It is an early morning for 18-year old B C Kaushalya Kumari and her friends. Residents of Kandy, a city surrounded by mountains in Sri Lanka, the students are on a mission. They are in a nearby village, making a list of areas where dengue mosquitoes breed. The plan is to clean up these areas and put up wastebins everywhere. Kaushalya had spent the last two days making posters that talk about ways to prevent dengue from spreading.
Standing on top of a chair, she reads her poster aloud, requesting all village residents to separate biodegradable and non-biodegradable garbage and hand it over to recycling companies and start composting at home. Everyone listens to her attentively.
Kaushalya is one of the 40 students who have received the environmental Presidential Medal, given by the President of Sri Lanka. As part of the achievement, Kaushalya visited India in November this year, with her friends and teachers!
Kaushalya cleared the five stages of the Environmental Pioneer Program (EPP), that is an effort by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) of Sri Lanka to prepare environmentally aware citizens from a young age.
The programme starts in grade 6 and runs across 5,000 schools in Sri Lanka. Students who complete the requirements for each stage receive medals of achievement. The first stage is the Parisara Niyamu (Environmental Pioneer Medal), followed by the Haritha Varna (Green Medal), Rajatha Varna (Silver Medal), Swarna Varna (Gold Medal) and lastly the Janadipathi Varna (Presidential Medal).
Environmental education and awareness is the need of the hour and the island nation is carrying out a impactful strategy to save the environment by involving the future generation.
There are many students like Kaushalya who are contributing in their own ways. Take WMK Heshan Sanushka, a student from Dutugemunu National College, Monaragala, who noticed the chemicals used in gardens to destroy insects, also harm the environment. He invented a liquid fertilizer made from worms and introduced it in his colony.
G Pamilda from Saivapragasha Ladies College, Jaffna says, “People in my village throw empty plastic bottles by the lakeside and into the ponds or burn them.” To reduce this pollution, Pamilda started to collect empty plastic bottles and used them to make decorative plants and crafts.
EPP is not only making students aware but educating them in a globally significant subject. CEA aims to implement this programme across all schools in Sri Lanka by 2020.