"My message is very simple. We are not distinct from nature. We are a part of it. It is one big family, one big chain. It is our responsibility to hold this family together. No one wrote this planet down in our name. It was never ours, never will be. We are just its caretakers and we have to do that job well."- Hridith Sudev Founder of Project GreenWorld International
Aged 16 and three quarters
A school project inspired brothers Hridith Sudev and Samjet Shaji to create an environmental NGO and in 2012 Project GreenWorld International was born, an umbrella initiative including Project GreenOman and Project GreenIndia. What stands out is that in 2012, the brothers were aged 12 and seven respectively. With Hridith at the helm and based in the Middle East, Project GreenWorld International is the largest kid's environmental organization in Oman and is managed entirely by children.
Project GreenOman won a UN Conference on Sustainable Development global school contest award for promoting eco-friendliness. In 2014 the Project bagged an International Energy Globe Award.Environmentalist, public speaker, writer and inventor, Hridith Sudev is a shining example of how important environmental education is.
Organizing an annual Water Day, exploring biodiversity through nature walks, as well as clean-up operations and sapling planting, Project GreenWorld International is growing with the power of green education and action; as its founder and volunteers grow into green-aware teens and eco-conscious grown-ups.
GoGreen Portals had the pleasure of finding out more about the greenest boy in the Middle East and the latest initiatives beyond Oman, in India.
How did a school initiative move to the next level and turn into Project GreenWorld International (PGWI)?
Our school sees environmental sensitivity as an integral component of life and gives us all the support to build up our fledgling ideas. It was the love and support of my teachers, the Social Science HOD, Mr Unnikrishnan; the Eco Club coordinator Mr Samuel John and our untiring Principal, Mr TR Brown that always kept us going.
I remember my Principal saying in one of his regular addresses, "Our efforts are like a bowstring, the further you bend, the farther you reach". This always fueled me. Then there are my parents, they are superhuman and I totally owe them for all the sleepless nights, when I'm busy planning the next move of PGWI. My brother, Samjet, a founding member of PGWI and all those 70 young children who stood by me, they took it to the next level.
What has been your most proud achievement so far?
The Energy Globe Award would have been the obvious answer. It is the world's most coveted environmental prize and winning it isn't a cakewalk; but to me, our proudest achievement is that we have created a wave of change. Children are rising for nature. Age is no more a bar for activism. The very fact that this little children's effort has got international renown, that, I feel is our biggest achievement.
What are some of the practical projects PGWI has been involved with?
We are mostly involved in tree plantation drives and cleanup campaigns. We have planted over three hundred saplings at various places and usually clean around half an acre of land during cleanup campaigns.I believe that a large collection of small-scale conservation activities is far more practical than one big large-scale event.
Is it a challenge coordinating the volunteers?
No kidding! It is a herculean challenge coordinating volunteers. Now the condition is a lot better. We work as team and coordinate events. Right back in the days, when we were starting PGWI, I had to do all the planning and coordination single-handedly. My brother was a great support, but yes, it was tough. Also, we are a non-profit children's organization, so we had a lot of monetary strains for procuring saplings and starting up recycling. It was my parents who sponsored all our initial costs. Even today, for all our spending we get monetary support from our parents and members themselves. We try to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Why do you think that so many youngsters have joined forces with you?
They have seen light! We humans have a flair for rebellion, especially us teens. We want change. When we plant saplings, conserve water and clean plastics, we see a real-time change. In 6-8 months, the verdure increases, a wide array of birds can be spotted, the temperature cools down; we can see it happen. With the fame our initiative has been getting, youngsters now know where to come. Every day more and more people join us, demanding change. History teaches us that most people begin this way, wanting a positive change and life dampens their revolution as they grow older. I just hope this doesn't happen to us.
Do you believe young people are more interested or connected to environmentalism or less because they have been born into a throw-away culture?
I believe they are more interested and connected to environmentalism not despite the throw away culture but because of it. We hear about deforestation every day, global warming, improper waste management; we see the bad things happening. So youngsters today are more aware of the dangers our planet is facing.This makes our work a lot more productive.
You are an inspiration, but do you think you are saying anything different or is it that you are speaking to your age group at your age?
It is more of the latter. People have done this very same thing for so many years. But they didn't see the big picture. They were so busy educating adults that they forgot; today's children are tomorrow's adults. I decided to give it a twist. We cannot bend a tree to shape, but we can culture a sapling. So, it is far easier and a lot more productive to create environmentally responsible children than environmentally committed adults. This is what I have done differently. I tried educating youngsters. If I have been an inspiration to anyone, it is because of my school and parents, who empowered me enough to sail uncharted seas.
Oman is not renowned for its green initiatives, is it?
Oman is one of the greenest places in the Middle-East. In Southern Oman, we have two months of solid rain and unbelievable biodiversity. But, as you point out, efforts to conserve this bounty is relatively low. The biggest issue I see close to home is the throw-away culture. People take nature for granted. This was one of the biggest challenges we have had to tackle.
Can you talk a little bit about Project GreenIndia?
In the beginning, we were limited to Oman, but that is not our vision. From day one, I have dreamed of an environmentally committed world. Project GreenIndia is the first step to that dream of ours. We currently have tree plantation drives in India along with various awareness programs. We will soon launch our operations in Bahrain too.
What are your plans for your future and the future of PGWI?
I am now an eleventh grader at Indian School Salalah and I research practical applications of various natural extracts. As far as PGWI, we are growing and our hopes are as high as ever. We dream of a world, where man coexists with nature in complete harmony.