Indian brothers Vihaan and Nav Agarwal won a prestigious children’s prize Saturday for a project they launched that aims to reduce waste and pollution and plant trees in their home city of New Delhi.
Vihaan, 17, and his 14-year-old brother, Nav, were handed the International Children’s Peace Prize by Indian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi at a ceremony in The Hague, Netherlands. They said they plan to use the prize and the recognition it brings to expand their network across India and beyond.
“Our thought process is that we need to get the whole world zero waste. And that means not only India, not only going to every single city, every town, every village, but to actually share this message with the whole world,” Vihaan told The Associated Press in an interview a day before the award ceremony.
The brothers got the idea to begin their garbage separation and recycling project, One Step Greener, following a collapse in 2017 at a Delhi landfill and a cloud of pollution that descended over the city the next day. Vihaan has and poor air quality often requires him to stay inside.
The One Step Greener project now visits more than 1,500 homes, schools and offices throughout sprawling Delhi as the brothers and their organization work toward a goal they call “Zero Waste India.”
Vihaan said the success of One Step Greener should serve as a lesson for world leaders tackling climate change and pollution. “You have to be practical and think of solutions that are easy for people,” he said.
“As we saw with One Step … when we did a door to door pickup, it was exceptionally easy for people to just leave their waste outside. So you have to find these solutions, and there are plenty of young people who are finding these solutions all over the world. You have to encourage them.”
The award includes a study and care grant for the brothers and a fund of 100,000 euros, half of which goes to their project. The other half is invested by prize organizer KidsRights in other projects to support children’s rights.
KidsRights founder Marc Dullaert urged governments to do more to reduce pollution. “All children have an inherent right to life and to health,” he said. “How are more than 90% of children in the world breathing toxic air?”
Previous winners of the prize include include Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.