There is no better way to celebrate the World Environment Day (5 June) than by recognizing the work of unsung heroes—people who quietly contributed to cause of protecting and conserving the environment. The Eco Warriors Awards founded by the Earth Matters Foundation, will bring into focus the works of 16 such people who have worked not just in cities but at the grassroots level to create awareness and contribute towards saving the environment.
Mike Pandey has won the Green Oscars three times.
“Our television programme on environment and conservation, Earth Matters (which airs on Doordarshan in India) reaches about 800 million people in 135 countries and we have had a tremendous response especially in India from the rural areas. We get an average of 4,000 letters and 500 e-mails every week and many contain information about people who were silently doing their bit. So we thought it would be a good idea to validate their efforts and also sensitize people to a community approach towards conservation,” says Mike Pandey, three-time winner of the Green Oscars and the person behind the Earth Matters Foundation which has constituted these awards.
“We want to bring to light the positive results that can be achieved with a few simple efforts and hope that these people will serve as role models who will make a difference to India’s future,” he adds citing the example of M. Y. Yoganathan, a bus conductor with the Coimbatore Transport Corporation who over the last 26 years has planted 38,000 trees.
M. Y. Yoganathan, the Eco Warrior with the green thumb .... 38,000 trees and counting.
“This man, who does not know how to read or write in English and will have to be greeted at the Delhi airport with a drawing of a tree as opposed to a name placard, has for the last 10 years gone to different schools in Tamil Nadu every Monday to lecture students about environment and conservation. He is a name most of us will not hear about, but he has made a tremendous difference,” says Pandey. He also speaks with great admiration for Dr D. N. Choudhary, an ornithologist and naturalist from Bihar who has successful campaigned against the poaching of migratory birds in Bhagalpur and the surrounding areas.
Among the people who will be receiving the awards is 15-year-old Monali Manohar Warwade, a student of class 9 in Chandrapuri, Maharashtra who has generated awareness about the environment by making posters and greeting cards which carry the message of conservation of natural resources and makes people aware about pollution. “She is a shy girl, but encouragement from her parents has led her on and that is remarkable,” says Pandey. On the list is actor John Abraham for his work with the elephants, and G. V. Reddy of the Indian Forest Services. “This official has shown extraordinary courage, zeal, and an unflinching determination. He has stood up for the cause of conservation at Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve to protect the National Park against poachers and illegal encroachment. It is a privilege to honour him,” adds Pandey.
The awards ceremony will take place today at the residence of the Vice President of India.