“We all have to care for the Earth and nature. We are not the owners of the Earth, just its caretakers and we should act as such.” From the mouth of a child, as it were, in this case, a stark reminder, or even a warning from seventh grade student Hridith Sudev. He may be just 11 years old, and his brazen pragmatism characteristic of the innocence of his age, but his message is not entirely vague or complex. Perhaps, it was this that fetched him the award for the best project initiated for promoting eco-friendliness in the sultanate, part of the World Environment Day Contest 2012, which was conducted by the United Nations' Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
A student of Indian School Salalah, Hridith's Project Green Oman was selected from among numerous others as the best project from the sultanate. “I found out about the project from my teachers. My geography teacher asked me to participate. She saw it as a good way to show my involvement with green projects and my love for nature,” said Hridith. Ever since he can remember, Hridith was fond of wandering around the garden at home and spending time with grandparents, who have been a big influence in his life. “When I used to visit my grandparents in Kerala, they’d take me to the garden and show me how to plant saplings and take care of trees and plants that were growing there.
“But all along I had this burning question: 'What can I do for nature?',” said Hridith. “I started coming up with ideas and wanted to share some of these thoughts and ideas with others. The competition was a great platform for this.” Hridith started making posters and stuck them in his school, in public places near his house and in Indian Social Club Salalah. He also gave them to his mother, Hridhya S Menon, who put them up in the college she teaches at; and his father, Dr Shaji S Sreedhar, took them to his clinic. “We were only glad to help Hridith in anyway we could. We are very proud of his motivation and he is so passionate about this subject,” said Hridhya.
“More and more people started noticing the posters. My neighbours' children also helped me spread awareness and I even got support from a ministry official,” said Hridith. He also planted saplings in his kitchen garden, including cabbage, spinach, ginger, plantain, bitter gourd, chillies and coconuts in April. “A farmer came to our house and taught me how to plant saplings and care for them. I also visited some nurseries and asked many questions.” His project addressed five main issues - climate change, ecosystem conservation, recycling and waste management, green buildings and spreading awareness about the need to conserve nature.
“At first, none of my friends wanted to be a part of this, and said that nothing will happen despite all my efforts. But my brother - he's only in second grade, he understood the importance of caring for nature - was very supportive and volunteered to help me throughout,” said Hridith. “I learnt that nature can provide for us in so many ways. I remember reading this quote, 'Nature can satisfy everyone's need, but can never satisfy everyone's greed.' It got me thinking about our responsibility to nature. When I found out I won, I couldn't believe it. I didn't do it to win, but because I cared and wanted to share my ideas. It was such a simple concept, I thought it had been done already and that it was not so important.”
Hridith has ambitions of becoming a plastic surgeon and is passionately interested in biology. “I don't think we have to amass wealth for personal gain. We should all allocate some of our money to protecting what little resources we have, to ensure a better future for our children and our children's children. I know I will die in about 50-60 years, but what will I leave behind for my children or my grandchildren? What kind of earth will they inherit? The funny thing is we can see this as children, and we're concerned. How is it possible that the older generations do not care as much? I just don't understand this,” laments Hridith.
With the award he received, Hridith has not only brought accolades for his school and those who supported him, but also to Oman. “Even though I'm Indian, I believe Oman is my home. It is where I received my education, where I live. The beauty in this country is pristine and the land is capable of providing everything we need for green living. Oman has the potential to set an example for other countries, not just in the region, but also for the world.”