Father S M D'Souza is the principal of St Aloysius' School. He shares his feelings on the environmental crisis looming over Kanpur. These are excerpts from the conversation he had with Eco Friends:

How has been your association with nature since you were a child?

Father : I come from a small village in the sea coast near Mangalore in Karnataka. The village is in the lap of nature. There are mighty granite rocks, thick forest, vegetation, grazing grounds, rivulets and rivers. So, from childhood I have been close to nature. My maternal grandfather was a farmer by profession and I saw how he cultivated land, till it and grow rice as well as paddy. I also saw coconut, cashew, betel and black pepper being grown. Our house was amidst trees and shrubs.

I like animals and birds and never hurt them. I have two dogs and a cow here and I call them by their names. In school also, I encourage my students to love all beings. When a stray dog or a monkey ventures into the campus, I tell the boys not to intimidate them but deal with them humanly. Because God created all the creatures first and when the Universe was ready to accept man, he brought in humans in this world. Nature has so much to teach us but unfortunately, owing to his greed, man has almost raped the nature.

How does the pollution in Kanpur impact you?

Father: I rarely go out in the city because of pollution. Each time I go out, my eyes start burning due to fumes. When I wipe my face, I can see the black soot on my handkerchief. I avoid going to the city unless it is very urgent. Luckily, our school is in the Cantonment and it is better here.

Have you seen Ganga in Kanpur? How do you find it?

Father: Yes, I have seen it from afar. There is a lot of dirt and filth floating in Ganga. Corpses and animal caracasses are thrown in it as if the river is a carrier of everything. I have been to Allahabad ghats during Khumbh melas. But I haven't had the opportunity to visit Kanpur ghats. However, my students, who were taken on a field visit to these ghats tell me that the ghats have been polluted and profaned. The students have expressed concern about the deplorable condition of the ghats and they are keen to do something positive to bring Ganga to its original status.

How do you find the concept of Ganga Ambassadors being propogated by Eco Friends?

Father: Many of my students have been made Ganga Ambassadors and I find that the concept would really work. These ambassadors have been entrusted with the responsibility to spread the message of Ganga depollution far and wide. The students are doing a good job.

How do you think that the children can be motivated into joining this eco movement actively?

Father: First of all, children should be taught to love nature and live with nature. Parents do not do that. Even if they grow one tree in their courtyard it would contribute a lot in absorbing carbon dioxide. During Holi, a number of trees are cut. Parents should tell their children not do indulge in such activities. They must tell them that it should be done in a symbolic way by burning a few wood logs and it is not necessary to have huge a campfire. I have seen tree guards set up by the officials demolished by none other than the children. So motivation would come only when children are taught the importance of protecting the environment.

What is the role of the schools?

Father : Environmental education should be inculcated through different subjects such as geography. But home has to be the first teacher. I have provided dustbins everywhere in the school but some children throw the wrapper near the canteen where they eat. So whenever I see them doing so, I tell them to pick it up and throw it in the trash container.
Parents must instil a sense of cleanliness in their child. Hence, if NGOs like Eco Friends organize something for parents and make them aware of their role in tackling these issues by educating their kids, perhaps it would help a lot in checking pollution. Parents should be taken to these ghats and shown how dirty the river is and they should be told that the same water is supplied to them for drinking purposes.

What steps would you take to improve the environmental condition in Kanpur?

Father : As an educationist, I would involve children in the anti-pollution campaign and show them the repercussions of pollution that we are facing today. Take them to the ghats and show them the sorry state of Ganga. Because what children see, they do not forget. Merely bookish knowledge, giving lectures and talks would not help. Children should be brought in touch with the reality. Such eye-opening exercises have to be organized not once in a week but regularly.

While I was in Allahabad, we had conducted Ganga cleaning. Children were given some kits and they went to Ganga regularly and took samples to analyse the water. They found it for themselves how polluted the river was. Here also I encourage similar anti-pollution drives.

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

Father : Showing by example rather than by preaching. Because what you do yourself has more impact than what you tell others to do. I myself, sometimes, pick up any waste lying in the school campus and throw it in the dustbin. Cleanliness is next to godliness that is what I want to inculcate in my students.

How do you see the future?

Father : The future is bright if each one takes his/her duty seriously. There should be a feeling that if I can not make it I should not mar it either. For instance, I may not be able to clean up the Ganga physically. But as an individual I can at least stop my actions which would further pollute the river water by not throwing polybags or waste into it.

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