The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shut-eye state spurs green tips for sightless

See no smoke, hear no horn, smell no fumes, touch no grime…

The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government may have its eyes wide shut to the fumes fogging the city air and the chaos ruling the roads, but a group of blind children spent Thursday cheerfully grasping some green basics.

As 95 visually-handicapped students from three schools in Calcutta learnt to recognise 200 different birdcalls and sense the smells of nature, the state machinery spent yet another day turning a blind eye to the need to implement Bharat Stage-II as vehicles merrily belched killer clouds of black.

Ironically, it is the chief minister who had set the wheels in motion for Thursday’s workshop, part of the appreciate-the-environment year at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM).

Bhattacharjee has urged the pollution control board (PCB) to ensure that Environment Day celebrations are not reduced to a “one-day ritual”, but carried on through the year.

Hirak Ghosh, principal secretary, department of environment, and PCB chairman said: “This workshop for the visually-challenged children is past of the campaign launched by the chief minister to increase environment awareness among citizens. He has made it clear that programmes related to the environment must not be limited to just June 5.”

For the “horizontal and vertical spread of the green message”, PCB has roped in BITM and reached out to various sections of society, with a special emphasis on youth.

“The death knell for the world has already been sounded. There’s not much we can do to stop it, but we can delay the procedure. For that, the people have to play an active role. And it’s the youngest in the family who rule the roost. Children have no inhibitions and speak their minds. Hence, we work with them,” says director of BITM Samaresh Goswamy.

As far as 17-year-old Rajesh Das, one of the participants in the workshop, is concerned, any awareness campaign on the environment is good. “Some people care, but not enough of them do,” he says.

The Class VII student of Lighthouse School for the Blind says he discovered some “new stuff” about the environment on Tuesday, but knows that there is much more to learn.

As for eight-year-old Soma Dutta of Calcutta Blind School, she recognises the smells of eggs, aloo bhaja and torkari faster than a rose or rajanigandha. And, it’s easier for her to pick-up the sound of a peacock than a crow or a cuckoo.

The PCB-BITM partnership has lots of workshops, excursions and camps lined up till November. Students will get a chance to hit nature’s trail at Science City soon, followed by a glimpse of the inside track of environment management in the PCB laboratory.

“A mix of serious environment lessons and fun tips has been created to appeal to students who, we believe, have a vital role to play in the battle against pollution,” said a PCB official.

The role of the youth — feel experts and sections of the government, led by the chief minister — extends from urging parents not to pick up plastic packs to help fight the fumes on city streets.

The transport department, meanwhile, can wait and wish for the foul air to turn fair.

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