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10-year old working to save the planet

Chaudhary is gathering information on how to revive India’s ponds and rivers

 

Manassangyini Chaudhary was recently joined by villagers from different states of India in New Delhi to express anguish about their water plight.

New Delhi: It is difficult to believe she is only 10 years old.

As Manassangyini Chaudhary talks at length about the environment, and her plan to save Uttar Pradesh’s heavily polluted Hindon River, one is forced to realise that age is after all, just a number.

That’s the ease with which the student at Delhi Public School, Sonepat, Haryana, shares her knowledge of the environment.

Chaudhary — the face of Hindon River revival plan — is one among hundreds of schoolchildren who recently joined villagers from different states, gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, to express anguish about their water plight.

Raising concerns for dying rivers and water bodies, she surprised everyone with her level of maturity.

“The move is to send a message to our elders and political leaders to join in the fight to save environment,” she said.

Reading and learning about drought and water contamination has stirred Manassangyini’s conscience. “I am aggrieved to see people suffering due to water shortage in different parts of the country. I urge that encroachments and concrete structures around rivers and water bodies are removed so that rainwater can flow freely. It will help improve the groundwater table and save people from dying,” the little champion of environment demanded.

She speaks to Gulf News.

 

At an age when girls are busy playing with dolls and reading story books, what led you to think of rejuvenating the dying rivers?

 

I have always been a nature lover and find my stories and recreation in all forms of nature — animals, birds, insects, mountains and rivers. But, along with that, my parents have also made me aware of the water crisis our country is facing. We recently trekked to the Kanchenjunga Base Camp and saw how glaciers are formed and rivers get clean water. Sadly, I also witnessed how easily human beings pollute them, which leads to the rivers drying up in no time. This turned my focus on rejuvenating dying rivers. Along with my parents, I went to Alwar, Rajasthan and met Rajendra Singh, who has been working in this direction. When he learnt about my deep interest in nature, he appointed me as Brand Ambassador for the Hindon River Rejuvenation Plan.

 

Do you feel burdened after the appointment, as it means an added responsibility?

 

No way! It’s a passion, so the question doesn’t arise. I am glad to be learning about building water harvesting structures that have brought water in the arid regions of several states. I was also invited to an international workshop where I was the only child delegate and spoke on environment and nature protection. I got to learn from national and international experts on how to revive dead ponds and rivers and the science of Watershed Management.

 

Are you able to cope up with studies along side your work?

I treat it as part of learning and growing up and my school encourages and supports me in my endeavours. So, there’s no pressure as such. My school believes in rainwater harvesting and is creating awareness among people in surrounding villages to stop using plastic bags, keep their environment clean and save water. At the same time, students are made to participate in planting saplings in schools and villages and we do projects on environment protection. The teachers help me catch up with my studies and homework, as I often go to schools with the sole purpose of instilling confidence in children. I tell children not to feel they cannot do anything alone. I am with them and together we can become torchbearers and save the planet from man-made destruction. My mission is to educate them so that their parents too feel responsible towards nature and environment.

 

Are your parents also nature lovers?

Yes, all that I am learning is because of them. I remember going on a trek with my parents to Pindari glaciers at the age of 6. Recently, we (family, including 11-year-old brother Vaassangyaan and 6-year-old sister Suryasangyini) trekked to the 16,300-feet-high (5,000 metres) Kanchenjunga Base Camp. On our return, we learnt about becoming record holders!

The Sikkim government certified my sister as the youngest world record holder and my brother and myself as youngest national record holders for climbing the Base Camp. On such excursions, our parents educate us on varied subjects including biodiversity, hummus formation, water cycle and river formations. And while we find many villagers going to cities for greener pastures, three years back, our family moved from Delhi to Baghpat to stay close to green farms and agricultural lands.

 

Have you been giving talks on the positives of farming?

Yes, the exposure that I have had has taught me a lot, not only about farming, but also industries and the pollution they cause. Lately, I have started the ‘Cheeni Kum, cheeni bund’ (Less sugar, stop sugar) campaign.

 

What is this campaign about?

I am concerned that most farmers in my hometown focus on growing sugar cane and the white sugar manufactured from it is harmful for our health. Since the crop requires massive amounts of water, the plantations end up sucking underground water resulting in parched lands. (Water experts are holding sugar cane responsible for the drought in Maharashtra state’s Marathwada region, where water was sent to people through a specially commissioned train. Scientists claim that it takes between 2,000 and 2,500 litres of water to produce one kilogram of sugar).

Moreover, sugar industries pollute our environment majorly. Much of its toxic waste is thrown into the rivers and people living in and around these industries use groundwater for drinking and bathing, which leads to life threatening diseases. While I am campaigning to educate farmers into setting up small crushing machines to extract sugar cane juice, which should be used to make jaggery, I am urging people to stop eating sugar so that sugar industries are forced to shut down.

 

Your interests show that unlike youngsters these days, you have no inclination for social media platforms.

I am using this medium for a constructive purpose and that too under my mother’s guidance. We have created a Facebook page called Manassangyini’s One and have been uploading videos on the ‘Cheeni Kum, cheeni bund’ campaign.

 

Fact file

• Manassangyini Chaudhary was born on October 1, 2005, to mother Manisha and father Sandeep Chaudhary (both of who are management consultants and farmers) in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh.

• She is a student of Grade 6 in Delhi Public School, Sonepat, Haryana.

• She was the only child delegate invited to the recently held international meet on Ecological and Social Justice Workshop, held in Alwar, Rajasthan.

 
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