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Thousands mobilise to tackle pollution In Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the most India’s most polluted cities, suffering particularly from poor air quality and unclean water. It is also a city with many universities and a young, engaged population. What if we harnessed thousands studying in the city to work together to tackle pollution?

For this pilot, our country lead Sakshi Bhalla partnered with local action group The Climate Agenda, who mobilised over 5,000 students from across Varanasi’s university network to create visions and action plans for Varanasi’s sustainable future.

Supported by 35 issue-based experts, 70 of these students formed teams to further develop these action plans, tackling different environmental issues, from renewable energy to the need for clean water. 10 artists from within the group worked in parallel to create a collaborative painting to visualise how Varanasi might look in a sustainable future.


Combining Art, Creativity and Action

This combination of creativity, art, and action was a powerful mix. Sakshi noted that having artists in the room made “everyone feed off their energy, and made people feel inspired to think bigger”. For Sakshi, this is one of the great values of art: “art is one of those tools that can shift people’s hearts and minds… climate change can feel removed from people’s lives due to the way it is presented through scientific facts, whereas art and culture is more humanistic and emotional. It can shift the way people think and create new actions.”

Following the success of these gatherings, we are now working to keep the students connected and following up on their action plans. Imagine the change that would be possible if this engaged community joined up with thousands of students in other cities across India to create a movement.

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