Young Dubai eco champion's can-do attitude wins global praise

Schoolgirl Sagarika Sriram, 14, was selected by the United Nations as an inspiration to others for her efforts to help the planet

Sagarika Sriram has created a website to involve other children in conservation and recycling. Anna Nielsen for The National.
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A young Dubai environmental champion is winning international acclaim for her bid to encourage her neighbours to go green and recycle more than a thousand cans from her community.

The admirable efforts of Sagarika Sriram, 14, to galvanise her neighbours into collecting recyclable waste to mark Environment Day has struck a chord with the United Nations.

Her story is among a selection to be featured as inspirational clean-up actions taking place across the region.

The neighbourhood clean-up of the Green Community in 2017, highlighted by The National at the time, has been promoted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a global environmental authority setting an agenda for sustainable projects.

Although Sagarika may have some way to go to match the profile of green teen icon Greta Thunberg, the youngster is winning praise from far and wide.

“Sagarika is an inspiration to all young girls in her country and West Asia, spurring behavioural change which will certainly have a positive impact on the environment,” said Nora Isayan, UNEP West Asia Gender Focal Point.

“Women and girls are often hit the hardest by environmental and climate disasters.

“At UNEP we ensure gender mainstreaming in our programmes, and advocate for the participation of women and girls in all aspects of our mandate.”

Other projects featured by the UNEP included a large scale sea clean-up campaign in Bahrain and a tree planting project in Lebanon.

The Dubai community clean-up collected a staggering 1,040 kilogrammes of household paper waste in just four weeks during Ramadan.

At the age of 10, Sagarika learned how to code by enrolling in a distance learning course at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth and set up an environmental website called—Kids for a Better World.

She designed the website in a creative way to encourage people to take actions that help conserve natural resources, protect biodiversity and ecosystems, and reduce global warming.

So far, the site has had more than 34,000 visitors.

“I found that many people believe that in the UAE, we have unlimited resources to tackle environmental issues,” Sagarika said.

“But there is a huge threat to our biodiversity from an increasing carbon footprint, limited water resources, waste generation and air pollution.”

Alongside her website, Sagarika became involved in door-to-door advocacy, providing information about the importance of sustainable waste management, recycling, responsible consumption and production, and ecosystem conservation.

And her efforts did not stop there, as she went on to create a programme called Sustainable Summer, targeting children who stayed in the UAE during summer holidays.

Young environmentalists would gather to discuss and learn about climate change and think about ways in which they can make a difference.

“We are beginning to drive the changes we wish to see and show how serious we are about protecting the environment,” Sagarika said.