Vihaan and Nav Agarwal bagged the 17th Annual International Children's Peace Prize for their exemplary courage and commitment to the National Capital. The International Children's Peace Prize, the most important youth award worldwide, is an initiative of the international children's rights organisation KidsRights. The 17-year-old Vihaan and 14-year-old Nav competed against 169 applicants from over 39 countries in the world. The teenager duo wants to spread their message about mindful waste segregation to millions of people.
Nav told The Logical Indian that he and his brother have been avid nature lovers and always felt a connection to nature. The duo saw how tremendous impact humans could have on the environment but were not initially sure how to bring about change."Especially because we live in Delhi and I am asthmatic, so the connection to the issue was very personal. We had five to six air purifiers at home, and we were not allowed to play outside. We had online school even before the pandemic," he added.
Waste Causes 30% Of Air Pollution In Delhi
The only solution to worsening air pollution in the city, the young brothers felt, was planting trees. In 2017, the infamous Ghazipur landfill collapsed killing two people. Vihaan adds, "For the next day or more, the whole city was engulfed in a blanket of smoke. When we read about it in the newspaper, the connection between waste and air pollution became clearer."
After further research, they found that 30 per cent of Delhi's air pollution is a result of waste. When they discovered the root cause, they wanted to change it. Vihaad added, "The first thought that we had was that our trash should not end up in the landfill.
The two started segregating the waste minutely at home. The second step was to recycle the waste at home. Not long after differentiating on garbage, they realised that the waste collector would again mix the waste. "That was when we had our mini-recyclable waste mountain in our backyard, and our grandfather told us that we had to do something about it. That was the spark for us," said Vihaan.
They began contacting recyclers, and most of the responses they got from certified recyclers were that they did not pick up home waste because it is too little in quantity. After many negotiations with Vihaan and Nav, they agreed to collect the trash once a month. To get more votes for the same, the boys used group chats and convinced 15 other households to start collecting waste with them. The next challenge was they could not go home-to-home to collect rubbish every day. Therefore, they hired two former waste collectors and provided them with a job and a bank account.
Supported The Cause Of Making The World 'One Step Greener'
Within three months, the Agarwal brothers had roped in 100 houses. They now wanted to move on a large-scale basis to maximise the positive impact on the world, and therefore, came up with their organisation, 'One Step Greener'. "We would teach people how to segregate waste because they neither knew the process nor the importance of waste segregation back then. As more homes decided to become a part of their group, the frequency of visits also rose," Nav added.
After collecting the waste from their respective homes, their workers would get it to the organisation's warehouse and then micro-segregate it. "Micro-segregation is a process wherein the household segregates the waste in paper and plastic, and then we would micro-segregate into different categories like newspaper, plastic and so on. When the quantity was enough, we would then send it to certified recyclers and till now, we are servicing 1,500 homes in 14 colonies in two cities. Apart from that, we were also collecting waste from schools and offices," Nav explained to The Logical Indian.
Vihaan was 14 years old, and Nav was 10 when they began pursuing their cause. One Step Greener now has five full-time employees and 11 dedicated young volunteers working towards a 'Zero Waste India'. To date, the duo have given presentations to more than 45,000 people, and their learning material is used in over 100 schools.
Satyarthi Felicitated The Duo
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi felicitated the two with the prize in a grand ceremony held in the historic Hall of Knights in The Hague, Netherlands. The award included the Nkosi statuette, a study and care grant for their education and a project fund of €100,000 to the boys. Half of the project fund will go to the winner's theme, and KidsRights will invest the other half in the projects of other young changemakers fighting for children's rights.
After receiving the prestigious award, Nav and Vihaan Agarwal said: "Air pollution is one of the most important issues of our time for children. It affects us directly, people in our community and young people across the world. What started from our home has turned into something much bigger, and it shows what we can achieve when we take action. We want to encourage all young people to start their initiatives no matter how small they seem. By winning the International Children's Peace Prize, we hope that other cities will support us in our goal of a zero-waste India!"
The International Children's Peace Prize highlights the remarkable achievements of youngsters fighting courageously for children's rights across the world. Previous winners include Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.
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