Kulshreshtha and P. Pushpangadan
live on this planet by the courtesy of the earth's green cover. Plant
biodiversity is our natural heritage, which we have to preserve for posterity.
The plants, particularly the higher plants, constitute the key elements of the
I ife support system, forms on the planet earth. We depend on plants not only
for food, medicine, clothing and shelter but also for the precious life
sustaining oxygen. Plants have fed the world and cured its ills ever since life
began on earth. Plants protect fragile soils from erosion, maintain atmospheric
balance and regulate water supply for agriculture and prevent desertification.
Now we are destroying them at the rate of 50 acres every minute. During the
past 50 years or so, there has been an unprecedented acceleration of
environmental deterioration. There is now convincing evidence that the health
of our planet is severely endangered. Urgent action is warranted to check this
destructive trend and adopt sustainable living style. Tropical rain forests,
with their rich and varied biodiversity, are the lungs of the planet earth,
yet, we destroy a tropical rain forest three times the size of Switzerland
conservation of earth's natural resources, particularly its biodiversity,
should be our top priority. Conservation is essentially a human initiative to
establish a state of natural harmony between man and the nature. Natural
resources may be renewable and non-renewable. Renewable resources are
represented by soil, range lands, forests, fish, wild life, air and water;
whereas, non-renewable resources include fossil fuel and metallic and
non-metallic minerals. In the recent years, there has been a rapid depletion of
our natural resources/ biodiversity due to:
Increasing demand for biological resources due to galloping population
and economic development.
Failure of people to consider the long-term consequences of their
actions, mainly due to lack of basic knowledge about earth and its resources.
Failure of people to appreciate the consequences of adopting
inappropriate technology in our daily life.
Failure of economic markets to recognize the true value of biodiversity.
Institutional failure to regulate the use of biological resources
resulting from rapid urbanization and changes in property rights and shifting
Failure of governments to address the problem of over exploitation of
limited biological resources.
Increased human migrations, travel and international trade.
It is now
evident that because of lack of proper awareness, the man has been
indiscriminately exploiting and interfering with the nature and as a
consequence, he has to pay for this lapse. Forests are disappearing, plant
species are threatened with extinction day by day. If the current trends are
any indication, close to one billion people in the cities will be denied access
to shelter, clean water, safe air and other basic human needs. There is an
imperative need for international cooperation to meet this challenging problem,
as no single country has all the expertise required to tackle all environmental
issues. As the old Red Indian song says .... "The head bone connected to the
collar bone, connected to the back bone", so are the components of the
environment - they are intricately interrelated, interconnected, interdependent
and interacting with each other at all levels.
galloping population and depleting resources, environmental pollution is
increasing at an exponential rate; the chances that any technological
breakthrough will solve them in foreseeable future are rather bleak. It is the
time for all of us, regardless of our economic and social status, to get
together and do whatever we can, to ward off this threat. Our minor attitudinal
changes will help in averting a major disaster and small actions at individual
level will enable us to overcome the threat successfully. We should take a
pledge - we will pass on our children a better environment than what we
inherited from our parents. Are the governments alone capable of fighting
pollution? No, it needs the active cooperation and sincere efforts of all
people. What is needed is a sustained and well-planned education and awareness
so that the message percolates down to the lowest strata of the society.
gardens are ideal places to impart informal education to public as thousands of
people from different walks of life visit gardens for recreational purposes.
Taking this fact into consideration, a garden-based environmental education
programme is being launched by NBRI at Lucknow for the general public. To start
with the program aims to target mainly women and children. In our cultural
background women play a key role in shaping the course of development of the
family. It is they, who decide the up-keeping of the house, its cleanliness,
hygiene, the choice of food, the method of cooking, disposal of waste etc. The
children also pickup their habits in life mainly from their mothers. So, it is
extremely important to educate the women. If we educate the women, it will
affect in the way children are brought up in the environment and the society
they live in. We can complement and supplement the same by offering in too much
environmental education to children in the garden.
environment education must begin at home and at the primary school level.
Firstly, children should be trained to observe and enjoy the bounties of nature
that surround them, like trees, flowers, butterflies, birds, animals, hills,
beaches, and even stones. At the secondary level, the students should be made
aware of renewable natural resources, land use patterns, soil conservations
etc. At still higher level, the universities can play a significant role in
conducting studies and research in natural, physical and engineering sciences.
Our motto should then be "April Showers bring May flower”.
any problem is one thing and taking effective action to tackle is another. The
environment education is necessary for promoting harmonious relationship
between man and environment. It is the process of recognizing values and
clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary among
man, his culture and his biological surroundings. The perspective has to be
integrated, inter-disciplinary and holistic in character.
Way back in
1899, a botanist named Patrick Geddes of Edinburgh established an Education
Institute, "The outlook Tower", which was meant for the study of the
environment. C.J. Cons and C. Flatcher followed this tradition by arranging
demonstrations of environmental education by organizing theatres in the form of
postman, washer man, fisherman etc., in the school classrooms under the program
'Activity in the School'. Later in 1908, a physical-geographical programme was
launched "Man and Nature". In 1965 at Keele University, Germany, the
'Environment Education' was introduced for the first time as a subject. It has
continued since then and 1970 to 1980 has been considered as "decade of the
Stockholm conference of 1972 on 'Human Environment and Development', many
remarkable things have happened. An enormous upsurge in people's concern about
the environment resulted in the creation of environment ministries in a large
number of countries of the world and dozens of global and regional
environmental treaties have been signed. The establishment of world-wide
networks to monitor and assess environmental degradation, to save the seas and
manage fresh water, and to slow down ozone depletion efforts to global climate
change, reflect growing global concern about environment.
Eco-education at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow
Women-centered and Children-oriented environment awareness programme was
formally launched at NBRI on the occasion of World Environment Day on 5th June
2000. The main objective action programme under this, are "Herbs for all and
health for all and Plants for all and Wealth for all". As similar programme was
successfully experimented earlier in 8 villages of Kerala by Dr. Pushpangadan
and his team at Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (1993-98),
Thiruvanathapuram. Botanic Gardens can also develop special awareness
programmes for women in many critical areas of environment protection, waste
disposal, health care, food and nutrition, plant based income generation etc.
Healthy population is the real wealth of a nation and it is the collective
responsibility of Government, individuals and NGOs to ensure the community's
health and food security.
shortly going to present, a novel garden gift, meant especially for women and
children, and physically handicapped and visually impaired people. The gift
package includes action oriented training/workshops for women on kitchen
management, a children's natural history laboratory, a cyber-garden cafe for
the blind. The natural history laboratory would enable children to experiment
with nature and learn about the flora and fauna. Kitchen management training
will be aimed at inculcating among women, the concept of raising a healthy
family by making optimum use of items available in their kitchen and other
resources around them.
programme, which is to be developed for the first time in the country, is the
garden meant especially for the blind, that is, a "Touch, feel and smell
garden". Plants having pleasing aroma, having different textures like smooth,
coracious leaves are being planted in the garden with legends written in
Braille system for the blind to read and understand and know about the plant
world and their importance in maintaining life on earth. Such specialized
gardens meant for disabled are found only in a few places in the world, that
is, New York (America), Warsaw (Poland), Berlin (Germany) and Kyoto (Japan).
plans to develop a garden area to provide eco-education to housewives/working
women, particularly those belonging to the middle and lower income groups and
rural poor, under-privileged and backward communities. The idea is to develop a
special - education - cum - training - cum - recreation centre in the garden,
for downtrodden and neglected sections of the society.
Kulshreshtha is Scientist and Dr. P Pushpangadan is the Director at the
National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow - 226 001, India.