Sneha Shahi

Academic heavy lifting with a good dose of getting your hands dirty for positive climate action

Sneha definitely knew from an early age that her future would be deeply connected with ecology. She fondly remembers trips to National Parks which endowed her with a sense of respect for nature and always left her with a feeling of responsibility towards it. Years later, picking Environmental Science for her graduate studies must’ve been easy. Today, she’s a PhD student at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru, studying Conservation Science and Sustainability. Yet, Sneha’s story of positive climate action came from realising that doing research alone wouldn’t suffice. So, she decided to act too. Sneha went from doing research to addressing the impact of waste on climate in multiple ways: not only reducing its impact on river ecosystems but also limiting the use of plastic at source, which will have a ripple effect through the ecosystem around the campus.

Her affiliation with the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Plastic Tide Turner Campaign allowed her to take her learnings to the next level and secure a ban on single-use plastics on her campus. The exposure would also help her revive a dead urban stream, choked with plastic. As a student of solid waste and freshwater management, she was well aware of how urban water bodies help regulate the microclimate and reduce heat and greenhouse gas entrapment in cities. She got volunteers to help her clear it while using her academic strengths to frame an ecological action plan to ensure longevity and enhanced environmental health of the stream. Her work supports SDG 12 by changing the trend of plastic consumption on campuses, and the Swachh Bharat Mission. Another heartening side-effect of her action – the turtles and Mugger crocodiles were back home too.