Sunday, September 19, 2021

‘Let India Breathe’ Serves Nature: Yash Marwah

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Malvika Rathi
A passionate writer with keen interest in Psychology.

Yash Marwah is one of the founding members of Let India Breathe, a collective working effortlessly towards serving the environment. In recent times, a lot of concerns are being raised for environmental protection, and the EIA notification of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) draft caught much attention, out of many drafts. In conversation with Yash, he says that he is a staunch believer in serving the environment and not just conserving it, because we are almost entirely dependent on the ecosystem, but Mother Nature can survive without us. 

Read on to find out more about the exceptional work done by the collective and take away a bounty of inspiration to make a little difference in your life today!

A Brief History of Yash Before Let India Breathe:

What prompted you to start your journey as an activist? What are the various activities you participated in before Let India Breathe came along?

“I started my journey as an activist while pursuing media studies for my graduation. As students, we cannot put forward our level best to participate in these movements because the government also plays a major role in the whole mechanism. I realized that since I have good communication skills, why not put them to the best possible use?

Hence, I started participating in movements like the Save Aarey movement. Over the due course of time and making a lot of social connections, it was evident that as a collective, we can bring about a better change on the planet.”

About the Collective, Let India Breathe:

Let India Breathe
“Let India Breathe”

What led to the inception of Let India Breathe? How has the collective fared since its inception?

“Let India Breathe is still in a very young and tender stage, but it has achieved brilliance even in such short duration. It is not merely an organization; it is a collective. The collective runs on the volunteers with similar ideals and a common goal; to serve Mother Nature.

Let India Breathe started as Let Mumbai Breathe initially, but later participated in a host of events all across the country, and hence there was a change in the title. The collective began its journey in March 2018, and since its inception, it has hosted forty different campaigns. Apart from a few of them, most of the campaigns have brought about monumental changes.

Mahim Nature Park is one of the most beautiful places in Bombay, and it attracted a lot of attention when collectives began speaking about it. Even ministers paid a visit to the place and emphasized the importance of the place. This eventually led to people understanding the significance of place, and something which wasn’t in conversation before became the talk of the town. 

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After heavy rains, water entered residential areas in MP's Jabalpur, Bhopal, Indore in the past week. Bhopal, in fact, has earned the dubious distinction of being one of four cities in the country currently witnessing fastest degeneration of green cover. The other three cities clubbed with Bhopal in the area are Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata. About the roads: The southern flank of the Upper Lake, Bhopal where the 45-metre road will come up has shallow water, making it an ideal breeding ground for migratory bird species, and the reason it has become a Ramsar site. The lack of disturbance in this shallow area also makes the water of the Upper Lake potable. The lake is the lifeline of the city and we should not tamper with it,” says Abhijeet Saboo, a Bhopal-based urban planner. Public hearings of the objections and suggestions citizens have filed for BDP 2031 will begin shortly. BDP 2005 was shelved owing to public anger on certain aspects. The present plan is more audacious in its approach. Will it pass muster? Made by @recyclepanda and @jaya.bala.chandran #letindiabreathe #green #forest #tree #trees #lake #lakes #water #rain #rains #monsoon #madhyapradesh #mp #bhopal

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Our collective works on two major principles:

  • The first one is that we want to create a high impact on every issue we take up. We don’t want to indulge in a thousand campaigns and drift away from the purpose. Considering the time factor as well, we have chosen quality over quantity always. 
  • The second one is that we work at a very minuscule level to design our campaigns and bring a behavioral change, and with the help of social media reach, we can connect with the people who want to bring about a change. A lot of people are inspired by these little posts, and they indulge in trying to make this campaign better. Every little contribution from these allied collectives contributes towards achieving our goals.”


What are the different challenges that you faced during the initial stages?

“The biggest hindrance in the initial stages was the concept of online activism. A lot of people were skeptical about this move, and they were often of the perception that just tweeting or emailing will not help bring about any change in reality.” 

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Interested? Comment and we'll send you the tweet bank on the day. #Repost @theriseofdibang (@get_repost) ・・・ An ecosystem which took thousands of years of community conservation and protection cannot be destroyed by minutes of unconcerned approvals. The #IduMishmi ’s culture of conservation has been recognised the world over, and is credited for preserving the breathtaking biodiversity of the valley. The proposed #EtalinHydroProject is just one of 17 dams proposed on the rivers of Dibang Valley. The most notable of these is the already approved 2880 MW #DibangMultipurposeProject (DMP) – the biggest concrete gravity dam in the world! The DMP alone will lead to the destruction of more than 5000 hectares of scientifically unexplored, old growth tropical and subtropical forests. DMP and Etalin will be India’s largest hydropower projects – both located on the same river. Between Etalin and DMP, a minimum of 6,10,000 trees and innumerable wildlife will be permanently lost. If all of these dam projects are built, they will forever and irreversibly change the ecology, geography, demography and cultural traditions of #DibangValley. As citizens to citizens, we humbly welcome you to come in solidarity with us and be a part of the #twitterstorm on 30th of August 2020 from 6 PM to 8 PM IST. Dibang is clearly not for dams. DIBANG IS NOT A DAM COUNTRY! Let's stand together! Together, let's protect! ✊🏼⛰ Hashtags to be used- #SaveDibangValley #DibangNotforDams Our only stand together – We won't let the dams be constructed at any cost!!

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“There was something called Tree Hearing as a part of the Save Aarey Movement. In Mumbai, whenever a tree is going to be cut, the Tree Authority has to issue a notice in the paper and whoever is against the decision has the free will to object to it. Before the movement, only about two-three people would object to this. It is because most people ignored these statements, and since the letters were very complicated, it was difficult for people to comprehend. 

Email campaigns simplified the process by explaining the draft to the general public in easier terms. This campaign was record-breaking as there were about thirty-five thousand objection letters via emails and what is more fascinating is that two thousand people turned up for the hearing as well. 

We realized that email campaigns weren’t sufficient, so we started a very clean and open communication channel whereby we explained people more about the campaign, spoke out facts, provided a call to action, and connected volunteers to the activists on the ground. It helped in building a network and aided translation.” 

Campaigns, Psychology, and Social Media Influence!

Humanizing the environment attracts attention from people. Do you think that psychology plays a major role in these campaigns? In your opinion, do people perceive this to be a bluff or genuinely take it optimistically?

“One of the pillars of our way of working is that we always have a person on the ground that belongs to the place where the campaign is supposed to be conducted. A lot of times, people are skeptical about the campaigns, especially when it comes to monetary terms. We must make sure that people believe that it is not a bluff.

We have a tried and tested network of researchers, journalists, writers, lawyers, and scientists who verify the authenticity of the information. One of the other principles of our initiative is to wait. Whenever we have a piece of information, we don’t post it immediately or start an email campaign right away. We don’t have hard-core professionals in our team, so we make sure to consult the right people before making content.” 

What is your take on the role of influencers in these campaigns?

“Informed influencers make a huge difference, and we encourage them to study in-depth about the issue and the drive because they would be the ones answering questions. We don’t believe in merely pushing them to say something for the sake of it. 

Trust plays the most important role in every way. If people begin to lose trust, then genuine issues will not get the required opposition, and it will further deteriorate the situation. It’s a silent factor but the loudest as well. And we keep it in our mind, to gain trust via truthfulness of the information.” 

The capitalists offer hefty compensation for relocation to the people dwelling in the forest. With modernization playing a major role in global development, do you think they are successful in luring the people of the forests to displace?

“I’d like to quote Godfather as a response to this question, “I’d give you an offer that you cannot refuse.” If you are given a choice between the devil and the deep sea, you might as well choose the devil and try to fight it. Most of the time, they are just lured into compensation but are not given anything, and in addition to that, they also lose their land. 

The communities residing in these places take excellent care of their surroundings, and it is beautiful the way they resist these activities. I do not believe that everything has to be resisted; what is crucial here is that thoughts are taking birth in their minds.

Giving a thought is way more imperative than blindly agreeing. Questioning also plays an imperative role in the process. Our content focuses on laying the foundation for these thoughts to trigger.”

What are the ways in which the youth can aid the tribal communities to understand the importance of forest and why they shouldn’t give in to relocating? Also, do you face language barriers while interacting with these communities?

“We are often mistaken that these communities are the ones who need to be educated. In most cases, they know things in a more crystal clear way. Because of the network that we have built over the last two and a half years, we don’t face language issues as such. We are equipped with people well-versed in a lot of regional languages.

The literacy condition isn’t as bad as it is perceived, and we often come across one person who can bridge the communication gap, and he acts as a local point of contact. There is a phrase called “lost in translation,” and what might make sense in one language would completely lose essence in another, so we have to make sure that this doesn’t happen; otherwise, the whole purpose of the campaign is lost. It is tedious, but the effect it has is brilliant.”  

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Have you been taught from an early age that being "first" in anything means achievement and accolades? For them this sadly has not been true. The true first people have been pushed to the far ends of our vision and mind. —————————————- Their faces are blurred. Their voices unheard. Their homes kept off our maps for years. Even though, when it comes to protecting our Earth, it is them, the finest warriors. Join us as we bring to you their lives and a part of what they have to face. The indigenous people of the country, the ones for whom the sun still shines. . . #fridaysforfutureindia #peoplefortheplanet #letindiabreathe #indigenous #tribals #native #culture #preserve #protect  @xrebellionind @xrmumbai @letmebreathe_in @youth4swaraj @climatefrontjammu @youthkiawaaz @adivasilivesmatter @yugma_network @youthforclimateindia @a_naturalists_column @ashishkotharivikalp @pankajsekhsaria @archana.soreng @saritafernande.s @a_naturalists_column @naturalist_foundation Video sources in order of appearance – @the_bohomonk – A Voice From The Valley Survival International – The Real Avatar: Mine – Story of a Sacred Mountain BBC News Hindi – Jadugoda of Jharkhand: Side Effects of Dreams of becoming Nuclear Power (BBC Hindi) Sunil Chauhan Goldman Environmental Prize – Ramesh Agrawal, 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize, India The Lede – Displacement of Tribals in Telangana Music –

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There is no concrete subject in the education system to educate the children about the importance of serving nature. Do you think it should be made mandatory from the lower classes so that the children develop compassion towards nature?

“My team and I think that there is no compulsion of making EVS a subject to teach the importance of nature or about serving the environment. If the environment is imbibed in your history classes or other textbooks or it talks about how colonization impacted our environment, we will automatically understand the repercussions of it. 

If geography touches on the importance of glaciers or the magnificent Sundarbans, we will comprehend the essence of it. And it is not always about trees. Other forms such as lakes, wetlands, ponds, grasslands also play an essential role. 

I would narrate to you a very special incident where I had to address a young crowd, and I had a water cycle diagram in one of my presentations. A student from class 5th pointed out that there is a mistake in the diagram. I verified it, and the diagram seemed to be correct.

He then said, “Trees play an important role in the water cycle.” And I replied that it is true. Trees don’t just help in the roots but also the process of transpiration. The kid further added that “the trees should also have arrows pointing upwards,” and I realized that it is perfectly correct.

This brings us to an understanding that if such attention to detail is paid in every science class, then teaching something as basic as a water cycle will make a huge difference. But this requires a threefold approach:

  • The students have to be sensitized towards it. 
  • The teachers play a crucial role and should take an interest in these fields. 
  • The textbooks and classes should be integrated with these simple components, and they’d make a monumental change.

I am not saying that it is a concrete solution but take, for instance, the example of Gram Sabha. In many districts, people quote, “Na Lok Sabha, na Rajya Sabha, sabse upar Gram Sabha.” (Translation: Not Lok Sabha, not Rajya Sabha, the most preeminent of all is the Gram Sabha). If the Panchayat takes the effort to harness awareness and information amongst youth and elders in their district, the knowledge will seep in at a deeper level.”

Janta Parliament

How was your experience to be a part of the Janta Parliament? What was that all about?

“A lot of organizations like MKSS, National Alliance of Peoples’ movement have been organizing Janta Parliament, and this time they had to do it on a digital platform. A total of eleven subjects were there for discussion, the environment being one of them. We were honored to co-anchor, and we brought in more speakers and collectives.

Inclusivity is important, and so is comprehensive knowledge about the subject. This helped us create an effective communication channel and explain it to the general public in very simple terms. With the help of posts, tweets, and polls, we were able to put across our message, but we are planning more indulgent and inclusive activities right now.”

Coal Mining and Future Plans of Let India Breathe

Coal mining in Aranya Forests in Chhattisgarh will cause major disruption to the elephants in the place. Is Let India Breathe going to take up this issue in the coming future?

“We are more than happy to aid in the protests of our allies who are participating in the movements. From our side, we are trying to take their campaign and protests to different places at different levels, and they have all the solidarity with us. I would personally like to go down there and help with the protests, but in my opinion, the impact caused by the local people is going to be more effective.”

What is next in line for Let India Breathe?

“We are planning to launch a series of “myth busters” to eradicate the incorrect notions that develop during such campaigns. For instance, elephants aren’t going to understand the concept of aforestation. How will they comprehend that their habitat is taken away from them and put to a new place?

As a matter of fact, how will you communicate this to any of the species? A lot of people are against coal mining and want to switch to cleaner and renewable forms of energy, but in a practical scenario, coal mining is still happening in our country. So, at some point, this does create hypocrisy.

So, we would like to point out these basic facts and bring it to people’s attention to prompt rational thinking.” 

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||English subtitles Alok Shukla from Chhatisgarh Bachao Andolan has some replies to Mr. Minister. Environmentalists question why India cannot be weaned off #coal through a gradual increase in investment in domestic #renewable energy, such as solar. This month, PM inaugurated Asia’s largest #solar farm in the state of #MadhyaPradesh . #India is the world’s cheapest producer of solar #power and the cost of constructing a new solar plant is 14% less than that of a building a new coal plant. With proper investment, it has been estimated that the solar #energy industry could generate as many as 1.6m #jobs in India by 2022, far more than would be generated by domestic coal. And we believe, this should be decentralised. But India’s joint secretary for coal, Maddirala Nagaraju, said that all the country’s projections showed that demand for coal would increase and insisted that increased domestic coalmining was the “cheapest way of meeting the energy needs of the people”. This video is an edited out version from Van Ki Baat, our series… If you wish to see the entire series comment or message! #LetIndiaBreathe #river #forest #biodiversity #myth

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Your Message To Our Readers 

“We need to understand that these things affect us. But for now, I don’t want us to think about ourselves because we humans are self-centered.

There are many other species other than us that exist on this planet ranging from trees to butterflies. These species expect better from us. They are made to think that we are smart. 

So, let us behave that way and not let them down. Let us stand united for all of them because, due to our activities, if we are punished, it is fair, but there is no reason for us to do things that affect someone else. Any amount of education, good activities, or pujas will not take away the impact of that bad activity that we have willingly let to take place.

Staying silent sometimes gives the impression that you are on the side of the oppressor. We need to read more and talk more; there is no requirement to be a social media influencer. 

We should take baby steps, such as discussing these matters on the dining table, and these little steps will one day make a huge difference. And imagine so many families talking about across the country. It is a beautiful thing.” 

We hope that this article enriched you with a lot of knowledge and inspired you to serve our mother nature. You can stay updated with the latest developments of various campaigns initiated by Let India Breathe via their Instagram handle- Let India Breathe

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About the author

A passionate writer with keen interest in Psychology.

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