted with the children to raise awareness about the different ways of saving fuel and saving the environment. They were also trained by noted environmentalists, Ms. Prabha Chaturvedi of EXNORA Lucknow and Mr. Venkatesh Dwivedi, PCRA officer.
"The real development should be to provide humane living conditions to the slum dwellers. They are the ones who suffer the brunt of urban development in the most severe manner" said Dr. Sandeep Pandey. "These voices of the children should be heard by the policy makers to usher in a change towards a just social order," said Pandey.
This was undoubtedly an event with a difference - where children who never get a voice got a creative medium to express their concerns on how the lifestyles of Lucknow citizens affect them and their environment. Most astounding was the sensible manner in which these young people came up with pragmatic solutions. Time for grown-ups to listen to these young voices.
Bobby Ramakant is a World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's WNTD Awardee for the year 2008, and writes extensively on health and development for Citizen News Service (CNS). Website: www.citizen-news.org