by Karen Laurie
MUMBAI, MAR 8, 2016: True to the intentions of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Salesians of Don Bosco world-over have pledged to push the agenda of sustainable development to make for a brighter future through a green revolution.
Rector Major, Pascaul Chavez award for the most innovative ministry in the South Asian region in 2015 was presented to the Tiruchy Don Bosco Society (TDBS) for their student-based Eco-clubs initiative aimed at safeguarding our planet; at the Salesian Provincial Conference of South Asia held at the Provincial House, Matunga on February 28. The award was given by Father Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Regional Councillor, South Asia.
"I never thought that this initiative will bag Father Pascual Chavez Award 2015 for Innovative Salesian Ministry in South Asia. It is indeed an honour to the Province, to the Cauveri Development Office, to the members of Eco Clubs and a notable recognition of our creative initiatives," Father Albert Johnson, Provincial of Tiruchy Province, said.
The ministry, which began in 2012, essentially functions in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Eco-clubs carry out their work in Kalavasal, Melanmarainadu, Nettur, Pallithammam, K Pudur, Alalgar Koli, Keela Eral, Therespuram, Vilathikulam, Sayalgudi, Amsam, Manigandam, Langudi, Varadarajenpet, Ukkadam, Vellakkinar, Salem, Nilavarapatti, Namakkal, Kaliappanallur, Yaggapanagar, Mathakottai, Tiruppur, Dindigul and Koothankuli.
Father Ricopar Royan is the Executive Director of the Cauveri Development office. The ministry has - till date - started a total of 163 'Eco clubs', with around 3100 student members, actively participating in protection of our planet through environment and ecological education. These students have since cleaned 200 places, with the help of the local population and have sensitized locals about the environment. The clubs have planted a total of 5809 new saplings and have conducted 29 awareness programmes on the environment that have affected 1750 people.
"Environment Protection Initiatives through student based Eco Clubs is a programme that we envisaged to implement as one of the MDG goals which invites us to `Ensure Environmental Sustainability'. With many summits that are taking up environmental issues and climatic change as their main concern and the impact of such changes in our geographical areas, we planned together with our student bodies to initiate a simple and practical programme back in 2012. The programme has grown over the years and is spreading out with its multifaceted wings," Father Johnson said.
"The project started with planting of trees, awareness programmes on environment protection, clean up drives and cultural events on ecological themes, and now we are moving towards, waste management, establishment of kitchen and herbal gardens, promotion of practices that reduce usages of non-degradable materials and a conscious move towards organic farming, usage of solar equipments."
The ministry's goal is to ensure the protection of the environment. It believes that students play an integral part in achieving this goal, given that they are the future leaders of tomorrow. The program educates, sensitizes, as well as creates structures for promoting environmental-protection activities.
The students are organised into small groups of eco-clubs. Here, they are educated about the causes and impact of pollution, the importance of a clean environment, good hygiene practices and organising cleanliness drives. The students also observe and celebrate important environmental days, through theme-based events and organising rallies.
TDBS also plans to introduce 'Ecology and Environment' education in schools. Textbooks, workbooks and multi-media tools will be developed to educate children innovatively. They also plan to promote eco-care groups in villages and staff will be trained in solid waste management and non-biodegradable waste.
They also plan to involve women self-help groups, who will be educated and empowered towards environmental protection. Another planned initiative is to promote kitchen gardens and to train women in recycling household waste and preparing home-based bio-fertilizers, thus improving the quality of vegetables for daily sustenance.
The TBDS believes that initiatives of this nature are replicable in other parts of the country as well. The programme concept and methodology is applicable and can be replicated among all sections of society, irrespective of geographical, ethnic, gender or other differences.