India's Greta, 11-year-old Ridhima, files plaint at UN

The young activist had in 2017 filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal against the government for failing to take action on climate change

Ridhima Pandey protesting with other young activists in New York.

At the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York last week, it was not just Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who 'dared' world leaders, raised questions on climate change and what they were doing about it. 

On September 23, among the 15 other children who filed a complaint to protest the lack of government action on the climate crisis, there was 11-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Haridwar. 

Along with Greta, they flayed Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey for failing to uphold their obligations to young people under the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ridhima, right from a young age, has been concerned about the environment, carbon footprints and greenhouse emissions. “I got involved in all of this after the Uttarakhand floods in 2013,” she told Deccan Herald.

“I was too young at the time. There was huge loss, many people died and many children lost their parents. My father (who is an environmentalist) also went with his colleagues to rescue animals caught in the floods. I saw all those pictures and I was upset.”

“I asked my father why this was happening and he explained to me that it was all due to climate change and global warming. I realised that it’s going to affect our future. I remember asking my dad, 'Can't you do something about it?' He gave me suggestions and said he would indeed do something," she recollected.

In 2017, through her mother and her lawyer friend, Ridhima filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal against the government for failing to take action on climate change.

"The petition was dismissed, but we have taken it to the Supreme Court," she said.

On her website Children vs Climate, she writes, “I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future. I want to save the future of all the children and all the people of future generations”

Closer home, though, she is deeply worried about river Ganga and how it continues to remains unclean. 

“The Ganga is not clean yet. When we went there, we saw people washing clothes there and using the banks of the river for sanitation. There were people who were throwing plastic, polythene bags and water bottles into the river. Some were even dumping old clothes into the river," she rued.

“Nothing has changed here. We were told that the government is fulfilling all requirements. But that’s not true. The work is done on paper but very little on the ground,” she averred.

Ridhima wants leaders to sit up and listen to young voices and do something about it. She feels the children are taking to the streets because leaders were not doing anything about climate change.    

“I want children and their parents to stop using plastic, save electricity and not waste water. If you are going to a nearby place, use a bicycle or go by foot," she suggested, her voice firm.

Ridhima is determined to take her fight forward. "When I grow up, I want to start an NGO with all those people who want to do something about climate change. I will support every young child who wants to fight against climate change and stop global warming," she said.

Ask her how she feels being described as India's Greta, over and over again, she reflects for a while. 

“Greta is different," she said, "and I am different. We both have different stories but we both are fighting for the same thing. We are fighting for our future and for our rights. We, the young people, are the only ones who are going to suffer the adverse effects of climate change in the future and I will do everything to protect the environment.”

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