The Oriental Seminary students with a poster to promote car-sharing. Picture by Arnab Mondal
The ride to school has never been more fun for Nischay Nathany. The Class X student has had his friends for company on his way to St. James’ School from his Alipore home and back for the past two months — all for a good cause.
The boys are part of a group of students from schools across the city who have been promoting sharing of cars to reduce carbon footprint.
“Five of us go to school and come back together, taking turns to use our parents’ cars,” said Nischay. “We even organised photography, jingle and slogan competitions for students of classes V to XII on the joys of travelling together.”
The initiative is part of Backseat Buddies, a campaign by Earth Day Network to make students aware of the need to minimise fuel consumption. Thirteen schools, including La Martiniere for Girls, Calcutta Boys’ School and Akshar, volunteered to join the movement, which culminated in a programme at Rotary Sadan on Thursday.
The students gave presentations on ways to save fuel. While The Oriental Seminary won the top honour with posters depicting Durga and her children mounted on a lion, The Frank Anthony Public School and Saifee Hall followed them. “If Durga can share a transport, why can’t we?” asked Subhankar Dutta, a Class XI student of The Oriental Seminary.
Calcutta needs such programmes more than most other cities. “Statistics show that the air quality in Calcutta is the worst among the metros. Backseat Buddies is a way of resolving this problem with the help of students,” said Karuna Singh, the country director of Earth Day Network, India.
The campaign is just the first step in a long-term attempt at reducing traffic congestion, lowering fuel bills and ensuring security of students.
The destination was the same for all participating schools, but the routes they took were different. Students at La Martiniere for Girls made Backseat Buddies a part of their nature club. “Anyone promoting the cause gets a badge along with a Backseat Buddies car sticker, so this acts as an encouragement for them to join the group and share cars. We promote the cause by discussing the issue of pollution with our non-member friends. We have also written a theme song,” said Shreya Gupta, Class XI.
At St. James’, the boys decided the best way to preach was to practise. Over 50 students from the senior and junior sections are sharing cars to and from school.
Around 15 students at Akshar, too, have formed a car pool. “The price of fuel is rising every day and so is pollution. It is our duty to take steps to reduce pollution,” said Jayanti Neogi, geography and environment co-ordinator in the senior school.
Schools have welcomed the initiative. “We advise parents to share cars. It is a good idea that students at such a young age are learning to share transport and know that this would cut down pollution and congestion,” said Terence Ireland, principal, St. James’ School.
Environmentalists too praised the effort. “This is a brilliant initiative. I too give a drop to people when I am travelling by car. It is not a favour, it is just that I share my carbon debit. Calcutta has less than five per cent road space. Such initiatives will help resolve a lot of problems. This initiative should not be limited to a single school, people should also give lifts to children of schools other than theirs,” Subhas Datta said.