Combating climate change with help from Lord Ram

via Asit Srivastava - www.expressbuzz.com published on January 14, 2010

SONBHADRA / LUCKNOW:Ram, Ramayana and global warming – the association may sound odd, until you realise how the religious context helped an NGO in Uttar Pradesh combat the ill effects of climate change.


The NGO Raunak Evam Jagruk Samaj Sanstha (REJSS) in Sonbhadra district, some 250 km from Lucknow, conducts recitation of the Ramayana epic in parts of Uttar Pradesh, holds prayers for Lord Ram and distributes saplings as prasad (consecrated offering) among the devotees.

“You can say it’s our religious formula to protect the environment and fight against global warming. Planting trees is something simple everyone can do to reduce carbon dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas that causes global warming,” REJSS director Arvind Singh Chattan told IANS on phone from Sonbhadra.

“You know the importance of prasad amongst Hindus, who traditionally accept it after prayers as they believe the prasad has been blessed by the almighty. Unlike the usual prasad that usually comprises different fruits, sweets, panchaamrit (made from curd, milk and dry fruits), we provide saplings as prasad to the devotees, who readily accept them and plant them taking into account the religious context,” he added.

REJSS launched its Ram, Ramayana and Global Warming programme six months ago and has already distributed over 18,000 saplings.

“We started our programme in June 2009 and till now we have successfully conducted it in several districts including Varanasi, Chandauli, Mirzapur and Sonbhadra,” said Dimple Singh, a member of REJSS.

“Though for the last five years we have been organising environmental awareness programmes in different schools of Uttar Pradesh, frankly speaking we were not able to involve the commoners to work towards environment protection. Later, we decided to connect religion with environment, as there is no denying that people of our country, particularly Hindus, are governed by religion,” she added.

According to REJSS members, earlier their environmental programmes remained confined to school students, but now it has representation from all walks of life.

“Be it children, youth or elders, all turn up in huge numbers whenever we organise religious gatherings. In fact, most of the time we hand over the saplings to devotees as they come in the camp and bow their head before the almighty,” said another member of REJSS, K.P. Singh.

In the coming weeks, REJSS will hold its programme in new parts of Uttar Pradesh — the dictricts of Lucknow, Kanpur, Unnao, Shahjahanpur and Hardoi.

REJSS buys the saplings with funds raised by the public.

“Residents in different districts, primarily Sonbhadra and Varanasi, voluntarily contribute for the campaign. For collecting funds, REJSS members visit door-to-door and the residents donate money depending upon their income,” said Ranbeer Dogra, a resident of Robertsganj town in Sonbhadra.

Arvind Giri, a resident of Sonbahdra’s Chopan town, said: “The initiative taken by REJSS will surely be of immense help in expanding the green cover of the state. In my view their drive is a unique mix of religion and science that would definitely ward off a number of environmental problems.”

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