On August 7, 2004, Eco Friends invited students and teachers from over 30 schools to attend a workshop on pollution in the Ganga. Over 150 people convened at Mercy Memorial School to not only hear from the experts, but to present their own opinions and ideas, as well. The morning consisted of an address from the Chief Guest, Anita Bhatnagar Jain, Commissioner, Kanpur Division, Labour Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh, and environmental enthusiast. Her participatory and passionate speech inspired the students and prepared them for an informative and interesting day. The rest of the morning consisted of speeches from experts such as Dr. Padma S. Vankar, IIT, on heavy metal contamination and its effects in the Ganga, R K Singh, Central Pollution Control Board, F U Rahman, Project Planning and Coordination Unit GAPSP, on GAP in Kanpur, and Dr. Vandana Asthana, Dept. of Political Science and Environmental Studies Unit at Christ Church College, Kanpur, who spoke about the role of culture in the transformation of the river Ganga. The students listened intently to the speakers and probed them with questions, inspiring a heated debate over the state of the Ganga Action Plan in Kanpur. The students had so many questions that the speakers finally had to offer their email addresses and ask that other questions be asked over email so lunch could be served!
In the afternoon, it was time for the students to listen to each other’s ideas. The afternoon started out with an excellent cultural program by students from the host school, Mercy Memorial. It was a narrated dance, in which dancers dressed in white, depicting the pure goddess Ganga, were overcome with pollution. Other schools also offered creative and inspiring skits and plays, including Wendy, Mother Teresa, D P Mishra, and Puran Chandra Vidya Niketan school. Then Ms. Carrie Knowlton, a graduate student visiting Eco Friends from the University of Michigan, USA, gave a short talk on her perceptions of the Ganga and water issues in the Great Lakes, USA. Each invited school had been asked to come prepared with a slogan and a proposal for a plan of action that they could do in their schools or communities to raise awareness and help clean the Ganga. Many schools had wonderful ideas and slogans, some of which are listed below:
Wendy Naramau High School: Developed the slogan: “Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. How long will poisoned Ganga flow, time to sit up and think.”
Mariampur Senior Secondary School: Plans to hold a quiz bowl and essay competition in their school about the Ganga, as well as put on a play and hold a workshop for parents!
Guru Nanak Modern School: Wants to organise a march with representatives from all schools to raise public awareness.
There were many more wonderfully creative ideas and slogans and Eco Friends intends to give full support to the schools in spreading their message among their peers!