Hyderabad: At the recently held Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, the Minister of State for Urban Development and Housing Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri used some telling statistics to highlight the enormity of the urban development challenge ahead of us.
One among those was that by 2030, 600 million Indians are expected to be living in cities which make building planned urban spaces as the most important problem for us all to solve at this stage of the Nations growth.
The challenges arising out of overpopulated and under planned cities are felt by all of us on an everyday basis. The air quality situation in cities across the country, unmanageable floods in Mumbai last August and the disappearing lakes in our cities are just a few horrific reminders.
However, the solutions to better and smarter urbanisation are not just to go about building more cities or to keep increasing the capacity of existing mega cities but ultimately lie in creating a framework for a harmonious balance between natural environs and all the citizens of the city in an inclusive manner.
Along with the initiatives the government is taking, this needs collective re-imagination and action from communities in our cities.
This mammoth task can no more be residual dinner table conversation if we want the very food on that table to be healthy and nutrient and not highly intoxicated due to extreme pollution levels in air and groundwater. So many questions arise then – How can we reimagine our cities?
Worldview Education, a Hyderabad born experiential learning focused organisation has designed an innovative long-term approach to precisely achieve this.
Worldview believes that students and schools can be the big solution. Terming ‘Schools as the Primary engines of Positive Change’, Sampreeth Reddy, Managing Director of Worldview Education, said “They have developed various experiential learning programs for students with an aim to trigger a curiosity and a creative thinking process in students to find solutions to the challenges we face in making our cities more sustainable.”
He further said “schools converge large, diverse and powerful communities and also large tracts of land in congested cities. If they can reimagine themselves to be a microcosm of a smart city then we can achieve a positive ‘acupuncture effect’ through the very same communities that they converge.
Schools across India seem to agree with this innovative approach and have been leading the way through participation in these programs.
The management of some of these schools not only think that the future of our cities is in the hands of the cities young, they also think that these challenges across the world offer the biggest career opportunities for these students in the future.”
One such initiative called ‘NatureTurks’ addresses the issue at the absolute fundamental level – the absence of a relationship with nature or the lack of appreciation for it within the city, particularly among children who’ve grown up post the internet revolution.
Through 4-6 days interventions that are carefully designed, students are immersed in the outdoors with a simple goal of building an appreciation for nature and to understand the reciprocal relationship that we share.
The mountains, rocks, star-studded night skies, trees, bees and butterflies turn facilitators of life lessons in a purpose-built campus set amidst the Nallamalla High range 120 km outside Hyderabad.
Post the active intervention students are empowered and encouraged to take action within their zones of immediate influences however small they may be – confines of their homes, communities and schools.
For the ones who are ready to travel the distance there is the ‘FutureSake’ initiative where students get a unique opportunity to study some of the best case practices of sustainable urbanisation in Singapore or San Fransisco before they get started with their projects.
As part of FutureSake, the students conduct an environmental audit of their local realities before they set out on an expedition to discover the very latest in smart city making.
The focus of this week to ten-day trips is to understand the key building blocks of a city – energy, water, waste, biodiversity, land use and mobility.
From lobbying with the management to go solar, to creating awareness campaigns within the rest of the school students about simple and easily implementable solutions such as waste-segregation, water conservation to actually running projects in the school to grow food, plant trees or create harvesting pits; these sustainability champions are already taking positive action in their own little way.
Irrespective of the immediate success of these actions, the long-term impact is in these students embracing sustainable living practices, developing a culture of working on community problems and actively engaging in their city development.
The Oakridge International School, The International School of Hyderabad, Nasr School (from Hyderabad), NSS Hillspring Int’l School, MET Rishukul Vidyalaya, GD Somani School, DY Patil Int’l School, NES Int’l School, Fazlani L’academie Globale and Lilavatibai Podar School (from Mumbai), Anand Niketan School, Cygnus World School (Ahmedabad and Baroda), NPS Koramangla, Mallya Aditi School (Bangalore), BVM Global (Chennai), Bhavans Vidya Mandir Eroor and Girinagar (both from Kochi) are some of the schools that have included these initiatives in their students’ schedules and are actively encouraging them to take positive action.