Author: Sanskriti

School EE in India

Sanskriti Menon, August 2012

(This content was originally presented on the Greenteacher website. The website was redeveloped due to bugs, and the original content is now available on Wayback Machine, at these links

https://web.archive.org/web/20150908024808/http://www.greenteacher.org/?page_id=263

https://web.archive.org/web/20150908164500/http://www.greenteacher.org/?page_id=29

 

1 Evolution of EE in India

Section 1 draws upon the book The Green Teacher, authored by Meena Raghunathan and Mamata Pandya, published by CEE with support from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt of India, under the Scheme for Environmental Orientation to School Education

In India, our social values and attitudes have, historically and culturally been in harmony with the environment. If one reads our own literature, the writing of our sages, our religious texts, all of these reflect the recognition that all life on the earth-human life included is intimately dependent on the quality of the environment. These also talk of the humbleness of human in this larger system, and the need and responsibility to protect it.

The Indian constitution captured much of these deep-rooted values and further strengthened them by giving responsibility to its citizens to protect the environment. The constitution enjoins the state to

take measures to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country” (Article 48 -A).

It also makes it a

“fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forest, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have ecological compassing for the living creatures” (Article 51 A (g)).

EE in India’s National Policy on Education

Environmental education has been an area of concern in all curriculum development programmes in India. The movement of Basic Education launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1937, was perhaps the first serious attempt at relating education in schools to local environmental needs. The essential elements of Basic Education were: productive activity in education; correlation of curriculum with the productive activity and the social environment; and the intimate contact between the school; and local community.

The best that Basic Education had to offer was incorporated in the Report of the Education Commission (1964-66) so as to relate it to the life, needs and aspirations of the nation. For the primary stage, the Report recommended, “the aim of teaching science in the primary school should be to develop proper understanding of the main facts, concepts, principles and processes in the physical and biological environment”.

The National Policy on Education, 1986 (NPE) states that “Protection of the Environment” is a value, which along with certain other values must form an integral part of curriculum at all stages of education. Para 8.15 of the Policy states:

“There is a paramount need to create a consciousness of the Environment. It must be permeate all ages and all sections of society, beginning with the child. Environmental consciousness should inform teaching in schools and colleges. This aspect will be integrated in the entire educational process”.

The national system of education, as defined in the National Policy on Education 1986, visualized a national curriculum framework which contains a common core including several elements having direct bearing on the natural and social environment of the pupils, such as: Protection of the environment, content essential to nurture national identity, and inculcation of the scientific temper. These core areas are expected to occupy a place of prominence not only in the instructional material, but also in the classroom and out-of-school activities.

Following the National Policy on Education, NCERT brought out detailed curriculum guidelines and model syllabi for classes I to X reflecting these ideas. The approach strongly recommended adoption of innovative teaching and learning techniques. Subsequently curriculum frameworks brought out by the NCERT in 1988, 2000 and 2005 reiterated the importance of EE in school education.

2 EE and the Supreme Court

In 1991, Shri M C Mehta filed an application in the public interest (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 860 of 1991), asking the Supreme Court to:

  • Issue direction to cinema halls that they show slides with information on the environment;
  • Issue direction for the spread of information relating to the environment on All India Radio; and
  • Issue direction that the study of the environment becomes a compulsory subject in schools and colleges.

The consequent order of the Supreme Court dated 22 Nov 1991 is available here.

On 18th December 2003, the Hon’ble Supreme Court further ordered, “We also direct the NCERT….to prepare a module (model) syllabus”, and directed that

“We accept on principle that through the medium of education awareness of the environment and its problems related to pollution should be taught as a compulsory subject. The University Grants Commission will take appropriate steps immediately to give effect to what we have said, i.e. requiring the Universities to prescribe a course on environment. So far as education upto the college level is concerned, we would require every State Government and every Education Board connected with education upto the matriculation stage or even intermediate college to immediately take steps to enforce compulsory education on environment in a graded way.”

On 13th July 2004 the Supreme Court directed that “the syllabus prepared by the NCERT for Class I to XII shall be adopted by every state in their respective schools”. It further directed that “NCERT be appointed as a nodal agency to supervise the implementation of this Court’s order”. Compliance to Supreme Court order is mandatory and desirable, and applies to all states and Union Territories (in fact, it is one of the few things that apply to all education in India).

NCERT developed the following syllabus for Environment Education for 1 to 12 standards, which was accepted by the Supreme Court (see document of 13 July 2004) (but this syllabus has subsequently been reviewed and revised in the light of NCF 2005)

NCERT clarified that in order to have compliance, a separate subject is not a necessity. It can be done through infusion, in science, social studies, mathematics, language and other subjects, and/or through a separate subject. It does however have to be part of the compulsory curriculum.

The NCERT submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court, which was accepted by the Supreme Court on 03-12-2010 and the matter of the writ petition is deemed to have been resolved.

The method of implementation of EE in Schools as accepted by the petitioner Mr MC Mehta, the NCERT and the Supreme Court, is as follows (the details are in NCERT’s Affidavit):

Classes Mode of Transaction
I and II Through Activities
III to V Environmental Studies (EVS)
VI to X Infusion Model
XI to XII Project based study 


NCERT Handbook of EE for Std XI and XII (published 2011)

Projects and Activities

Glossary and References

Evaluation pattern for XI and XII

Syllabus for XI and XII 

Reference Documents

Supreme Court order dated 22 Nov 1991  in response to Mr MC Mehta’s PIL

Supreme Court order of 18th December 2003

We also direct the NCERT….to prepare a module (model) syllabus”, and directed that

“We accept on principle that through the medium of education awareness of the environment and its problems related to pollution should be taught as a compulsory subject. The University Grants Commission will take appropriate steps immediately to give effect to what we have said, i.e. requiring the Universities to prescribe a course on environment. So far as education upto the college level is concerned, we would require every State Government and every Education Board connected with education upto the matriculation stage or even intermediate college to immediately take steps to enforce compulsory education on environment in a graded way.”

Supreme Court order of 13th July 2004 stating that “the syllabus prepared by the NCERT for Class I to XII shall be adopted by every state in their respective schools”. It further directed that “NCERT be appointed as a nodal agency to …

 

The method of implementation, as agreed between NCERT and the Supreme Court of India, is as described in the NCERT’s Affidavit to the Supreme Court.

NCERT Syllabus for Environmental Education (accepted by the Supreme Court of India) is as below; the syllabus for Std XI and XII was reviewed as explained in the NCERT’s Affidavit and both the old and new syllabi for Std XI and XII are provided below

National Curriculum Framework 2005

Position Paper of the National Focus Group on Habitat and Learning that especially addresses the integration of environmental concerns into the NCF 2005 (this was one of 21 focus groups set up by the NCERT for inputs into the formulation of the NCF 2005)

UGC Syllabus for EE in Colleges 

 

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Institutional innovations in public participation in cities

Inclusive, well-structured, deliberative, effective public participation is critical in urban sustainability issues like mobility, street design, waste, greening etc in India. The stratified and complex socio-economic and political context in India, power imbalances, inadequate decentralised governance structures, and information for civic decision-making makes public engagement challenging.

In an article based on our action research in Pune, Prof Janette Hartz-Karp and I present a framework for good governance, of deliberative democracy initiatives (induced participation), inclusive civil society (organic & induced) participation, overseen by an independent third party. This can enable city governments to resolve complex urban sustainability challenges with more implementable decisions.

However, advancing deliberative democracy in urban India will require advocacy at multiple levels, ‘champions’ within political, administrative and civil society willing to pioneer deliberative democracy initiatives, professional capacity to conduct high quality deliberation, and to ensure such processes are influential. Good governance will rely on an ecosystem supporting such democratic renewal.

See more at Sustainable Earth 2019 2:6

Shuttle Services for Pune

Cover

Colleagues at CEE Urban prepared this paper to highlight the potential for well-organized local area shuttle services, to help reduce short- to intermediate-distance private motorized trips within an area and provide first/last mile connectivity to public transport.

In combination with parking regulations, shuttles could help free up road space for cycles, utilities, trees. Such services should be systematically introduced in selected areas of the city as a key element of the city’s transportation system.

 

 

See the paper at https://www.academia.edu/35885860/Local_Area_Shuttle_Services_for_Pune

Nature Trail at Pashan Lake

On 26 January 2017, a Nature Trail was organized for students at Pashan Lake.

pashan-trail-26-jan-17-1

Nature Trails are a part of the project for awareness about urban ecosystems and bird education taken up through Garden Dept and Indradhanushya, and being implemented by CEE along with Ecological Society and others.

The trail and onsite activities on 26 January were arranged for 30 students from Tara Mobile Creche. Students have been given a specially designed ‘nature observation notebook’.

pashan-trail-26-jan-17-3

The trail and activities were conducted by educators from CEE, Ecological Society as well as the nature educators oriented last month.

Sustainable Consumption and Production – a role for ESD  

Note developed for a panel discussion on ‘Sustainable Consumption, Production and Trade and Education for Sustainable Development’, with special reference to a civil society perspective, as part of ‘Education is the Key –Towards a Global Post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, International Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, organized by GIZ, Engagement Global and the German Development Institute, on 16 June 2014, Bonn.

“Consumption and Production” covers a wide range of human activity, from extraction, industrial and agricultural production, waste management, recycling, and formal and informal economies. The parts of the jigsaw that will transform production-consumption systems include supportive policies, funds and financing mechanisms, technology, implementation infrastructure, trained people etc. Education can be a driver for the creation of each of these. ‘Education is a driver of drivers’, as suggested by Kartikeya Sarabhai, Director CEE. This brief note seeks to place a few ideas for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in relation to some aspects of production and consumption in a developing country context.

Increase consumption to meet basic needs

An important element in ESD is that there are multiple perspectives about issues. For example, the understanding about consumption in a developing country context is different from that in the developed world. The general or ‘Western’ view of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is that consumption must be reduced and or qualitatively/sustainably modified. This view is certainly valid for the developed world, and also the more affluent segment in the developing world. However, the concept of Sustainable Consumption must also include the idea that basic needs are adequately met. This is not yet the case for a large proportion of the population in the developing world. For instance, one in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. About a quarter of India’s population does not have assured access to electricity or clean energy. So, sustainable consumption is also about increasing consumption so that basic needs can be met.

Increasing consumption is an opportunity to promote Green Enterprises

The need to increase consumption presents an opportunity, since the manner in which the needs will be met could drive the creation of more sustainable modes of production and consumption. The buildings that might house slum dwellers in the future have not yet been built. The increased access to electricity or clean energy need not be from coal power plants but from grid-supported renewable energy systems.

There is a substantial opportunity here for green jobs and green enterprises; and by extension, for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to respond to the need for trained people who will create and work in green enterprises. Hopefully, the new TVET will not only be about specific technologies but also about the social-ecological contexts in which new green enterprises would take shape. The rationale for green enterprises must be not only that they succeed as businesses, but also that they increase human well-being and are environmentally appropriate. This cannot come from the conventional methods of technical and vocational training, and ESD professionals have a role here to make it more holistic.

Strengthening the Informal sector is an opportunity

Apart from the creation of new systems for delivering goods and services, the developing world must also concern itself with the systems we currently have. It is particularly important to recognize the presence of a large informal economy as an opportunity.

For example, rag-pickers, itinerant scrap collectors, scrap shops etc form a large informal economy that provides waste management and material recovery services in most cities of developing countries. While informal sector workers play an important role in recycling, they do so in hazardous work conditions and this is a huge social cost. However, by making their work conditions safe, dignified and fair, providing adequate social and welfare measures, it may be possible to enhance their livelihoods while also enhancing the efficiency of materials recovery. An example is the case of SWaCH in Pune, India where the municipal authorities have supported the creation of a cooperative of waste collectors. Such efforts could lead to triple bottom line gains.

Similarly, mobility services are provided by cycle rickshaws in many developing country cities. Instituting welfare measures for cycle rickshaw pullers, improving the design of the rickshaw and creating some value added services like ‘dial a rickshaw’ can improve work conditions and livelihoods. Combined with measures like car-free areas, better public transport, the cycle rickshaw can provide low carbon mobility services. This has been done in the Eco-cabs initiative in the town of Fazilka, in Punjab, India. This could be another example of triple bottom line gains.

Developing country efforts for sustainable production/ consumption must thus look at how the informal sector that produces goods and services may be supported so that their lives and livelihoods become better, while also providing better, low carbon goods and services to society.

ESD has an important role!

ESD has an important role and the potential to inform, train and create new consumption and production patterns.

UNEP in its publication Global Outlook on SCP Policies: taking action together, describes how Civil Society Organizations have had a key role in shifting consumption and production patterns towards more sustainable alternatives. The role includes advocacy, policy dialogue, influencing extraction/ primary production and business practices, capacity-building etc. NGOs and civil society organizations are active at the grassroots, as well as international coalitions.

Initiatives like SWaCH Pune and Eco-cabs Fazilka could be developed, scaled up, adapted in many other cities through ESD work. This is not easy, since certain popular perceptions about the informal sector may need to change. The relationships that local governments have with individuals and organizations of the informal sector are sometimes adversarial since informal occupations are seen as ‘encroaching’ upon formal urban space. New laws such as the recently passed Street Vendors Act in India are the result of advocacy over the last few decades. To implement it across cities in India will require innovative techniques that bring different actors together in a conducive, inclusive and effective manner to design locale-specific solutions. It will require an exploration of values, of understanding different points of view, of imagining different possibilities. This is the stuff that ESD practitioners could be experimenting with to help design new ways of production and consumption.

People and organizations too have to have many competencies, as agents in transforming production-consumption systems. They need to be able to monitor their physical and social environment, identify issues and risks, access deeper knowledge on these, be able to advocate their own views and experiences, be able to engage other actors and learn their views and empathize with them, try and see the bigger picture, negotiate the trade-offs and arrive at new ways of doing things, and then do the whole thing again, and again!

Clearly, ESD professionals must support civil society actors in developing such competences, and help create or facilitate situations that support civil society in taking actions. Sustainable Consumption and Production is not only about technology and technology transfer. There is a lot of discussion on technology-transfer, but hardly any on ESD for SCP, or ESD for appropriate transfer and uptake of technology, or on how transformative, multi-stakeholder learning and action can happen to change consumption and production patterns and systems.

The SDG Goals and targets currently being formulated for ‘Sustainable Consumption and Production’ must go much beyond seeing the role of Education only as an exhortation directed at Consumers, appealing to a sort of moral sense to consume less or choosing better by paying attention to labels, though both these are important elements of the range of what consumers can do.

ESD in the SCP sector can help by engaging many different types of stakeholders in systemic changes. ESD agencies and methods that enable multi-stakeholder learning, joined up horizontally and vertically, could provide the ‘systemic-ness’ needed in the transformation of Production and Consumption.

These processes need to be deliberative and dialogic, inquiry based approaches, strengthening individual and collective agency. ESD professionals need to be able to develop appropriate learning methods and landscapes to help create systemic changes in consumption and production systems.                

References

International Energy Outlook, ud, Energy Access Database at http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energydevelopment/energyaccessdatabase/ accessed 15 June 2014

Sarabhai, K (January 2005), It is not just “development” that needs to be redefined… at http://www.ceeindia.org/esf/esf.asp, accessed 15 June 2015

SUMNet, ud, Eco-cabs in Fazilka, at sumnet.in, accessed 15 June 2014

SWaCH, ud, History of SWaCH at http://www.swachcoop.com/swachpune-history.html  accessed 15 June 2014

UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2 June 2014, Introduction and Proposed Goals and Targets on Sustainable Development for the Post2015 Development Agenda, at http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4044140602workingdocument.pdf, accessed 10 June 2014 (version of 2 June 2014)

UNEP (2012), Global Outlook on SCP Policies: taking action together.

Unicef, ud, Picture in India: Nutrition at http://www.unicef.org/india/children_2356.htm  accessed 15 June 2014

 

Biodiversity in Urban Areas – Beyond Appreciation

Sanskriti Menon[1] with inputs from Savita Bharti2 and Thomas Hoffmann3

My neighbourhood pond

There is a pond at the end of the lane where I live. Once, my friend Anchal and I, in our effort to improve waste management, gathered up the neighbourhood children to clean up the garbage accumulated in the pond. They put on gloves and removed several kilograms of plastic, thermocol, broken glass, etc. Anchal, not only a waste management enthusiast but also a trekker and photographer of birds and butterflies, was suddenly excited. She had spotted Flapshell Turtles in the pond! Though Flapshells are common across India, to see some right here in our neighbourhood in Pune was a treat.

Soon the children were quietly observing the drama before their eyes. A shikra sat on a high branch nearby, keeping a keen eye out for prey. A kingfisher perched on a tree at the other edge. And on an electrical wire sat a row of green bee-eaters, some of which flew out occasionally in a rapid sortie and darted back to the wire, usually with a fly or bee in the beak. Some purple moorhens disappeared into the reeds. And frogs could be seen peeping out of the water and then again diving under. What other treasures had the garbage been hiding? The garbage clean-up activity became a nature experience. Later, the children put up a sign saying ‘Gulmohur Park Flapshell Turtle Sanctuary’.  

Image
Flapshell Turtles in Aundh, Pune. Photo by Ashish Kothari

The sign faded with time, and the ink finally washed away in the rain and the children grew up and moved on. But I like to think that they had a learning experience to remember. For me at least, the place changed from being a derelict, mosquito-ridden, disease-spreading bit of swamp to a mysterious, living emerald jewel gleaming in the sunlight, a beautiful secret place in the neighbourhood.

School children and young people in cities have a very important role related to urban nature.

Firstly, they have to learn about the biodiversity around them (such as lakes, rivers, small or large natural and semi-natural patches of vegetation, etc.), how we make use of such natural elements, their status, and how we currently manage them. Secondly, they have to find new ways of managing cities so that other species as well as human beings have a better life, in the context of global climate change.

Students have to acquire the abilities or competences to undertake this learning and investigation. Teachers, of course, have individual preferences for the methods that may be appropriate in this context. Biodiversity monitoring using quadrat studies, species identification, bird watching, field trips, projects such as creating herbal gardens, plantation, are especially popular. Such nature experiences can form the foundation for life-long appreciation of and respect for nature.

Now over 50 per cent of the human species lives in urban areas worldwide, and in India, already over 31 per cent. Teachers therefore must build on the values of nature appreciation and go beyond these to help students explore practical ways to reduce our impact.

Learning about urban biodiversity

It helps to first list out concepts that students may explore through activities and projects. Box 1 provides a starter list of ‘Essential Learnings on Urban Biodiversity’, which one could add to.

The concept of City Biodiversity Indicators also provides a useful framework to study urban biodiversity and guide positive actions for restoration and management. It has been recently developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity and relates to three main components:

  1. Native biodiversity in the city (which should be protected)
  2. Ecosystem services provided by biodiversity in the city (which should be enhanced)
  3. Governance and management of biodiversity in the city (which should lead to the above)

Students should be able to appreciate the ‘systemic nature’ of the interactions between ecosystems and humans. We may re-design cities and the patterns of use of biodiversity according to our current understanding. However, we must keep in mind that human society and its knowledge, technologies, patterns of use of resources keeps changing, and in recent times, these are changing quite rapidly.

Similarly, we must keep in mind that biodiversity is also evolving and changing. Climate change is a major factor that is driving changes in the nature of ecosystems and interactions between species, for example due to changed monsoon patterns. Changes in seasons, in the time of flowering of plants, time of arrival of migratory birds, or numbers of certain types of insects present in a specific season are some of the visible changes people are already observing.

Schools could consider being involved in SeasonWatch, which is a citizen volunteer network that monitors the seasons as revealed by trees. Participants help to document the timing of flowering, fruiting, and leaf-flush of roughly 100 tree species. The collective data can show how this timing may be changing as the climate changes. SeasonWatch is run by the Citizen Science Programme at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

Try Activity 1 (below) as a way to show how the activities of human society impact habitats and species. What is the role of human knowledge, policies, ways of functioning, designing or implementing infrastructure, etc? Can these be changed to benefit habitats and species?

The concept of ‘Green Infrastructure’ is one direction for practical ways of enhancing ecosystem services in the city. Rivers and streams, soil, grasslands and forests are natural ‘green infrastructure’ or assets that make cities livable. Human-created wetlands, habitats for particular species, assistance in migration or breeding, re-forestation or re-vegetation, green roofs or green walls are human-made green infrastructure. Where possible, cities could shift to green infrastructure to provide the services citizens need. This can be for sewage treatment through managed wetlands, composting organic waste, networks of green walkways for pedestrians and cyclists, urban agriculture as a source of food, income and recreation, green roofs for cooling buildings as well as for food and composting. Students could study the ways in which natural assets or human-created green infrastructure is contributing to quality of life of citizens in urban areas and take up action projects to create such assets.

There is enormous creative thinking, experimentation and innovation to be done to reduce our impact on nature, and teachers and students can and must be part of it.

Box 1 – Essential Learnings about Urban Biodiversity – Starter List

  1. One way of studying and interacting with biodiversity is by using the ‘ecosystem benefits or services’ approach.
  2. Historically, many cities have evolved near rivers or water sources, using ecosystem services already available there.
  3. As cities have grown, the growing demand for space and resources has tended to degrade or destroy the ecosystems cities are dependent upon.
  4. Cities impact biodiversity and ecosystems, at the local and regional levels by directly drawing resources or by physical modifications (such as when creating infrastructure), as well as at the planetary level by drawing resources from distant lands, and generating emissions that contribute to climate change.
  5. Humans have consciously modified biodiversity in urban habitations by introducing and cultivating selected species, such as in parks and gardens, and pets.
  6. Urban areas may have higher biodiversity, due to increase in the types of habitats and niches, and introduced species than the surrounding natural and semi natural regions.
  7. Human-created habitats resemble certain types of natural habitats (for example buildings and bridges resemble rock faces or cliffs) and certain species have adapted to such human created habitats (such as swifts, swallows and blue rock pigeons).
  8. Urban environments typically have high air or water pollution levels, dry or arid conditions, heat islands, and species that are able to tolerate such conditions may persist or thrive in larger numbers in urban habitats.
  9. Humans can create their own habitats, infrastructure (such as through ‘green infrastructure’) and use resources in ways that benefit both other species and humans.
  10. Green infrastructure may be defined as an interconnected network of green or natural spaces that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations.
  11. Add more …

Activity 1

  • Observe the concept map given here
  • Make different sequences starting from ‘people’ and ending in ‘species’
  • Give examples to illustrate the sequences.
  • Identify any activity in your own experience that impacts the environment and build up the rest of the sequence.

Image

Here is one flow sequence: People construct institutions that undertake activities that impact habitats that support species. 

Here is an example to illustrate this sequence: Students in a Pune school have formed an eco-club that undertakes garbage clean-ups to restore a wetland that supports migratory birds.

Another example: The government created a policy that supplied cheap bamboo to paper factories in Uttara Kannada that led to over-extraction of bamboo in the district and depleted the local forest. 

The diagram above shows that people impact habitats and species. Can you think of ways in which habitats and other species affect humans?

Note: This activity is from ‘Environment and Sustainable Development’ for Std XI, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, 2012; the concept map template has been developed by Dr Madhav Gadgil for the NCERT Handbook on Environment Education. The Maharashtra textbook is based on the NCERT Handbook.

ESD to Support the CBD

On October 19th 2012, on the last day of the Eleventh Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11), the highlight for the ESD community was the signing of an MoU between the CBD Secretariat and the Centre for Environment Education, India (CEE) to work together in developing and implementing an educational strategy and plans of action that are supportive to the objectives of CBD, the strategic plan and the Decade on Biodiversity, and the objectives of education for sustainable development. The task includes collaboration on foundational research, engaging relevant partners and stakeholders for wider sharing of information, learning, implementation and scaling up.


  1. Sanskriti Menon heads the urban programmes group at CEE in India. She is also involved in curriculum development and textbook writing for EE in the state of Maharashtra.
  2. Savita Bharti is a Programme Officer at CEE, responsible for bringing out Education for Change, a periodical magazine on EE and ESD, as part of the Environmental Information System (ENVIS) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
  3. Thomas Hoffmann is a Geographer, a member of the GIZ supported ESD ExpertNet, a teacher trainer and a school teacher.

This article first appeared in Teacher Plus, Vol.no. 10, Issue no. 10, October 2012, in a special pullout on biodiversity. 

Shekru Mahotsav and Sahyadri Fortnight

Image
Shekru, or Indian Giant Squirrel. Photo by Thomas Hoffmann

A Shekru Mahtosav is being organized on 1 July 2013 in Pune. This festival marks the beginning of the Sahyadri Fortnight from 1 to 15 July. The initiative to declare 1 to 15 July as Sahyadri Fortnight by the Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra is to commemorate and celebrate the inscription of Western Ghats sites as World Natural Heritage by UNESCO last year. This first Sahyadri Fortnight focuses on Shekru or Indian Giant Squirrel. Shri Sanjay Deotale, Environment Minister and Shri Sachin Aher, Minister of State for Environment, Smt Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Secretary, Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra will be present on the occasion. The Shekru Mahotsav will take place at Yashada in two sessions from 9 am to 1 pm and 2 to 5 pm.

Students and teachers from about 30 schools that are part of the Western Ghats (Sahyadri) Special Eco-clubs Scheme of Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra and located in the Sahyadris from Nashik to Sindhudurg and Kolhapur will participate in the Shekru Festival. The Scheme is implemented by Centre for Environment Education (CEE). Shekru Festival is being arranged by CEE on behalf of the Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra.

Students would participate in games, quiz and an exhibition on the ecology of the Giant Squirrel, threats and conservation efforts. In the afternoon, a slide show, talk by experts and presentations will be made about the projects that schools will be taking up in the Sahyadri Fortnight till 15 July.

The Western Ghats are the habitat of the Indian Giant Squirrel, the State Animal of Maharashtra. Kas Plateau and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary in Satara District, Chandoli National Park in Sangli District, and Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur District are the sites in the Western Ghats in Maharashtra inscribed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in July 2012.

___________________________________________________________

For more information contact: Avinash Madhale, CEE, Pune. Cell: 9881466529. Email: avinash.madhale@ceeindia.org

Shekru Mahotsav

Objectives

Shekru Festival aims to:

  • Enhance awareness and knowledge about Shekru or the Indian Giant Squirrel among students of the Sahyadri Eco-clubs
  • Initiate action projects through school eco-clubs for the conservation of Shekru
  • Plant and care for trees that are part of the natural habitat of Shekru
  • Enhance understanding about the importance of Shekru and to increase the popularity of Shekru, the State Animal of Maharashtra, which gives the message of nature conservation to all

Under the Western Ghat (Sahyadri) Special Eco-club Scheme, eco-clubs have been set up in 246 schools in 63 Talukas of the 12 Districts in Maharashtra that have a segment of the Sahayadri mountain range.

Of these, 30 schools from Pune, Ahmednagar Satara, Raigad, Nashik. Kolhapur, Sangli district will be taking up a variety of activities to celebrate Sahyadri Fortnight from 1to 15 July 2013. These would include awareness activities about Shekru, the State Animal of Maharashtra, its protection and conservation, presentations to the community about Shekru, collection of seeds, nursery preparation and plantation of tree species necessary for its survival, survey of the area around the schools to assess the habitat, especially checking for tall trees, tree canopy, sacred groves, etc.

About Shekru

Shekru is the State Animal of Maharashtra. Shekru or Shekra (scientific name Ratufa indica, common name Indian Giant Squirrel) belongs to the squirrel family. The Indian Giant Squirrel is rust coloured and much larger than the commonly seen five-striped squirrel. It is found in the moist forests of the Western Ghats, especially on tall trees such as banyan, wild mango, kinjal, hirada, beheda etc.

However, today, the natural habitat of Shekru is vanishing or getting degraded due to a variety of reasons, such as conversion of forest lands to agriculture, housing or industrial lands, building of dams, monoculture plantations, logging for timber, hunting, etc.

Shekru is present in Maharashtra, mainly in Bhimashankar (Pune district), Phansad Ajoba mountain range, Mahuli, Vasuta region, Chandoli National Park (Sangli district), Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary (Kolhapur district), Melghat Tiger Reserve (Amravati district), Tadoba National Park (Chandrapur district).

Physical Features

The weight of an adult Shekru is about 2 to 2.5 kilos, and length of the body is 2.5 to 3 feet, including the tail. Its eyes are red and it has whiskers on its face. The coat is rust or brown coloured on the back. The belly or underside and front legs are usually lighter cream coloured. The head may be brown or beige with a white spot between the ears. The tail, longer than the main body, is a distinctive feature.

Life cycle and Behaviour

Shekru is a solitary creature. The male and female come together during the mating season. The female produces 1 or 2 off-spring once in a year in December-January. Shekrus build 6 to 8 nests for the protection of the young. The nests are round or spherical and made of twigs and leaves, which are usually on the thinner branches of tall trees where predators find it difficult to reach.

Shekru can leap from one tree to the other at distances of 15 to 20 feet.

The average life span is about 15 to 20 years

Food

Its diet includes mainly different types of fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves and bark of a variety of plants available in his habitat

Food Plants and Nesting Plants

Food plants: Anjani, Hirada, Beheda, wild Mango, Phansada, Jackfrruit, Chandada, Ambada, Moi, Jamun, Ombal Vel

Nesting plants: Anjani, Ambada, wild Mango, Beheda, Nana, Satveen, Kinjal