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Two young professional Sikhs are joining EcoSikh as staff members to launch a global ecological movement comprising of several diverse initiatives on behalf of the global Sikh community.
Ravneet Pal Singh from Ludhiana, Punjab and Bandana Kaur from New York, started in their role earlier this month to further the mission of EcoSikh, which emerged as a result of a collaboration between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE). In summer 2009, Sikh leaders, environmentalists, and representatives of Sikh organizations, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) gathered in Delhi to endorse the five year EcoSikh plan, as the Sikh community’s response to climate change.
Ravneetpal Singh, 29, well versed in Sikh scriptural teachings on the Environment, graduated with a degree in Agricultural Engineering from Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, is based in Ludhiana and will coordinate activities from this city. He worked as a project manager in a multinational irrigation company. His main task was to promote water conservation through sound irrigation designs, construction observations and water management practices. He recently spent two years in the UK, from which he broadened his understanding of life in the 21st century Sikh diaspora.
Bandana Kaur in New York has a Masters degree in Environmental Science from Yale University’s School of Forestry and in Environmental Studies. During her time at Yale, Bandana spent two summers in the Punjab learning about the ecological challenges facing the state, and researching women’s participation in agricultural biodiversity conservation in rural areas. She has also spent several years working on water, forest, and climate issues in non-profits, both in the US and India. She feels strongly that a global alliance to address the environmental challenges that impact the Sikh community and the world is an urgent need.
“The aim is to mobilize Sikh communities in India and elsewhere to develop practical solutions to today’s pressing environmental challenges in accordance with the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and also exchange ideas with faith communities around the world. This will be achieved by creating partnerships, improving environmental education, and using advocacy, media and other networks to strengthen the Sikhs’ commitment to the environment,” stated Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education and the convener of EcoSikh. “We are thrilled to have these two young people join the EcoSikh team. We feel strongly that their vision and their energy will make a big difference in bringing the Sikh community to the center stage on this challenging issue facing humanity.”
“Up until now EcoSikh has just been an idea – an important idea, and one which many Sikhs have quickly grasped the importance of – but still, an idea. This month, with the appointments of Bandana Kaur and Ravneet Singh as coordinators for North America and India respectively, EcoSikh begins to become a reality. ” said Victoria Finlay, Director of Communications at ARC, which is working closely with Eco-Sikh in its first year.
“The Sikh community is in many places already leading in the fields of environmental education, restoration, recycling and reusing of waste products, water filtration and treatment, and nature preservation. The intention is to disseminate these ideas more widely, and help make every Sikh community, an ecologically active community,” says Ravneet Pal Singh. He added, “I am truly excited to be part of such a noble effort.”
“In the spiritual homeland of Sikhs, Punjab, chemical contamination and the grave damage to the soil and water systems are affecting the health and wellbeing of the men, women, and children. The Sikh community has the potential to be at the helm of this challenge by living and acting according to the humanitarian and ecological principles espoused by our Sikh Gurus,” says Bandana Kaur.
EcoSikh is the Sikh community’s commitment to the Plans for Generational Change programme inaugurated by the UNDP and ARC, and announced in November 2009 at Windsor Castle outside London, UK, in the presence of Prince Philip and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.
Over the past year, the organization has forged alliances with Sikh environmental leaders throughout Punjab. Last year, it proposed March 14th to be celebrated as Sikh environment day which was well received in the community throughout the world with SGPC committing to planting 100,000 trees in Punjab in addition to singing of Sikh hymns on nature from the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple).