Home / News / India /  Meet Vihan and Nav, Indian brothers who won International Children's Peace Prize for waste project

Two Indian teenage brothers have won the 2021 KidsRights International Children's Peace Prize for tackling pollution from household waste. Vihaan (17) and Nav Agarwal (14) have developed the "One Step Greener" initiative segregating recyclables and organising pickups for trash from thousands of homes.

Indian Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a children's rights activist who won the 2014 Nobel jointly with Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai , presented the brothers with the prize run by the Dutch-based KidsRights foundation at a ceremony in The Hague.

"To all the young people... you should never fear climate change. You just have to take that one step, and when you do it's just amazing the amount of change you as a one person can actually create," Nav said.

The brothers said that they have grown up in Delhi and that has affected their health severely due to the high pollution level, especially asthmatic Vihaan's health. The deteriorating air quality curtailed the boys' ability to play outdoors. As a result, they decided to take some initiative to mitigate the pollution. But the spark of inspiration for their "One Step Greener" initiative came after the collapse of the Ghazipur landfill site in 2017, which killed two people and led to a spike in pollution.

"The thought process in our mind was like, our waste shouldn't go there, our waste shouldn't become fodder for this fire," said Vihaan.

The brothers also took inspiration from British naturalist David Attenborough and conservationist Jane Goodall, as well as their grandparents.

The brothers began at home, separating recyclables from their rubbish until they had such a mountain of trash that their grandfather told them either they or the waste had to leave.

But Vihaan and Nav said they wouldn't pick up such a small quantity, so the boys used a WhatsApp group in their neighbourhood to get enough together to make it worthwhile.

The recycling initiative grew from there. Starting with 15 homes in 2018, when they were aged 14 and 11, they now have 1,500 homes involved along with offices and schools, fitting the running of the initiative around their school work.

"It's one thing to preach, but it's another to actually provide a solution and that's what we are trying to do through our work," said Vihaan.

The initiative operates in Delhi and a neighbouring city with plans to expand to Kolkata, while there has also been international interest.

They are also educating people in India about recycling, reaching an estimated 50,000 young people through social media as well as a curriculum in English and Hindi.

The brothers said winning the KidsRights prize, which brings with it a grant for their education and 100,000 euros for their project, was an "amazing honour" that they hoped would inspire others.

"It's an old saying, but everyone's collective effort does actually make a difference," said Vihaan.

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