March 30, 2020
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In Green Chalk

A varsity dedicated to environment studies. The time is nigh.

In Green Chalk
In Green Chalk
outlookindia.com
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Naturessence
  • The first university in the country dedicated to environmental studies
  • Set up by CEE, Ahmedabad, it has the backing of the HRD ministry. Awaiting clearance from the UGC.
  • The university is expected to go onstream in 2009. Tie-ups with foreign varsities/institutes planned
  • The curriculum will focus mainly on environment education and sustainable development

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"The varsity will provide a value-added degree while also doing cutting-edge research."
Kartikeya Sarabhai, CEE director


"Environment cannot be an isolated issue. Sustainable development is multi- disciplinary."
Kirit S. Parikh, Planning Commission


"Schools need to take note... studying the environment has to be in a professional manner."
Sam Pitroda, Knowledge Commission

 

Call it the global warming crisis hitting home, a clarion call to save the environment. Come 2009 and India will have its first university dedicated to environmental studies. To be set up by the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Ahmedabad, the new university's prime focus will be sustainable development and protecting/managing the environment. The effort has the Union human resources ministry's backing and work on setting up the campus and finalising the courses will begin once the University Grants Commission gives the nod.

Says CEE director Kartikeya Sarabhai, "We want a university which has sustainable development and environmental concerns permeating all its courses. Environmental Education (EE) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) will be the cornerstones of all its initiatives. The CEE is working towards providing a value-added degree through the university and performing cutting-edge research in the field of EE and sustainable development."

The CEE already has several national and international universities and organisations who are interested in a tie-up. These include the United Nations University (UNU), the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). The partnerships will mean that the new university can utilise their strengths, avoid duplication of effort, and also work on a convergence of ideas and goals. But tie-ups are still a contentious issue with the government, so a faculty exchange programme may be the first step.

Foreign collaborations aren't new for the CEE anyway. Way back in 1990, it held its first international 'Training in Environment Education' (TEE) programme, a post-Master's level certificate course in which candidates were selected from India and five Commonwealth nations. The CEE also has regular interactions with several international institutes, universities and NGOs.

Kirit S. Parikh, Planning Commission member and CEE chairperson, says, "Sustainable development is a multi-disciplinary field and encompasses much more than pollution and greenhouse emissions...and it is necessary to appreciate it in all its dimensions. While the IITs have their disciplines, to have a holistic approach to environment is essential. At present, the campuses offering courses in environment are focused on a particular subject. But environment cannot be handled in isolation." Parikh also feels there is an acute need for professionals who understand environment as an inter-disciplinary subject as also the protection of it as a practical discipline.

The courses and budget, says Sarabhai, are in the process of being finalised. There's also a plan to put in place a system of scholarships to provide deserving students opportunities in fields of their interest. The centre is also fine-tuning the syllabus. Parikh says CEE's 23 years of experience in 21 thrust areas will stand it in good stead in the course design.

The CEE, set up in 1984, has around 40 offices all over India now. It reaches out to over 200 NGOs working at the grassroots level and has around 130 ongoing projects. These will provide the students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience during their degree programme. The faculty will be a mix of academicians, researchers and practitioners.

Sarabhai says once the university comes up there will be enormous scope for adding value to the many environment- and development-related courses being offered in the country. He feels the emphasis should be on techniques to augment output from the emerging cadre of professionals, creating a platform for much-needed research work on environmental and developmental issues in the Indian context. Already, training modules and full-fledged courses in 21 thrust areas are being conceptualised by the centre.

Now, the setting up of a varsity dedicated to just environmental studies would usually have raised canker on wastage of resources from some quarter or the other. But these are enlightened times. As Sam Pitroda, chairperson of the Knowledge Commission, put it, "It's time for schools and colleges to take note of the importance of studying environment in a professional manner. A university dedicated entirely to the multi-disciplinary field of environment is a welcome step." The Knowledge Commission is in the process of finalising a comprehensive portal on biodiversity which aims at providing links to several environment-related sites. It's also giving the finishing touches to a paper that will, among other things, underscore the importance of studying environment as a discipline/subject at the school level.

Environmental concerns were till recently seen as something to be left to select experts; the need to teach it as a formal science only gained significance in the new millennium. After the historic Bali summit in '07, where it became the battleground for over 190 countries, a roadmap on strategy was drawn up to clean up the environment by 2012. India has a key role in this. Perhaps why the CEE is gung ho about the green varsity.
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