Filed under Outreach

Learning and Sustainability in the Himalayas: A conversation

Time: Tuesday November 7 3:30-4:30pm
Location: CREATE, 196 Mercer St. 8th Floor (the Noho Building)
Space is limited. Please arrive 15-20 minutes early to ensure a seat.


Learning and Sustainability in the Himalayas: A conversation with leaders of the Uttarakhand Environmental Education Centre, Lalit Pande and Anuradha Pande

The Pandes will begin with a brief description of their Uttarakhand Environmental Education Centre and its activities, but the majority of the time is reserved for discussion and conversation with them about the themes that have arisen in their work over the last 30 years. Simply put, the Uttarakhand Environmental Education Centre provides a platform for ordinary people in rural villages to identify their concerns, develop and implement their own solutions, thereby becoming confident in their own abilities.

About the Uttarakhand Environmental Education Centre

The Uttarakhand Environmental Education Centre (Uttarakhand Seva Nidhi Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan in Hindi, or USNPSS for short) was founded in 1967. Since 1987, USNPSS has been working with village communities in the Himalayas, when it was appointed a nodal agency by the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development to undertake environmental education programmes in schools and villages in the mountain districts of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, now the state of Uttarakhand.

Uttarakhand, located in the Central Himalayas of northern India, is a fragile ecological zone where human activities can cause extensive land degradation and significant societal impacts. Difficulty of access had protected this region from external influences and allowed the people living here to continue their traditional and usually sustainable practices. With the advent of education and globalisation, facilitated by roads, telephones, television, Internet etc., their lives are transforming rapidly. Other factors like climate change and migration are compounding the challenges.

USNPSS has a unique holistic way of working with mountain communities. Activities of the Centre have included development of place-based environmental education curricula and teacher training, adopted statewide; programmes on health, water, and sanitation; women’s empowerment and gender issues; programs to support livelihood development that does not depend on globalization; and programs to directly support community-initiated and implemented environmental and energy sustainability in rural villages.

About the speakers

Dr. Lalit Pande, director of the USNPSS, received degrees in Engineering from IIT Delhi, MIT, and Purdue. Along with completing the requirements of a PhD, he made an attempt to answer his own questions about life. He eventually decided to go and live in the mountains and came to Almora, India in 1984, his ancestral home, where he had never lived before. Approaching problems of sustainability and development with an open mind, he began to explore how USNPSS could influence local people and the ecosystem. In time, this resulted in developing and introducing an environmental education programme in the school curriculum, preschool education in villages, rural libraries and evening centres, women’s groups and gender advocacy, practical activities like water and sanitation, plant nurseries and afforestation programmes, and agriculture and climate change interventions.

Anuradha Pande has been working in the state of Uttarakhand for the last twenty five years. Through USNPSS, she has created and nurtured the largest network of rural women’s groups in the state, the Uttarakhand Women’s Federation (Uttarakhand Mahila Parishad), with over 450 local groups and over 16,000 members. She coordinates the network, organises and conducts training for women’s groups and community-based organisations and visits the villages and assists them to take up issues of women’s rights. Every year, she organises about twenty congregations in Uttarakhand providing a platform to rural communities to raise their concerns. She edits a women’s magazine, Nanda, which publishes articles written by rural women. More recently, she has developed a programme on adult women’s literacy and empowerment. She has also worked on development of the programme on environment education for school children. Anuradha did her masters in geology. Her recently published book on her work and reflections is called “Pahari Streeyan” (“The Women of the Mountains”).

Together, their work at USNPSS, with a network of community-based organisations and individuals in about 500 villages, led to insights into ideas of development, environmental and social issues and community learning. Their work has been supported by central and state government in India, by international governmental organizations like UNESCO, by philanthropic foundations like the Ford Foundation, and by individual donors, in addition to countless in-kind contributions from the communities they serve. In 2005, the book “The Ecological Village” was published describing the center’s philosophy and methods of working. In recognition of the impact of USNPSS, Dr. Lalit Pande was awarded the distinction Padma Shri by the President of India in 2007.

This talk is hosted by Christopher Hoadley and the NYU dolcelab (Lab for the Design of Learning, Collaboration, and Experience), with additional financial support from the South Asia | NYU Network. Additional co-sponsors include: