What are the most critical environmental issues for children?

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For Varnika, a 10-year-old student of Utarsht Vidyalaya, Rohini, air quality is of prime concern. “People burn garbage and trees. The resulting smoke burns our eyes. We have difficulty breathing,” she says. She is one of the 10,000 children from Delhi, aged 6-10, who participated in a survey about the most crucial environmental issues for kids. This has been conducted by Sesame Workshop-India and India Climate Collaborative.

The initial data reveals that besides the quality of air, kids feel that dedicated bicycle lanes are a critical requirement for the capital city. They have also demanded that garbage should be segregated and not burnt, and that the dividers on roads be properly maintained by the local authorities. Anuragini Nagar, who is leading the project for Sesame Workshop-India, asserts that there is enough data to prove that if children are deprived of oxygen, their brains don’t develop completely. The various forms of pollution lead to emotional impact as well.

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Sanjana, yet another student from Utarsht Vidyalaya, feels that people should desist from throwing garbage in the drains. “People throw rubbish in the rivers, as a result of which, we get polluted water in our homes. It is so smelly and slimy,” she adds.

According to Nagar, this survey is an experiment, of sorts. “Whenever we talk about environmental issues, we do so from our perspective. But it is important to understand what children want, and what is a priority for them,” she says. Nearly all the kids have listed bicycle lanes as a crucial need, and how creating landfills is not the right way to treat the earth. The team is now waiting to hear from the children about the actions that they would like to see — would they want to create sensitisation workshops with parents or would they want these insights to be presented to policy makers? “If they say, of these ten things, we want these number of points addressed in the next six months, then we will work on that,” says Nagar, who hopes to take this survey to other cities as well.

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