The award was presented in Mumbai on 28 February by Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Councillor for the South Asia region, during the Conference of the Provincials of the region.
The programme began in 2012 and is active in various districts of Tamil Nadu. It is run by the Office of Planning and Development of the Province and has so far led to the establishment of 163 Eco-clubs, with about 3100 student members. In the clubs the students are taught respect for nature and good hygiene practices, they organize environmental activities, events and festivals and celebrate major anniversaries.
For example, until now the young members of the Eco-Clubs have taken care of the cleaning of 200 different places, planted more than 5809 trees and conducted 29 environmental awareness programmes that have benefited more than 1,750 people.
"The initiatives promoted through the Eco-clubs are a response to the Millennium Development Goal that calls for 'Ensuring Environmental Sustainability'. In 2012, in the light of the many summits that were taking place on this topic, we planned with our student bodies to initiate a new programme, simple and practical. The programme has grown over the years and now is spreading and diversifying," said Fr Albert Johnson, the Salesian Provincial of Tiruchy.
The activities now include new initiatives: waste management, creation of gardens and orchards, dissemination of practices for the reduction of non-degradable materials, promotion of organic farming and solar energy systems for the future ... It is also planned to introduce courses of environmental education in schools, and train women to recycle household waste and to prepare bio-fertilizers.
The organizers believe a strong point of the programme is the leadership of the students, since they will be the leaders of tomorrow; and they also think that the initiative is replicable in other parts of the country.