Candid conversation with 12-year-old environmentalist Ayaan Shankta

Ayaan Shankta is a 12-year-old environmentalist who aspires to become an engineer. He has recently bagged the third position for the Powai Lake conservation project from Action For Nature

In an exclusive chat with Digpu News, Ayaan Shankta talks about his inspirations and passions. The young environmentalist has built two robots to map pollution levels in the water. Here are the excerpts:

What inspired you to become an environmentalist and initiate such a detailed project on Powai Lake pollution at the tender age of 12?

I have been living near Powai Lake since I was born. As a kid, my parents used to take me there to witness the beautiful wildlife around the lake. It was a treat to our eyes to see the blue shining lake water. Over the years, I have seen the lake transform into a garbage dumping ground for residents and businesses thriving around it. I was shocked to see the lake covered in water hyacinths and algae and wanted to do something about it.

Most importantly, nothing much is done to conserve and clean the lake. So I have initiated ‘Conservation and Rehabilitation of Powai Lake’.

Can you share some details about the project?

The ‘Conservation and Rehabilitation of Powai Lake’ project is a self-driven project. I have conducted surveys and did extensive research for almost a year. I also did various tests like chemical tests, pH value tests, and bio-cultural tests on microorganisms living in the lake. After my research, I have written an Action Research Report, which received a gold medal at Homi Bhabha Balvaidnyanik Competition. The project is going on for three years now.

Can you elaborate on different kinds of tests conducted under this project?

I have done a pH value test to understand the nature of pollutants. It helps to classify the industrial chemicals pollutants and wastes from people washrooms like soap water. I have also conducted a total dissolved substances test to understand the type of impurities released in waters.

Apart from that, I have also conducted a test to understand the chemical and biological oxygen demand in the lake. I have also tested the microorganism in the lake after cultivating them in my house. This particular test had helped me analyzing the point in the lake, which is home to maximum microbes.

Candid conversation with 12-year-old environmentalist Ayaan Shankta
Ayaan Shankta in one of his lake cleaning drives

What were your survey findings?

During my survey, I was shocked to learn that almost 70% of the population was not aware of the existing pollution of the lake. This led me to start an awareness drive in my school, society, and near the lake.

Will people stop dumping trash into lakes without any law enforcement agency in place?

There might be laws prohibiting people from dumping wastes in the lake. But nothing much will change from it without the enforcement agency. It is hard to say that whether law enforcement agencies will be able to stop people from dumping their trash into the lake as most of them are not aware of the situation. I am currently working with the government on this particular issue.

When did you submit the report to Action for Nature?

After getting the gold medal for my action research report, I decided to submit my project to Action for Nature in February. 

What was your and your parent’s reaction after the news broke?

Both my parents and I were thrilled when we first heard the news. I was extremely shocked to know that I won the third prize against acclaimed environmentalists. I did not expect to win an international award.

How did your friends react to the news?

My friends were also shocked when they have heard the news. My school authorities were thrilled and shocked at the same time. They have helped me a lot in the project. I did the microorganism test in my school lab.

What is Hydrus?

Hydrus is a cheap water pollution testing device that will constantly monitor the water at these identified points and then make the stakeholders aware of the non-abated polluting of the lake. It will help in mapping the water pollution level for a couple of years and plot the data in a graph.

So you are also interested in robotics?

Yes absolutely! I am truly passionate about robotics. I have also created another robot that will plot the pollution levels on a three-dimensional graph. The self-driven robot will hover around the lake and then map the pollution level in each coordinate. It is named ‘Autonomous Spatial Pollution Detection Robot’.

What drove your passion for robotics?

My parents used to buy a lot of toys for me when I was a kid. During that time, I had developed an interest in Legos. This was the beginning of my passion for robotics. I have participated in various international robotics competitions remotely during the pandemic.

Any recent robotics competition that you have participated in?

In FIRST Robotics Competition, I have created a robot based on the idea of the physical and mental health of the people in covid from the scratch. The robot will identify the acupressure points in your body and help you to ease the pain.

Apart from robotics and eco-conservation works, are you also into swimming?

Yes, both my sister and I love swimming. I have bagged prizes at various state-level competitions. 

With so many things on the plate, how do you manage your classes and education?

I am currently having more time due to online classes. Earlier, I had to travel for almost an hour to reach school. The real master of the game is my parents. They help me juggle between environment-related work and education. Without them, I could not have done it.

What is your aspiring career choice?

I will definitely continue my mission as an environmentalist. But I love aeronautics and robotics. Therefore, I aspire to become an aeronautical engineer as my father is also a pilot.

What is your message to other young kids of your age?

I ask other kids of my age to take up any environmental issues that affect their daily lives. For me, I took water pollution. Nothing is impossible in today’s world if you put your mind in.

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