India's eco warriors head to Germany

Vaibhav Pratap Singh, who is pursuing MS by Research in Electrical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras and Soumyajit Paul, a Civil Engineering student at SRM University, Kancheepuram, belong to a growing breed of youngsters who believe that it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee as far as global environment is concerned. The two won Bayer Young Environmental Envoy 2013 (BYEE 2013) competition, which is held in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and will now travel to Germany for an environmental summit, from November 10 to 15, along with 48 others from 18 other countries.

The summit will also entail a field trip where the students will get a first-hand experience of how sustainable environmental practices are pursued jointly by the people, government and industry. The excursion includes visits to various waste management and recycling sites as well as workshops on nature monitoring and conservation.

Of soil and sun
For the competition, Singh, who is from Agra, developed a soil CO2 monitoring wireless sensor network, which is a low power and low cost device to study soil CO2 variation with seasons, temperature conditions, geographical locations, etc. “The findings will be of great importance in global warming and terrestrial carbon research,” says the 23-year-old.

Hardware node for soil CO2 monitoring created by Vaibhav Pratap Singh

On the other hand, 20-year-old Paul’s project, titled TRANS-CONS, aims at transmitting light energy (sunlight) during the day time directly into the room, such that for every morning, on a bright sunny day, we may be able to save electricity for about 8-10 hours. “The initial installment is 3% higher than that of a conventional concrete construction. But in the long run (say for a 25-year span) the overall project is economical up to 30-35 %,” explains the Kolkata boy.

The main criterion for judging the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy 2013 Programme was active participation of the student in conducting a hands-on environmental project. Short-listed students were then interviewed to gauge their knowledge and communication skills. Since the two selected
candidates from India have an exemplary academic record and have worked in their areas towards environmental protection, they emerged as the winners.

Lack of eco-knowledge
While the two students have been actively involved in environment protection activities, they still maintain that Indians lack adequate knowledge about nature conservation. Singh feels that knowledge pertaining to environmental protection does exist in India but is concentrated to certain groups of people spread across the country. “It is the responsibility of these people to try spread the knowledge further amongst common men and encourage them to follow environment protection practices in their daily lives. There are initiatives in India to spread environmental awareness but we still have a long way,” he admits.

Saumyajit Paul working on his project, titled Trans-Cons

Similarly, Paul acknowledges that since the past decade, environmental awareness has increased, but it is mainly theoretical. “Practice in daily life is limited and as a community, we are still lazy when it comes to taking efforts to protect our mother earth,” he rues.

Singh also suggests that including intensive environment awareness courses at schools and colleges will definitely help. The budding environmentalist mentions that the first goal should be to target the youth as they are the future and have the zeal to understand key global issues and contribute in solving them. “We should also make environment awareness programmes mandatory at work places like government organisations, companies, industries, etc,” he advises.

The model of Vaibhav Pratap Singh’s soil CO2 monitoring wireless sensor network

What is Bayer Young Environmental Envoy 2013?
In co-operation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, agriculture and high-tech materials, organises and promotes a number of specific projects which aim to improve knowledge about the environment among young people and support them in their environmental commitment. One of these projects is the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Program. Originally initiated in 1998 as a local project in Thailand, the concept was subsequently extended to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela, Vietnam and Costa Rica.

Small steps that will go a long way:
>> Turn off lights when not in use.
>> Turn off water taps.
>> Don’t waste food.
>> Don’t leave PCs idle for long.
>> Avoid using powered vehicles for small distances (walk/use a cycle, etc).
>> Don’t opt for ATM transaction slip when balance check is required. 

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