Looks like the greenest schools are in India’s suburbs. An annual environmental audit of schools by New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says ‘the real action is not happening in the ‘elite’, big-budget, up-market schools.’ Rather, semi-urban and mid-rung institutions in small cities such as Panipat (Haryana) and Jalgaon (Maharashtra) are leading the green brigade.
CSE asks schools across India to carry out rigorous self-audit on environmental practices within their own premises. From among the 5,000 schools that participated this year, the 20 national toppers had nine from the semi-urban, mid-rung category. Six of the national-level winners are from Delhi. Interestingly, ‘elite’ schools joined the programme with great fanfare, but failed to carry it through.
Small schools showed commitment — discarded cars in favour of walking and cycling to commute, reused grey water to irrigate playfields and green areas, harvested rainwater, recycled solid wastes, turned their grounds into biodiversity hotspots planting large varieties of medicinal plants and used solar power to heat water, cook and light up streets.
The green campaign in ‘elite’ schools was found to be restricted to reating ‘eco clubs’ and campaigns with no long term commitment. The trend reflects a larger social behaviour — the lack of commitment of our big cities and urban citizens to make any path-breaking contribution towards this end. It would be a good thing to see small cities lead by example.