July 31: Somya Ahuja does not like the way people treat their environment. So she wrote an essay about it. And that essay led to her becoming India’s Eco-ambassador at a children’s conference in England recently.

Eleven-year-old Somya lives in Delhi – a city which has the distinction of being one of the most polluted cities in the world. The city’s roads are choked with cars, lorries, buses, tempos and three wheelers. Most of these vehicles belch poisonous gases.

Eleven-year-old Eco-ambassador [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
Eleven-year-old Eco-ambassador [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

And then there are the factories. They also give out a lot of toxic fumes. In fact, they have polluted Delhi’s only river, Yamuna. So much so that its water has almost turned into poison. Fish cannot thrive in the river. It is so dirty. All of this has happened because the people of Delhi are not concerned about their environment.

Somya wrote about all these things in her essay. She wanted to know why people couldn’t take care of their environment. And feared about the kind of world she and her generation would grow up into.

Somya wrote the essay when United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) asked schools in Delhi to participate in an essay-writing competition on the environment. Somya’s essay was considered the best entry. And she was invited to UNEP’s Millennium Children’s Conference on Environment which was held at Eastbourne in England from May 22 to 24.

Somya was among 800 children-delegates from 110 countries who attended the conference. All the delegates were between the ages of 10 and 12. At the conference, Somya found that there were other kids who felt the same way as she did. All of them spoke about their ideas, discussed the future of the planet earth and even performed imaginative little skits.

Each day of the conference had its own theme. The theme for the last day was “Living in cities”. Somya and two other eco-ambassadors from India enacted a skit on what fire-crackers do to cities.

The British Environment Minister, Michael Meacher was one of the few grown ups who attended the meet. Otherwise, it was an all-kids affair. With children running the meet, deciding what happens when — just about everything.

Somya says the conference has helped her to realise that her opinions also matter. If she feels something is wrong, she has every right to say so aloud. And grown ups will have to listen. For she, and other children like her, are the future. Aren’t they?

414 words | 4 minutes
Readability: Grade 6 (11-12 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: world news
Tags: #india, #england, #rivers, #environment, #cities

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