In 2019, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung (HSS) India was able to achieve some important project goals with local partner organizations – in the foundation’s effort to strengthen federal democratic structures, to introduce concepts for safer cities, to shape water and environmental policies and to provide women empowerment in various parts of India.
The third chapter is on our work in the field of fighting plastic pollution to protect environment and marine biodiversity. In the fight against global warming and climate change, HSS India stands committed to sustainable development, environmental protection, natural resources conservation and pollution abatement. As part of its efforts to restore the ecosystems, in 2019 HSS partnered Centre for Environment Education (CEE) to spread awareness about plastic waste among the school and college students.
Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the biggest threats to our biodiversity. Marine ecosystem in particular is gravely vulnerable to plastic pollution. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, annually over 300 million tons of plastic are produced, out of which “8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments”. Marine species either ingest the plastic debris or get entrapped by them. As per one estimate, if the trend of unabated plastic pollution continues like this, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and woefully about 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic.
UN Environment has developed the Tide Turners Plastic Challenge Badge “to educate young people about plastic pollution and to encourage them to play a part in resolving pressing environmental issues.” The aim of the Tide Turner Challenge was “to create a new movement of young people across the world who will be committing to take action to reduce plastic waste in their lives, at schools and within the community.” In India, HSS and CEE along with WWF India and Bharat Scouts partnered to educate the young minds to turn the tide against plastic pollution.
More than 13000 students from the two of the Indian states Gujarat (6 districts) and Uttar Pradesh (6 districts) accepted the challenge to turn the tide against plastic pollution. They were all trained by CEE in partnership with HSS from July 2019 to November 2019. To facilitate the training, toolkits both in English and Hindi were developed. HSS and CEE together developed a website also for the year 2019 to facilitate the registration of the students and for larger outreach and knowledge dissemination.
In turn, the students brought about changes in the premises of their schools and colleges, in their neighbourhood and in their houses. Changes were both physical and attitudinal through participatory cleaning campaign, spreading awareness on single use plastic etc. The impact of the campaign was far greater than we imagine. It is not just 13000 young leaders that were trained but their family members were sensitized and oriented towards plastic tide turner cause by those young leaders. Similarly, street vendors, shopkeepers and municipal authorities were sensitized towards the harmful impact of single use plastic. So the impact multiplied and percolated vertically and horizontally, which led to behavioural changes, a must to live a sustainable life.
Today the fish that you eat is nothing but plastic. –Bharat Scouts and Guides