Suchitra Singh is a woman of conviction, who cares about the ambience around her and more importantly, inspires others to do so. She is the President Elect of Rotary Club. A member of All India Women’s Conference, Suchitra is an interior designer by profession.

Eco Friends met Suchitra at her residence. What ensued was a spontaneous overflow of thoughts and feelings. Excerpts:

What kind of association did you have with nature while you were a child?

Suchitra: We were very fortunate to be brought up in some of the nicest places. My father had a transferable job and we traveled a lot. We always had a garden in our house. So our association with nature was very spontaneous. We loved animals and we loved pets. In fact one of my best childhood associations is with a lovely dairy farm which my granduncle used to run. It had about 80 heads of cattle. I can never forget the smell of that dairy farm. A lot of my growing up was in Delhi when Delhi was much more natural than it is now.

How long have you been in Kanpur?

Suchitra: Since I got married which was 24 and a half years ago.

How do you find Kanpur of 1970s and now?

Suchitra: Kanpur was certainly cleaner, simpler, had less traffic and less buildings two decades back. And there was a certain beauty about the whole scenario, whether along the river or within the city which does not exist anymore. Everything looks so overcrowded, dirty and shabby now.

What do you think is the most disgusting thing in Kanpur?

Suchitra: Spitting of pan masala. When there is no basic respect for nature, other problems related to solid waste like piggery arise. I also feel disgusted at the way the Ganga ji is being treated. It is atrocious and really pathetic.

How was Ganga 20 years back?

Suchitra: Definitely it was more serene and more navigable. I remember we came from Bithoor to Kanpur during those times. I do not know if it is possible now. Many years ago we spent lot of our happy times in Bithoor which had an untouched quality, which has disappeared today. I was horrified to see pigs on the ghats the other day. Sarsaiya and Massacre ghats were very popular then. Today, the state of these ghats is deplorable. There is no river in Sarsaiya ghat.

How would you like to see Ganga in Kanpur?

Suchitra: My most beautiful impression of Ganga ji is in Allahabad and in Benaras where not the beauty but whole sacredness of the river really touches you. And I would like to see the Ganga in Kanpur definitely with more water and cleaner so that everybody who coexists and lives along the Ganga can have a better quality of life. Essentially, I would like people to respect Her not only in our scriptures but in reality.

It is but a paradox that even though they respect Ganga when they have to perform religious rites, they throw garbage in the river simultaneously.

Suchitra: Well, what are they to do. It is not only human pollution. It is something that the government should also work towards. Everywhere in the world all kinds of pollution is junked into rivers. But there is a system of treatment. Here untreated raw sullage is allowed into the river. I think the government is to be blamed for that. You tell people at the ghat what to do to depollute Ganga and they will certainly take your suggestion. Tell them how to deal with their own waste matter.

They know polythene damages river ecology and still they continue doing that.

Suchitra: See, we basically are not a disciplined people. We only get disciplined when there is some fine imposed for an offence. The same Indian who spits out of his car wouldn’t dare do that in Singapore. Unfortunately, we as a country don’t seem to respect our heritage. We take everything for granted. And we claim to be so religious, so educated. But people who don’t respect their legacy, should relook at themselves.

What are your views on Eco Friends Ganga Ambassador concept?

Suchitra: It is a good idea. It gives a person pride to be associated with Ganga depollution campaign. But the point is that how much are they actually contributing to be worthy of being called Ganga Ambassador. Just wearing a badge doesn’t make you a Ganga Ambassador. You have to actively devote some time, energy or money to the campaign.

What would be your list of priorities as far as tackling city pollution is concerned?

Suchitra: That’s the most difficult thing to do for anybody. First of all you have to unravel the mess. And there is a mess everywhere. Post clean-up of mess scenario, I think one would really wish to work for better facilities at villages and make life better for those who are not that rich. The government has many good projects on paper but they are never implemented.

Ecological restoration would be a priority because all over the world people are waking up to the fact that unless we look after our ecosystem, survival would be at stake. And Uttar Pradesh is the luckiest because we are in the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. We can do so much if only we go with nature.

What is the role of women in environmental protection?

Suchitra: Women always have a great role to play because being homemakers they influence the lives and thoughts of their children in a major way. And they make excellent teachers which shapes the minds of the students. Mothers would like their children to grow up into good human beings. So once women are aware of what should be done like having safer garbage disposal methods, they can change the society enormously.

Women are still economically dependent on their husbands or their sons. They do not have money to spend but they have great will and a great pride in what they do. If you give them an opportunity to be able to take decisions or give them an infrastructure, I think women are your best bet in ensuring that a project is implemented effectively.

What about the future of Ganga?

Suchitra: I would like to see its future brighter. I pray that better sense prevails and people realize that the Ganga ji is one of our greatest heritages. It should be protected at all costs.

Leather industries are contributing in a major way in polluting the Ganga ji not because they don’t want to clean up before dumping their waste but there is not enough control. Inspectors are being bribed to allow things to happen. So unless there is a complete overall of the system, I don’t see things getting much better.

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