Hum log

Published on October 10th, 2012

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Two men for the great outdoors

Starting today, two Mumbaikars will travel across India to plant trees, speak to students and create awareness about environment conservation.
by The Editors | editor@themetrognome.in

Hari Chakyar is 26, and a Borivli resident who on September 28 took a sabbatical from his content writing responsibilities at Jack in the Box Worldwide to fulfil a long-held dream with Worli resident and friend Anthony Karbhari (24) – starting today, the duo is set to travel all over the country to plant trees, a project they’ve titled ‘Project 35 Trees’. The Metrognome chatted with Hari to find out more about the project and what it entails.

What is Project 35 Trees about?

Project 35 Trees is about planting trees in all 35 states and union territories of India. It is also about educating students about the need to plant trees and other environmental problems that the world faces.

What is the genesis of the idea?

This project is a succession of my previous initiatives. I am immensely influenced by Proffesor Sudhakar Solomonraj of Wilson College who would take his students from the Wilson College Nature Club for treks to nearby forests. In 2009, I did a campaign in Ambarnath (where I used to live then). In the campaign, along with friends there, I put up a street play called Nature Baba Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai? and planted trees all over Ambarnath.

How long have you been working on Project 35 Trees?

Project 35 Trees began in October last year. The idea took a lot of time to form. I started thinking about this some time in early 2011. I found a name and created the Facebook pagefor it in October 2011. This is a community project that belongs to everybody…where Anthony and I play initiators.

Take us through the preparations you’ve made before you start on the trip.

We are finding schools or colleges in each of these 35 places we are going to visit. We have already found hosts to stay with in almost all these places. We are and will be collecting funds for the trip. People can contribute via the Wishberry.in page. Currently, we are ticking things off our list of things to take for the trip.

What equipment are you carrying?

A projector, a laptop, cameras and so on, apart from a few digging implements. On our person, we’ll carry enough cash to last us in a particular state. The rest will be safe in our accounts. If you ask about our budget, we need Rs 5 lakhs.

What other preparations does one need for a trip of this kind?

Both of us have never travelled continuously for such a long time. The most we have done is travel for a month. Anthony (who is a freelance filmmaker) travels more frequently than me. For now, we are preparing ourselves mentally for this epic four-month trip. We also continually tell each other that we have to wash clothes for four months. Anthony is fitter than I am. I am also watching my diet for now and cycling regularly.

How did you decide on the places you plan to target?

We decided the route we wanted to take and then started finding hosts who are mostly friends, friends of friends or relatives of friends. We have hosts who are related to friends. We don’t know most of them personally. It helped if they also had a school nearby. A few people even offered to put us up after they read about us in a magazine. I have only travelled to Kerala, Ahmedabad, Daman and Hyderabad, apart from a whirlwind tour of the northeast. Seeing a lot of new places and meeting a lot of interesting people is also what we are thrilled about.

In the past, you have been known to cycle to work and be involved with unusual green initiatives. How did the awareness for these come about?

I cycle for fun. I rode the bicycle to work on World Environment Day because I thought that would be a nice way to promote Project 35 Trees.

Have you ever faced ridicule about the ideas you’ve had?

Never. People have always been supportive. Personally, and even from strangers on social media. We get a lot of free advice, though.

What has been your family’s reaction to Project 35 Trees?

They too have been very supportive of all my initiatives. Every parent must encourage their children to support environmental causes. Even though my parents are concerned that I’ll be away for four months, they haven’t stopped supporting me.

What is your expectation of the Project?

I would love it if even a few students I speak to decide to take up initiatives to know more and act for the conservation of the environment. We will be ready to help these schools set up a nature club in their schools or colleges, like for a class assignment. It’ll also be awesome if people could plant trees on their own.

For us, Project 35 Trees is also about understanding what environmental problems the country faces. Meeting people who are doing good work in conservation will also help.

Your opinion on general awareness (from society, NGOs, government, media) about green initiatives.

Awareness programmes must be included in the scholastic syllabus. Students must be encouraged to participate in awareness and conservation programmes. This will help them make informed, sensitive choices as adults.

A lot of simple human actions affect the environment adversely. When you purchase shells and conches from Kanyakumari, you don’t realise that those creatures are caught live in the waters and boiled in the hundreds to ‘clean’ and beautify them for your showcase. Some women want ivory jewellery made from the tusks of painfully-slaughtered elephants. Did you know that sharks will soon join the ranks of endangered creatures because some of us want shark fin soup for dinner?

It’s time to stop taking the world around for granted and finding out which of our actions are causing great distress elsewhere.

The project:

The duo will visit educational institutions across the country and plant trees with students to create awareness about

fighting global warming and climate change together. The session will last about 60 minutes, and will include a documentary film screening, a talk about the Project and a Q&A session. The session will ideally be followed by a tree-planting session, and is aimed at students of class 8 and above.

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One Response to Two men for the great outdoors

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