Tarumitra (friends of trees in Hindi and Sanskrit) is a movement that evolved from the Forum for Environment that students started in 1988, with a focus on the conservation of biodiversity and promotion of ecological sensitivity.
This students’ movement is now working in 23 states of India and with around 2,000 schools and colleges in the country. The headquarters is in Patna, Bihar, India which is a bio-reserve that students planted and now regularly manage.
Tarumitra strongly advocates extending the green cover, especially the planting of rare, endangered, and medicinal flora which caters to indigenous groups. This movement has always taken a stand for alternative sources of energy, organic gardening and farming, green and eco-friendly activities, vermi composting and mulching, waste management and other green practices that minimize the carbon footprint.
They collaborate and network with local, state, and central administrative authorities such as the State Pollution Control Board, the Department of Forest, Environment and Climate Change, the Municipal Corporation Body, the State Department of Agriculture, among others.
When rampant cutting of trees take place in public places or unhealthy practices are undertaken and increasing pollution levels, the Tarumitra clubs of various school and colleges respond unanimously through road shows, human chains, signature campaigns, flash mobs, street plays, and other similar group actions to create higher awareness on urgent issues that contribute to global warming and climate change.
The students have a lot of green innovative ideas to reduce pollution levels and also imbibe a sense of eco-spirituality through seasonal festivals and celebrations such as Holi (Festival of Colors), Diwali (Festival of Lights), Friendship Day with trees, and Valentines’ day with Mother Earth.
Students also learn about organic rice planting and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method that was synthesized in the 1980s by French Jesuit Henri de Laulanié who started to work with rice farmers in Madagascar in 1961.
SRI is a method of rice cultivation that increases the productivity of irrigated rice by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients. SRI leads to healthier soil and plants, supported by greater root growth and the nurturing of soil microbial abundance and diversity. The SRI method is now taken up in about 40 rice-producing countries.
Tarumitra has a strong belief that students are not only the future but the present as well. When students become aware of eco-friendly and green ideas from their childhood, the possibility is greater that they would refrain from activities which are harmful to the environment.
Tarumitra received the UN Special Consultative Status (ECOSOC) in 2005, enabling them to participate in events like the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development where progress on the Sustainable Development Goals are reviewed with UN member-states.
Students representing Tarumitra participate in UN Summits and these young green leaders have time and again addressed General Assemblies on ecological concerns. Students from various part of the globe such as Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School (a non-profit private university in Honduras, Central America) and Lehigh University (a private research university in Pennsylvania, USA) have come to Tarumitra India for internship programs.
Tarumitra’s green journey is animated by committed youth who actively respond to and engage with urgent environmental global issues, and in caring for our common home, Tarumitra works on the principle of Universal Cousinship and strongly advocates that “the whole world is my family.”
Ms Devopriya Dutta is an environment worker and is the coordinator of Tarumitra. She is also a member of the Ecojesuit Ecoteam of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia and she has a six-minute video Introduction to Tarumitra Asharam 2019 that provides an overview of Tarumitra activities.
Tarumitra founder Fr Robert Athickal SJ also shares about Tarumitra and his journey in this four-minute video.