Sainath Manikandan

Roles at NAAEE:

30 Under 30

Student
GEMS United Indian School

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Age: 13

Sainath leads school campaigns to change our existing practices into green and sustainable solutions through technology.

How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities? 

I had started a local Papers, E-Wastes, Plastics, and Cans (PEPC) campaign to promote the importance of recycling and to put an end to single-use plastics. When I started my Drop It Youth and PEPC campaigns, my sister and school friends were very much interested to join and support as much as possible by giving presentations and pep talks to raise awareness. We campaign in our school and community to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our natural resources and the steps that we can take to preserve them. My sister, Sai Sahana, and I also raise awareness in our extracurricular classes and our fellow mates do take interest in recycling. For example, my junior schoolmates bring their old notebooks, textbooks, and carton boxes for recycling, and they are also learning how recycling and reducing paper use indirectly prevents cutting down more trees. 

Tell us about your journey to where you are today. 

When I visited my hometown, I was shocked to see heaps of plastic and waste being littered all over the place. I then imagined the amount of single-use plastics being used all over the world and started to realize that plastic pollution is an important global issue.

I wanted to change the world’s attitude towards plastic within a generation, because if the same trend continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic than marine life in the seas and oceans (according to the United Nations Environment Programme).

I wanted to do my bit and take small steps to protect our environment, so I started to search online. I came across the wonderful organization Goumbook and joined as an Ambassador. In this role, I help with beach and desert clean-up campaigns organized by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Day4Dubai to keep our environment clean and promote the importance of reducing waste and follow the 6 R’s.

I am also a YOUNG TIMES Panelist, write articles for Young Times Magazine (Khaleej Times), and am an innovator of three prototype robots that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Educating young minds will surely make an impact towards preserving the earth’s resources for the future. Youth today just need to take one step at a time to save and heal our planet. Raising environmental awareness is crucial not only for the present generation but also for our future. Together we can create a wave of change. All of us should take a step forward and rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic. It is our prime responsibility to take care of our Mother Earth.

Most of us have gotten used to taking it easy. When we read about dangers to our environment, we often simply pity, talk about it for some time, and then we forget it. The biggest challenge to getting people to change their habits is making them understand the consequences of using single-use plastics and the dangers of climate change to human health and Mother Earth.

What keeps you motivated, inspired and hopeful for the future?

I am motivated that many children and students have started to take measures to tackle environmental issues. That really inspires others, like me, to take small steps in our communities as we can create change for our future generations.

Human activities have introduced a new era of climate change, air pollution, and water pollution. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that nature is healing by itself during this lockdown, and we have seen air pollution reduced considerably in almost all parts of the world. This gives me hope.

We live on a blue planet, with oceans and seas covering more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface. Oceans feed us, regulate our climate, and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. But every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans. I am worried about our marine species if the same trend continues, and this keeps me motivated.

I am hopeful that in the future global citizens will realize the importance of taking care of their Mother Earth and help our environment to heal.

What are you happiest doing?

There are many things that I enjoy doing that make me happy.

Firstly, I enjoy taking care of our environment.

Secondly, I love to draw and paint, and I am raising environmental awareness through my drawings in my school and community. I feel that, more than speeches or presentations, drawings can better capture your ideas and deliver them easily to others.

Last but not the least, I love to invent new robots that will assist in various fields to support the SDGs.