While climate crisis has been a long-drawn issue, it is only now that a global movement of sorts has begun. And what's most wonderful about this movement is that young children are helming this climate control movement which makes everyone sit up and take notice. It is definitely true that Greta Thunberg's climate strike campaign opened the eyes of millions of people to pause and understand the adverse effects of climate change, India has it's very own climate activist, 12-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Haridwar who has been an advocate of making the environment green and clean for over two years now.
Barely a student of the eighth grade of DAV Public School in Haridwar, Ridhima did what most children of her age wouldn't dare think. She filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2017 seeking direction for the government to take action on climate change.
“The first time when I got to know about climate change was when the Kedarnath floods happened in 2013. It was then that I got to know that all these floods, droughts etc. are happening because of climate change and we humans are the only living beings who are causing the rise of global warming in the world.”
SheThePeople.TV caught up with Ridhima recently for an interview after her recent trip to New York where she attended the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September. Pandey was among a group of 16 children petitioners, including Greta Thunberg, who had gone to protest against the lack of action taken by governments across the world in order to challenge climate crisis.
Talking about how it all began, Ridhima recollects, “The first time when I got to know about climate change was when the Kedarnath floods happened in 2013. It was then that I got to know that all these floods, droughts etc. are happening because of climate change and we humans are the only living beings who are causing the rise of global warming in the world. The older generation is not taking the impacts of global warming seriously and because of that; children's rights are being violated.”
Later in 2017, she ended up filing a petition with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) seeking direction for the government to follow the guidelines of The Paris Agreement like reducing carbon emission etc. “I was not able to see on-ground work of the government which showed that they are doing their job to protect the environment, so that's why I filed the petition. The case went on for one and a half year but after that, they dismissed that case by just saying that our government is fulfilling all the requirements.”
But, Ridhima stood firm on her ground that she still didn't see any ground-level work by the government and so the NGT verdict disappointed her. “Now I have taken that case to Supreme Court and it hasn't come to hearing as yet but I am hopeful of a better judgment from the judiciary,” she said.
She attends numerous events and campaigns that talk about climate control and recently was a part of the children's group, including Greta Thunberg, who filed a complaint to protest against lack of government action on climate crisis at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September in New York.
It still feels unbelievable to find that a 10-year-old child (at the time of filing petition) took up the matter with the judiciary, Ridhima elaborates on her idea at that time. “I wanted my father to file the petition but he just told me that if you want to do it so much then you must do it yourself. He then sat with his lawyer friend, including my lawyer now, Meera Gopal, and decided to file the petition by taking a group of children. However, we couldn't manage to do it because either the children disagreed or their parents at the last moment. In the end, only I was left and I thought of doing it alone but of course with my father and my lawyer's help,” recollected Ridhima. Her father Dinesh Pandey is also a green environment crusader and an environmentalist who guided Ridhima in her journey.
Now Ridhima has totally devoted herself to saving the environment and advocates the hazards of climate change in the country. She attends numerous events and campaigns that talk about climate control and recently was a part of the children's group, including Greta Thunberg, who filed a complaint to protest against lack of government action on climate crisis at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September in New York. The petition was filed through the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Talking about the petition and how she got to be a part of it, she says, “When I filed the NGT petition, a lot of Indian media wrote about me and the news spread internationally as well. That was when the NGO connected with me and asked me if I'd like to participate in this. I was very ready as I believe that if 16 children appeal about it at the UN then that would create a huge impact and if we do it individually then we might not succeed. I am hopeful that the decision will be in our favour.”
“I had a great experience there. As compared to India, we can see a lot of development and change there. People don't honk there, don't litter the streets, they don't spit openly and people are extremely aware of their dos and don'ts. I also got to know the issues of other countries through the other children who had come to file the petition there. All the children are suffering from different issues but all these issues are inter-connected with global warming and climate change,” she added.
A huge criticism about children petitioning against climate change is that they are young and that at such a young age; they don't fully understand the issue for which they raise their voice. In fact, a lot of people have even dismissed their concerns.
Ridhima responds to this critique by saying, “Since so many children in India and other countries are fighting for this issue, it means that the climate crisis exists in the world. We're not faking it for media attention. It is very real and our future depends on our fight for a better and cleaner environment. If our government listens to our pleas then we will benefit from it. I know for sure that people are taking us seriously but the government is not. They are not taking the issue of climate change seriously and in a developing country like India, apart from development, we must also pay attention to how we are affecting the environment.”
“I know for sure that people are taking us seriously but the government is not. They are not taking the issue of climate change seriously and in a developing country like India, apart from development, we must also pay attention to how we are affecting the environment.”
Since she is young, she is determined to read up more about the climate crisis and learn about how to help the planet. For now, how she is reducing her carbon footprint is by carrying her own water bottle anywhere she goes so she doesn't have to buy a single-use plastic water bottle. She also shares that she plants two saplings every month and has planted over 50 saplings in this year itself. Ridhima is also trying to cut down on processed potato chips as they come in single-use plastic bags. While she encourages everyone around her to reduces their carbon footprints, she understands that one cannot pressurise people into being environment-friendly.
It would be interesting to follow the journey of Ridhima as she goes on to awaken thousands of people and transform them into becoming concerned about the mother earth.