The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eco Warriors
Go green: Yogesh Nayak (left), Rohit Mohan (second from right) and Saurav Banerjee (right)

Think environment and you think of saving rivers, reducing toxic emissions and harvesting rainwater. But three Class X students of National Public School (NPS), Bangalore, broke the stereotype and wrote a project on using waste plastic for road construction and were selected to represent India in the final round of the Volvo Young Environmentalist Contest, held in Sweden last fortnight.

Team India ' comprising Saurav Banerjee, the unofficial team leader, Yogesh Nayak and Rohit Mohan ' secured the fourth position out of 15 teams.

It wasn’t only about winning. “The level of competition was world class. We were happy to be part of the top 15 teams,” says Banerjee. The team from South Africa took home the award for its project on making light bulbs with low carbon emission to reduce greenhouse effect.

But plastic became the flavour of the contest. The Indian project was so unusual that it drew collective interest. “No one thought a non-biodegradable, problem-creating waste material could be put to productive use,” says Banerjee. In fact, the team was encouraged to take the project forward.

A contest judge suggested we concentrate only on rag pickers to make our plastic donation drive more focussed. We plan to take up his suggestion,” says Nayak.

Thinking green became a rage at Bangalore’s NPS, when a school team won the Volvo award last year. Like everyone else in the school, Banerjee and friends began looking out for a suitable project to take up.

The three classmates teamed up because of reasons of convenience. “The three of us neither study nor play too much. We had a lot of spare time,” says Nayak.

Plastic makes perfect

Step one was to give a name to their club. After a lot of brain-storming and debate, they decided to call themselves the ‘Eco Wizards’. Step two was to hunt for a suitable project. The idea came from newspapers. A Bangalore-based company, KK Plastics, had placed an advertisement for volunteers who could help the firm collect waste plastic from corporates and upmarket residential complexes. The company owns a patented process through which it uses plastic for road construction.

The wizards were hooked to the idea from the word go. Work began in October last year. The boys contacted software companies like Infosys and Wipro, met administration officials and made power point presentations. “Some thought the idea was novel. Some said the logistics of collecting waste plastic was too high. Some called it a big joke,” says Nayak. Finally, Wipro agreed to donate waste plastic to the wizards.

Their plastic project had been top secret so far. “We didn’t know if we would succeed in getting any deals,” says Banerjee. With the Wipro deal clinched, the boys informed the school authorities about their work. The project was sent for the Volvo contest. It beat 33 Indian entries to reach the world final.

Future plans

Banerjee believes the practicality of the plastic project won it a place in the finals. “It was a simple idea of placing separate dustbins in all offices and residential complexes. All plastic waste would go into one dustbin,” he says.

The Eco Wizards may not have brought home the trophy, but they are the new heroes in school. “Everyone wants to know about our Sweden trip,” says Nayak. And the boys don’t mind repeating the stories about the contest, tours, adventure camps, forest walks and the Volvo plant ' all packed into an all-expenses paid five-day trip.

Back in Bangalore, the boys are once again thinking about studies, extra classes and the IIT entrance exams. The Eco Wizards have a career to chase and sadly, environment does not figure prominently in that scheme. They aspire to be aerospace scientists and software engineers.

“There’s no money in environment-related professions,” points out Nayak. He says he is only being practical. “Aerospace will be my profession and environment protection my hobby,” he says.

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