Meet Ridhima Pandey, the 11-year-old Indian Fighting Climate Change With Greta Thunberg

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Meet Ridhima Pandey, the 11-year-old Indian Fighting Climate Change With Greta Thunberg

Illustration: Swapnil Shinde

“How dare you?”

On Monday, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg’s (now viral!) speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit resonated the thoughts and justified anger of our generation against world leaders and their lack of effort to curb the climate crisis. From skipping school on Fridays and holding a lone protest with a placard outside the Swedish Parliament for a year, to being the face of the biggest-ever climate protest yet, Thunberg’s resilience and understanding of our impending apocalypse-like reality could teach governments a thing or two.

But she’s not alone. Rubbing shoulders with her are 15 other climate crusaders, most of them teenagers. The youngest of the lot is all of eight. 

In this list, an Indian name caught my attention. Eleven-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Uttarakhand along with Thunberg and team has filed a complaint with the United Nations to protest the inaction of governments of five countries for not doing their bit on the spiralling climate crisis through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These five countries – Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey –  are said to be the largest emitters of carbon dioxide that have ratified the convention. The 16 petitioners from 12 countries, and starkly different cultural backgrounds, seem to share the same vision — the need to secure a future for themselves. Helping them along the way are Hausfeld, a global law firm, and Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organisation.

ridhima_pandey

Eleven-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Uttarakhand along with Thunberg and team has filed a complaint with the United Nations to protest the inaction of governments for not doing their bit on the spiralling climate crisis.

Children vs Climate Crisis

“I want a better future,” reads Pandey’s bio on the Children vs Climate Crisis website. And given her track record of standing up to officials back home in Haridwar, it’s clear she means business.  

Pandey filed her first petition against the Indian government at nine, an age when most of us are either thinking about Pokémon or Maggi. The 52-page document, submitted to the National Green Tribunal stated that the Indian government should take “effective, science-based action to reduce and minimise the adverse impacts of climate change”, must prepare a “carbon budget” to limit India’s carbon dioxide emissions, and that besides examining industrial projects for their environmental impact, a national climate recovery plan must be laid down. Of course, she did this with the backing of a legal guardian. 

Pandey also pointed out how while young people like her are the most vulnerable to the drastic changes in the climate, they have no power to partake in the decision-making process that could have irreversible effects on them and their future. But now she is fighting to change that. 

Pandey filed her first petition against the Indian government at nine, an age when most of us are either thinking about Pokémon or Maggi.

“My government has failed to take steps to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing extreme climate conditions,” Ridhima had told the The Independent, UK back in 2017. “My country has huge potential to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and because of the government’s inaction I approached the National Green Tribunal.”

Ridhima’s passion for campaigning against climate change is something she has inherited. Her father, Dinesh Pandey is a climate activist and has been rallying behind environmental rights for two decades. It was the devastating 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand — often alluded as the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami —  that jolted young Ridhima into action, according to environmental attorney Rahul Choudhary, who, along with lawyers Ritwick Dutta and Meera Gopal, represent her.

Eventually, the NGT disposed of the plea, stating that the points raised were already covered under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and hence didn’t merit another hearing. It did, however, observe that the authorities were obligated to carry out impact assessments. Big win, for a fourth grader. Since then, Ridhima has not backed down.

It only goes to show — while it’s typical of adults to ignore what kids have to say (we’ve all been there), the children of today will find a way to be heard. Greta Thunberg and Ridhima Pandey are proof that there’s some fight left in us.

All eyes are on Greta, yes, but Ridhima is the silent warrior you should be looking out for.

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