Twenty-year-old Kunal Das from Kolkata has a mission in life: To educate the community, especially children and adolescents, on the impact of the climate crisis. In addition to raising awareness on global warming, he has undertaken plantation drives in his neighbourhood.
“In our locality, we young people encourage others to plant saplings anywhere, inside or outside their homes. I have heard stories from my grandmother about how they used to dive into the pond located near my house, everything has dried up now, and we face an acute water crisis. In the past five years, we have experienced frequent cyclones and floods, and the temperature has also increased. If we don’t act now, in the next 30 years, thousands of people will die for food, water and basic amenities,” that’s Kunal’s message to the world. He’s part of Save of Children’s Urban Resilience Program.
Kunal lives in a slum on Tiljla Road, Kolkata, in a small, rented room with his parents and two elder sisters. Mahadev Das works at a leather workshop, whereas household chores keep his mother, Babita, busy all day. Despite their financial condition, Kunal’s parents have prioritized their children’s education. One of Kunal’s elder sister is supporting her family by working at a private firm, and his other sister has finished college. Because of his helpful and warm attitude, Kunal is very popular among his peers, neighbours and family members.
While Kunal was always interested in studies, he took tuition classes to cover his expenses. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Commerce. From a very young age, Kunal has experienced extreme conditions of poverty and has been exposed to unhygienic conditions, abysmal sanitation facilities and limited access to safe drinking water. Residents of his area frequently suffer from health problems like diarrhea. Over the years, Kunal has been very vocal about disaster risk reduction, global warming, climate change and essential health and hygiene. He has successfully reduced the number of open drains and hanging live wires in his area by influencing the local authorities. Despite his living conditions, he is determined to secure a better life for himself and his peers in the locality.
Kunal has been an integral part of Save the Children since 2017. He was a child champion, and he has motivated people in his locality to plant trees, keep dustbins and sand in a bucket to prevent fire and keep surroundings clean. He leads campaigns in his locality on special days like World Water Day, World Earth Day, etc. and has been mobilising the community on access to safe drinking water.
A theatre group led by Kunal has performed a play on Climate Change Adaptation in various places, and their performances have been well appreciated.
“My friends and family share the same ideology towards the climate crisis. The climate change crisis is increasing rapidly, and it’s scaring us. If we don’t act now, in the next 30 years, people will be dying for food, water and basic amenities. No one will be able to stop it, and young people, children like me living in the slum, will be deprived of a bright career and a peaceful life as extreme climate change events will have devastating effects on our future,” he said.
The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Sign our petition started with and for children to demand climate action now: www.savethechildren.in/petition-for-climate-action