The Care for the Environment Contest, which was held in New Delhi to mark World Environment Day, met with a response that far surpassed the expectations of its organisers.
THE ATMOSPHERE in New Delhi's National Museum of Natural History was charged on June 5, World Environment Day. The Care for the Environment Contest, organised jointly by the museum authorities and the ministry of environment and forests (MEF), was over and the People's Perception on Caring for the Environment exhibition was going on. Even the large plaster dinosaur guarding the museum lawns seemed to approve of the people bustling around it, engaged in activities that sought to save other species from the fate that had wiped it off the face of the earth.
The exhibition, which closed on June 20, drew over two lakh participants from all over India. The predominant impression that engulfed a visitor was of powerful images in earth colours. Prizes -- 613 in all -- were awarded to logos, posters, comic strips, slogans, songs and poems, and film scripts in 15 languages, including English. But, on display at the exhibition were only the three best in each category. Maharashtra topped the contributors' list with 11.83 per cent of the total entries to its credit. West Bengal followed close on its heels with 11.17 per cent.
A logo that depicted a fish, a tree and a bird moulded together into a globe that represents ecological harmony won one of the awards for best logo. Kamal Sharma, a painter from Rajasthan, used stark, simple images in his award-winning poster, combining a huge spherical sun on the horizon, barren soil, a single green sapling and a white bird on the wing.
A recurring image in the posters and logos was the bird of peace, closely resembling a dove and representing healing and tranquility in a devastated landscape. Angry images of land rendered infertile by deforestation or pollution, found place beside quiet, poignant pictures, such as an axe tied in symbolic surrender to a beautiful leafy tree. There were quirky ones, too, as for example the blank canvas, which bore the inscription: "Art can capture nature's beauty, but only if it is there to capture."
Witty comics The comic strips were witty and simple and some displayed intricate, finely-moulded figures of animals and plants. Others depended on engaging sketches and stories to capture the imagination. One of the prize-winning entries depicted a child's nightmare on entering a world of gas masks and regular acid rain. Another comically pointed out that lopping a tree was like chopping one's own head.
The organisers were overwhelmed by the response to the contest and the exhibition. Project coordinator Tapan Chowdhury says exultantly, "Our target of getting people of all ages to think about their environment has definitely succeeded." Another plus point, according to him, is that "we've received a wealth of information on the environment directly from the people."
The organisers hope to compile some of the 613 prize-winning entries into a book. An exchange system may be worked out with industrial houses to use the logos. The slogans and posters will be used by the MEF to make their campaigns more effective.
Most of the prize-winners who were invited to Delhi for the inauguration of the exhibition were neo-environmentalists and the prized have boosted their ardour. J K Kumar of Karnal, who won an encouragement prize for his Urdu slogan, is a retired journalist. He says, "My awareness of the decay of natural life around me has finally been translated into action. It will now continue to live in my short stories, which will have an environmental focus." Young Nigar Zaidi, whose comic strip is on exhibit, says, "I was not consciously an environmentalist, but winning this contest has changed all that."
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