CSE’s 5th National Knowledge Conclave

CSE’s 5th National Knowledge Conclave was organised on January 29-31, 2020 at Anil Aggarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI), Rajasthan for the members of Green Educators’ Network.

CSE believes that the educators play the role of multipliers - transferring knowledge across to students all over. Therefore, through these annual knowledge conclaves, CSE aims at strengthening the efficient teaching of the compulsory core course of environmental studies (EVS) at higher education institutions (HEI). 


• Discussion on status of EVS at HEI: The outreach to seek information from network members based on a set of questions has been in process since the 2018 Knowledge Conclave. Therefore this year, the discourse on teaching of EVS in universities and colleges was one of the highlights of the Conclave. Based on the responses received from around 75 educators, it can be inferred that there exists ambiguity around the process of delivering the course. Some of the pertinent insights from the educators’ responses are:

  • Credits: The credits offered for the EVS course in colleges range from four to two to even none.
  • Syllabus: Per UGC mandate, HEIs are allowed up to 20 per cent deviation from the prescribed syllabus. Data suggests that while some institutions have taken advantage of the 20 per cent deviation by including five out of the eight prescribed units, others have leveraged the deviation to include audio-visual aids and additional topics/field visits in the syllabus that are of immediate social relevance to students.
  • Faculty: The faculty appointed to teach the course is diverse from research scholars to ad hocs to ‘clock-hour-basis teachers’ to deans of schools of environmental sciences.
  • Assessment: Assessment varies greatly within institutions from descriptive answer type questions to multiple-choice questions to merely a qualifying paper.

• Sharing of best practices: Moderated by Dr Prabhakar, St Joseph’s College, the group of five panellists discussed and shared pedagogical tools to teach EVS, availability of content to refer to, type and effectiveness of evaluation methodology; and importance of environmental awareness for students.
• Book release - 'Green Campus: The Changemakers’- The Sustainable Habitat team released a compendium on the journey of five educational institutions to map their environmental performance on the themes of land, water, waste, air and energy relating to consumption, conservation, operation and awareness. Of the five institutions, four are members of the Green Educators Network.
• Aspiring towards a Greener Campus: Some of the participants (Ramanujan College, Ramjas College and Bhagini Nivedita College from University of Delhi, Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya, Tamil Nadu and JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research, Karnataka) took the first step towards the process of greening their campuses by submitting their registration forms for support from CSE’s Sustainable Habitat team. If more members are interested, please send a mail to cseuniversityprogramme@gmail.com
• Nominations for Green Educators network: The existing network members support us in expanding our network by sending referrals/ nominations. This year, the participants nominated 83 potential colleagues/peers to be part of the network.

5th National Knowledge Conclave
The two and half day long Conclave deliberated on different themes like climate change with special focus on extreme weather events, air pollution, junk food, waste management, sustainable habitat, etc.

As always, the Conclave started with the introductory session where participants introduced themselves while mentioning a unique feature of either their institution or the courses being offered or the unique way of teaching EVS. Chaired by Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, the introductory session gave many valuable insights on the implementation of EVS, the green practices followed across institutions, as well as threw up a number of suggestions to bolster EVS in HEIs.

The panel discussion on the critical aspects of Environment Education (refer Highlights above) included a presentation by Dr B. S. Prabhakar, St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Bangalore on the teaching methods, the advantages and disadvantages of different classroom delivery practices being followed at various colleges and Universities vis-a-vis Environmental Studies.   

Climate Change - a reality check 
During her keynote address, Sunita Narain discussed the existential crisis due to climate change and presented the current state of environment to the educators. She called upon the urgency to act for environment by stating that students need to understand the politics of inclusiveness, injustice and environment. Examples such as the increasing air pollution levels, bush fires, locust attacks, increasing intensity of hurricanes in Pacific; tropical cyclones; extreme weather events were discussed to highlight the gravity of the climate crises the world is facing.  Taking the issue ahead, Akshit Sangomla (Down To Earth) covered the causes and impacts of major extreme weather events that occurred in India and globally in the recent years. He also discussed the impacts of extreme weather on the Indian economy, society and environment.   Tarun Gopalakrishnan (Climate Change) talked about international climate negotiations; developments since the Paris Agreement i.e. key IPCC reports, national emission targets, adaptation strategies and critical research needs. He concluded with an overview of opportunities to connect academic research to negotiations, and suggestions of various sources that educators can refer to, for classroom teaching.   

The last session of the first day was on the consumption of junk food in India and its impact on health.  Mrinal Mallik (Environment Monitoring Laboratory) discussed CSE’s lab study that tested transfats, fats, salt and carbohydrates in popular junk foods; the existing guidelines of National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), FSSAI, WHO, etc; the instrumental techniques adopted, and the analysis of the study.  

The day concluded with the outdoor screening of a short video on Global Obesity. 

Solid Waste Management Scenario in India 
Sonia Henam and Dinesh Raj Bandela from Municipal Solid Waste Unit, CSE covered the implementation status and challenges involved in dealing with solid waste with special focus on plastic waste menace. Videos and hands-on activities prodded educators to think through on their knowledge of plastics. They were nudged to calculate their plastic footprint and think of alternatives to plastics in daily life. Questions from educators ranged from status of waste-to-energy plants, importance of decentralized waste treatment plants and recycling of plastic materials used in our daily routine. 

Air pollution rings the bell
Vivek Chattopadhyay from CSE’s Clean Air programme presented the current state of air quality across different parts of the country. He highlighted various possible solutions adopted internationally and the challenges for India to implement similar regulations and policies. He also shared good practices from within the country like the usage of 1.8 million recycled C&D waste blocks in Supreme Court extension project by Central Public Works Department and recycling of the C&D waste generated by National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd during the Government of India’s mega redevelopment of East Kidwai Nagar in New Delhi. 

The last session of the day was on Reinventing Mobility. Increasing dependence on automobiles, failure of public transport system, increasing air pollution are all adding to the global climate emergency.  The presentation given by Sayan Roy from CSE’s Sustainable Mobility unit covered an overview of various sustainable mobility strategies adapted by different cities globally and in India to cope with rising air pollution levels.  The informative presentation triggered many questions on adaptability of various mobility solutions available world-wide, usage of electric vehicles or large size public transport vehicles and reforms in motor vehicle regulations etc. 

Road to Green Campus 
The last day of Conclave started with a campus tour of Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI) with CSE’s Sustainable Buildings and Habitats team. During the tour, the educators observed various notable green building features including energy-saving architectural design, rainwater harvesting systems, together with a decentralized wastewater treatment system. 

After the tour, the Sustainable Buildings and Habitats team explained the features of a Green campus and steps to achieve this milestone. Mitashi Singh from the team mentioned the Inventory toolkit, which is divided into five themes Land, Energy, Water, Air, and Waste. Each theme has information based on three criteria of 1) Consumption Pattern 2) Conservation efforts and 3) Operation and Maintenance efficiency. This rigorous and time-taking journey for five institutions was captured in A Green Campus Compendium: Incubation, Experimentation and Demonstration of a Green Future, which was released during the session.  Sugeet Grover from the team touched on NAAC accreditation, its requirements and how CSE’s green campus rating system is aligned with the NAAC accreditation. 

The Conclave concluded with participants sharing suggestions/ next steps for the Network as well as initiatives undertaken such as the selection of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Maha Vidyalaya, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, for Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, a flagship programme of MHRD and formation of ‘Principal Scientific Adviser’s consultative groups’ by PMO where Indian researchers and scientists are invited to discuss issues like water, drought, energy, environment, waste- management, biodiversity and astronomy etc. 

Steps ahead

  1. Facebook Live Sessions- Live discussion with Sunita Narain or other subject experts from CSE on topic of environmental importance via Facebook for  educators and their students
  2. Agenda for Survival - A summer programme for youth to evaluate issues that lie at the interface of environment and development; poverty; democracy, equity and justice.
  3. Listing of schemes available and financial aid offered by various govt departments/ states nodal agencies/ ministries to undertake environment activities
  4. Database on unique field/lab based projects completed by network members with the complete details to stimulate other members/ students to undertake similar projects
  5. Training programme for network members on Green Campus Audit
  6.   A training course for educators not from environment background to equip them to teach EVS, as prescribed by UGC
  7. Reprint the University Reader for the UGC course
  8. Communications outreach on social media to amplify the Network and its activities 

The riveting sessions at the Conclave were also coupled with some fun-filled exercises to ensure—as educators would put it—learning with fun! A hike to the hills in the morning and a Rajasthani cultural event in the evening made for an enthralling experience. The thrill continued right till the last moment when an educator lost his bag mysteriously and after three hours of rigorous search, he found that the bag was mistakenly taken by one of his fellow participant only! A happy ending to an insightful journey!



List of Participants


Last Decade & Challenges Ahead
By: Sunita Narain
Director General, CSE
Teaching Environmental Studies in Institutes of Higher Education
By: B. S. Prabhakar, St. Joseph’s College
Extreme Weather Events in India : Causes & Impacts
By: Akshit Sangomla, Down To Earth
Climate Negotiations Post-Paris and the Role for Academia
By: Tarun Gopalakrishnan, Climate Change
Status of Solid Waste Management: Implementation & Challenges
By: Sonia Henam, Municipal Solid Waste
Status of Plastic Waste Management
By: Dinesh Raj Bandela, Municipal Solid Waste
Air Pollution: Beyond Delhi
By: Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Clean Air
Reinventing Mobility
By: Sayan Roy, Sustainable Mobility
Green Campus: The Changemakers
By: Rajneesh Sareen, Mitashi Singh and Sugeet Grover, Sustainable Buildings and Habitat Programme