Prakriti Environment Education Bus
Gopal Kumar Jain and Keren Nazareth, CEE

The green bus with its vibrantly painted exterior is now a familiar sight in Ahmedabad, Surat, Bharuch, Gandhinagar, Vadodara, Tapi and many other places around Gujarat.

The idea for such a bus came five years ago from the Club of Youth Working for the Environment (CYWEN). They felt:
- Young people could be Environment Educators
- Young people need resources to carry out awareness programme

CEE started to explore the concept of a mobile resource centre – Prakriti Environment Education Bus – with support from BG India and Gujarat Gas Company Limited (GGCL).
The content and communication design was decided through discussions with teachers, youth, educationists etc.

Prakriti was launched in September 2005 by Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat in Gandhinagar. The launch began an era of CNG as well as accessible environment education beginning with the districts of Ahmedabad, Surat and Bharuch.

The Bus Structure
The bus is built on a Swaraj Mazda chassis and it runs Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

The sides have been modified to make information panels. While the bus is moving, these sections are closed and covered by glass shutters. The side panels have:

  • A collage featuring people, lifestyle and places (cultural heritage) of Gujarat appears on one side of the bus
  • Panels on natural heritage highlighting the richness of biodiversity

The back of the bus is used to display 3D models and to screen films. The bus carries with it a screen, speakers, LCD projector, generator, computer system and a public address (PA) system.

The bus is a one stop-shop for environment education. Users can set up an exhibition, activities, games, film shows, demonstrations, puppet-shows and conduct group discussions. Reference resource materials on various issues are also placed inside the bus, for those interested in more details on any particular issue.

Prakriti Visits and Partnerships
Having created the bus, the next step was to organize its visits, mainly to areas where access was limited or existing systems had not been able to reach.

CYWEN chose to partner with local organisation working with youth: Nature Club Surat and the Nehru Yuva Kendra, Bharuch. Both these local partners have a strong youth volunteer base and youth were trained and oriented to carry out Prakriti programmes in their respective districts.

The first point of entry of the bus was through rural and urban schools. Over the years this expanded to events, programmes organised by groups, companies, corporate social responsibility projects, colleges and schools in neighbouring districts such as Gandhinagar, Tapi, and Vadodara.

A typical activity includes the bus exhibition, games, activities, film shows, demonstrations and discussions.

All these require well grounded, patient and enthusiastic individuals. The core team comprises one programme staff, one project staff, two interns, and the most important member, the driver of the bus. The strength of the Prakriti bus is its core team and the volunteers that help organise and carry out events.

Prakriti works on strengthening existing forums and platforms by providing resources, support, guidance and expertise over a period of time, to help such forums conduct their activities more effectively.

Prakriti also reaches out to schools through the eco-clubs set up and run as a part of the National Green Corps programme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. Eco-clubs have taken up the issues of health, biodiversity, plastic management, renewable energy, herbal medicines and plants, deforestation, noise pollution in their yearly projects.

Prakriti Projects
Projects have been undertaken by schools on concerns in their immediate environment. One such issue focussed is biodiversity. Projects include those on Spiders, Birds, Mosquitoes and their impact on health; medicinal plants and how they can be used to make home remedies for various ailments. A school in Surat has also done a survey on the types of trees in Surat city.
“The children interviewed doctors from the local hospital to get their expert advice on the types of mosquitoes, their life cycle and the diseases they cause.” Eco-club teacher, Bharuch
“The children were shocked to find out the number of birds that had either gone extinct or were on the verge of extinction in their areas.” Eco-club teacher, Bharuch

Few eco-club Prakriti schools focussed on maintaining the greenery on the school grounds and also cultivated green patches with flowering plants; vegetable plants and medicinal plants. Two schools have initiated the practice of giving children from the eco-clubs saplings to plant in their homes and take care of them. “We do a continuous follow up with the children as to how their plants are faring. Those who don’t have space around their houses, we’ve given them potted plants.” Principal of Anjuman-E-Islam High School, Ahmedabad

At the end of the year an event which brings together the entire year’s learning, partners, collaborators, groups of youth and children is organised. It is a meeting of ideas, innovation, creativity and a platform to share and learn from the experiences of the students, teachers and youth volunteers. The event is held either at a district level or at the State level and has competitions, presentations, training sessions, workshops, cultural programmes, bird watching sessions and other excursions.

The event also provides an opportunity for the Prakriti team to evaluate the year gone by and plan for the up coming year.

Prakriti’s programmes have evolved over the last three years from generic outreach to all NGC schools to a more focussed one with selected schools that are interested in collaborating with Prakriti.

Prakriti has also collaborated with the Gujarat Paguthan Energy Corporation (GPEC), for their CSR programme in ten villages in Bharuch. In the past year (2008) Prakriti focused on “Eco-friendly festivals” to convey the impacts of synthetic colours used during holi on health and the environment, while also providing an option of organic colours.

During the last three years, over 100 youth particularly from the three project districts have been involved as educators for conducting programmes. For these young people, engagement with Prakriti was a good learning experience.

Using the Prakriti experience, a youth organisation in Vallabhvidyanagar has initiated its own resource centre. Nature Club Surat too is developing a programme to provide opportunities for youth to play the role of educators. Resource centres such as these are good tools for environment education.

For more information contact:
Gopal Jain
Centre for Environment Education
Nehru Foundation for Development
Thaltej Tekra
Ahmedabad 380054
Ph: 079 26858002; Fax: 079 26858010

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