SSTCN in collaboration with Indo-German centre for Sustainability, IIT Madras conducted a two day symposium on September 28th and 29th to celebrate 25 years of conservation work by SSTCN. The upcoming season will be the 25th year.
The symposium was targeted towards college students in and around Chennai. Participation was on a voluntary basis by students interested in nature. About 80 students from around 20 colleges attended the symposium over two days.
First day, 28th September
We started the day with presentations by students themselves on the topic of marine conservation. The students were briefed about this earlier. The session was for two hours and was moderated by Nityanand Jayaraman, a freelance activist and environmental journalist and teacher at the Asian college of Journalism. After listening to and watching many student presentations he gave critical feed back to them. He also explained how every choice we make in life is a political one, whether made consciously or not. He encouraged students to be aware of developments and make informed choices in their lives.
The second session of the morning was by Dr.Jayakumar of the Indo-German centre on the status of water on the coastal areas of Chennai. He had conducted this study as part of his doctoral thesis and gave valuable information on the availability of fresh water and the reason for its deterioration in various places.
This was followed by a presentation by Akila who made a presentation of Sea turtles of the world, their distribution, their roles in marine ecosystems, their current status etc and many interesting vignettes about Sea turtles.
The last presentation of the morning was by Arun who gave a quick run through of SSTCN’s work and a brief over view of the last 24 years.
We had organised a very different lunch for both the days – a full organic millet lunch, with all dishes being prepared with various millets. It was a unique experience for the students who after some initial reluctance enjoyed the meals very much and understood the ecological and nutritional importance of millets.
The main attraction of the day was the afternoon session conducted by Shekar Dattatri, the celebrated wild film maker and activist. He screened his famous “Ridley’s last stand” and followed it up with a passionate interaction session with students. In the process he shared many interesting facts about the early days of turtle conservation in Chennai which he was involved in since school days. It was very inspiring for the students to listen to a man who had dedicated his life to conserving nature from the time he was a small child. He made a very passionate plea to all to do whatever they can to save nature.
We ended the day with lime juice and peanut balls.
Second day, 29th September.
We began the day with a presentation of Marine Mammals of India by Dr.Kumaran Sathasivam. This is a topic on which there isn’t much knowledge and information. He enlightened us all on the various species found in Indian waters and also about other life forms found on shore and just off shore.
This was followed by a very lively session by photographers and bird watchers, Praveen and Murugan. They made a presentation of birds found on our coastal waters and on shores. They shared their experiences of going on boats looking for birds and it was very interesting and funny. The presentation was followed by a quiz which everyone enjoyed very much.
The third session of the morning was by Dr.Kartik Shanker, one of the founders of SSTCN who has been involved with us right through. He was also the president of the International Sea Turtle society. He told us the amazing story of sea turtle conservation in India with many fascinating never heard before stories of pioneers like Satish Bhaskar, Vijaya, Romulus Whitaker, C.S.Karr etc.
The next session was by Mr.Aurofilio from Citizens Action Network, Pondicherry who made a masterly presentation on shore formation and the impact of Sea walls. Every one present were fascinated and intrigued to hear so much new information about beaches which they had never heard of before.
After the lunch break we had Adhith Swaminathan present his tryst with turtles. Adhith has been involved with sea turtles from the time he was 11 years old. He has stayed involved with turtles and this has taken him to England to do a masters degree in marine conservation, to Costa Rica, Sri lanka, Orissa and Andaman to carry out conservation work. He shared this journey with us, with particular focus on his stay in an uninhabited Andaman island for the past few years. It was very inspiring for youngsters to listen to one who is barely older than themselves and yet has contributed so much already.
This was followed by a humorous presentation by our young volunteers on their experiences turtle walking in Marina.
The last session was an interaction among students themselves in groups on pre prepared case studies on a range of contemporary topics followed by a presentation by a representative from each group.
The last session was the valedictory with certificates given to all participants.
The symposium was a grand success and was made possible firstly by the generous collaboration of the Indo-German centre and by the hard work put in by the volunteers of SSTCN and IIT. A special thanks to Dr.Milind Brahme, professor at IIT, Rihan Najib, Ashwin, Ashish, Rathnavel, Nishanth, Aravind, Karthikeyan, Rakesh, Zainab, Maya, Vishnu, Shravan, Kartik, Prem and the others who helped.