Ardent environmentalist

EducationWorld March 10 | EducationWorld People

For seven years, Prakash Thosre worked in the Melghat forests of south-western Maharashtra before he stumbled upon the realisation that for the area to remain green, it would be better to win friends and influence among children, rather than adults. Today, he is doing just that. As director of the social forestry department of Maharashtra, he has set himself the ambitious goal of reaching out to 400,000 students in 8,900 schools across the state, with the message of environ-ment preservation. And, unlike most government initiatives which remain pious pipedreams, Thosres campaign is already rolling and yielding results.This initiative has proved quite successful, and a small example should prove the point. We have started a summer project in schools in which students are asked to collect seeds, especially of plants and trees that are either fruit-bearing, of medicinal use or can be used to extract natural dyes. Last year, the collection was a whopping 40 tonnes. This is an indication of the high levels of enthusiasm and involvement of participating students. Moreover last Diwali, we requested children and their parents to divert a part of their fireworks budget on alternate products such as mud forts and sweets. Again the response was spirited and prevented Rs.1.20 crore from going up in smoke, says Thosre.
An Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer of the Maharashtra cadre, Thosre was handpicked to spearhead the state governments National Green Corps because of his excellent track record in preserving natural habitats. In 2002, a ministerial meeting led to the drafting of the Coimbatore Charter which outlined how young children could be involved in conserving our flora and fauna through the estab-lishment of eco clubs in urban, rural and tribal schools. The Coimbatore Charter set a target of eco clubs in 100 schools in each of the countrys 630 districts. Now the number has been scaled up to 250 schools, says Thosre.
An alumnus of Punes well known ILS Law College, during his 32-year career in the IFS, Thosre served postings in Mumbai, Amravati, Akola, Nashik and Pune and criss-crossed the Melghat region for seven years, covering more than 175,000 km. During this period he led the environment debate by pres-enting papers at more than 50 national and ten international conferences, while also authoring a book titled Wildlife of Maharashtra.
To enthuse and involve school children with the ambitious National Green Corps, Thosre has pulled out all the stops. We have chalked out a wide range of creative programmes to ensure maximum participation of children. This includes field visits to eco sites, street theatre, tree planting drives, maintaining kitchen gardens, vermicomposting pits, construction of water harvesting structures, maintenance of sacred groves, mobilising action against unsafe garbage disposal and so on. More importantly, we have started an NGC Park project. Under this initiative, special nature parks hosting butterfly gardens, medicinal plants and nature trails are being developed in each district under the jurisdiction of the IFS. For me eco conservation and greening India is serious business, says Thosre.
Go green!
Huned Contractor (Pune)

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