Ahmedabad: Wricha Johari has a simple question: Why don’t we trust the water offered to us in a glass but readily take what comes in small packaged bottles? At this year’s India Environment Festival, organized by World Around You, an organization that works for sustainable living through the medium of environment communication founded by her, Johari says the theme is “I Am Water.” In addition, the festival will have an Eco-Entrepreneurs’ Summit and a Dog Adoption Show.

Ahead of the festival, Johari, who has represented India at the World Economic Forum as one of the Global Shapers, spoke about the event, the idea behind it and how it is looking to empower people to do their bit for the environment.

WAY and the India Environment Festival

World Around You has been active for the last nine years in connecting the community with the environment and bringing awareness to them about the importance of sustaining it. We call it “Communi-Action for the Environment,” wherein “Communi” stands for communication and community both. The idea is to bring a behavioural change in people towards the environment and make them sensitive to it. We have been celebrating Ahmedabad World Environment Day on 5 June every year, but why should that be the only day when people become conscious about it all of a sudden and forget it the next day? Though the day has been established by the United Nations, it was done keeping in mind the climate and the conditions of western countries where it is summer at that time and quite pleasant to celebrate something like this. Participation was a big challenge during the Ahmedabad World Environment Day festival because most of the schools and colleges open later, so the footfalls of our main target audience, i.e. the children and the youth, weren’t there as much, plus the summer in our country is very harsh, which kept people away. So we decided to hold a festival during the winters because in India the festive season stretches through the whole of winter and people are in that spirit. The first edition of the India Environment Festival was held last year on 24, 25 and 26 February with the theme “Being Waste-Positive.” The idea was to change the public mindset on waste from negative to positive, because everyone complains of the accumulating waste in the city and blames the administration for mismanagement, but they forget that we the people are the ones who generate this waste. 400gm of waste everyday from every household gets dumped at Pirana. We decided to make people aware that we can tackle the menace starting from ourselves by recycling and minimizing the amount of our waste. Events like a cooking show that showed recipes which used parts of vegetables that normally people throw away had got a very good reception. We even had a Dog Adoption Show that had dogs rescued from the streets being put up for adoption, which we are repeating this year, too.

India Environment Festival 2018

The theme for this year’s festival is “I Am Water,” wherein we’ll be spreading awareness about freshwater conservation, the bottled water syndrome in which we’ll be talking on why we have resorted to getting packaged water everywhere, on why aren’t we trusting the water that is being offered to you in a glass but would take it readily if it is a small packaged bottle. The children growing up today see that the water they consume either comes in a big bottle everyday or there is machine in the house which gives them drinking water. So we’ll be telling people the whole journey of water, its way from the natural bodies like rivers and streams to the tap in our house. Another topic we’ll be talking is on “whether RO or not” because people aren’t actually aware that reverse osmosis was basically a process meant for industries to get pure H2O while the water that we consume must have several minerals. So are we getting those minerals in the water we drink, from our ROs, packaged bottles, or is tap water safe to drink, as the city administration claims it is completely safe because they treat it before releasing it to houses.
An important aspect we’ll be touching upon will be the wastage of water we do on a daily basis, the most ignored form of wastage being the leaking taps and pipes in our houses. On an average, a tap in every house leaks for at least two months continuously until it is repaired. Reasons given sometimes are that it is hard to find plumbers or we put it off for the weekend which then goes forgotten. Ninety percent of the time, it is just a simple problem of the washer in the tap, which can be replaced by us. So do-it-yourself (DIY) plumbing will be shown here which can be helpful in such scenarios, unless the tap damage is too bad and it needs to be taken care of my the plumbers. There’ll be a talk on this topic by Aabid Surti, the founder of the one-man NGO (non-governmental organization) Drop Dead Foundation and who has helped save 20 million litres of water so far with his initiatives. He wants to launch a campaign here in the city too and the target will be about 1 million litres of water to be saved. We’ll be involving schoolchildren in the water-saving initiatives and the schools will be given water-saving kits with which they can educate the students on water conservation. We will also have Rajshree Deshpande, who is known for her methods on reviving the dead rivers in our villages. She’ll be coming with five farmers from Aurangabad, where she and the villagers had themselves revived a river which was dead for the past 20 years. And, of course, the last day we have the Ice-Stupa man Sonam Wangchuk coming down all the way from Ladakh and giving a talk here.

The Eco-Entrepreneurs’ Summit and the Dog Adoption Show

This summit will be a convergence of budding eco-entrepreneurs who will come in and talk about their ideas of business as an “Eco-Preneur.” There will be Eco-Clinics wherein their myths and bothering them about business in these sectors would be solved by other successful eco-entrepreneurs and experts. There will also be a Eco-10K Challenge, where the budding entrepreneurs can pitch their business ideas to a panel of experts who will be judging it and the winner gets Rs10,000.
The Dog Adoption Show will be similar to the one we had last year. The idea is to tell people not to buy pets but adopt one. They’ll be given tips on how to take care of their pets and what are the major responsibilities which they miss out at times. The show will have Gujarat’s first certified canine behaviourist and trainer Nidhi Mehta explain to people on the behaviour of dogs and assist in the adoption of the canines that were rescued from the streets.

Hara Pitara

Hara Pitara is the green-flea market that will see stalls selling eco-friendly products for every member of the family that visits the fest. Things like recycled/up-cycled products, handicrafts, clothing and organic food will be available on sale here. With Hara Pitara, we’re trying to bust the myth that organic food and eco-friendly products are only for the elite and only they can afford it. This market will be open on all three days of the fest. This will be a platform that would help eco-entrepreneurs promote their eco-friendly products and empower people to opt for greener options for their houses and personal use.

The three-day India Environment Festival at Ahmedabad Haat begins on Friday.

Sujith Nambiar tweets at @sujith17nambiar.