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Power Green grooms young minds

Programme consistently produces dedicated environmentalists

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At the Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies (Fers), Mahidol University (MU), a group of Mathayom 5 (Grade 11) students examined soil samples collected from various sources and used science kits to determine the trace amounts of ammonia, nitrate and phosphorus in the soil. 

Students determine oxygen levels in various sources of water at the Power Green Camp. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN

Another group of students used a pH (potential of hydrogen ion) meter to test the acidity and basicity of the same soil samples. Students then recorded their findings, which included the benefits, drawbacks and characteristics of the various soil samples.

Green camp

The soil examination exercise was one of the many activities featured at the latest "Power Green Camp", a collaborative project between Banpu Plc and Fers.

Last month, the camp was held for the fifth time at MU's Salaya campus. Each year, the camp is held under a different environmental theme. This year's concept was "Biodiversity Creating the Liveable World", a theme aligned to the United Nations' 2010 International Year of Biodiversity campaign.

The seven-day camp saw the participation of 60 Mathayom 5 (Grade 11) students, who were selected from around 900 applicants throughout the country of Thailand.

Udomlux Olarn, senior vice-president, corporate communications at Banpu Plc, and Narin Boontanon, PhD, the camp leader and a lecturer at Fers, explained that one of the aims of the camp was to enable the students to gain relevant knowledge and skills so that they could lead their schools and communities in efforts to raise awareness of the importance of taking good care of the environment.

University laboratory

The activities held at the university provided the campers with fundamental knowledge of biodiversity and allowed them to carry out scientific experiments and exploratory work that would enable them to work proficiently in environmental science.

The programme also included lectures on the basic structures of the different kinds of ecosystems, such as, mangrove, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, with emphasis on the biodiversity that is found in each of these ecological units.

After the lectures, the campers were encouraged to apply their classroom knowledge in the field.

For example, one group explored the diversity of the birds in Fers' compound, where students spotted over 10 species out of the nearly 100 species of bird found on the MU campus.

Another group collected animal and plant planktons from water sources near the faculty and studied them in a laboratory. Yet another group tested water and soil samples and collected plant specimens that were collected from a mangrove forests.

Later on, all the campers went on a day trip to explore the biodiversity found in Khao Yai National Park.

A public audience viewed the exhibition and listened to the three groups of campers give individual presentations on what they had gained from their experiences at the the camp.

Power Green's outreach

Many of the participants in the Power Green Camps held over the past several years returned to their communities inspired to enthusiastically engage in movements that are involved in the protection of the environment.

Yusra Tayongpakor said that as a young girl, she dropped many plastic bags on her family's paddy field. After attending the camp in 2008, when she was still a student at Thamvitya Mulniti School in Yala province, she went back to that paddy field and picked up all those bags that were still there 10 years later.

After the camp, Yusra went on to initiate a "garbage bank" at her school. Last year, the girl's trash management project won a complimentary prize at a national garbage bank contest organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Another former camper, Suriyaphon Saensuriwong, a student at Debsirin Nonthaburi School who took part in last year's camp, is the leader of the "Kor Kuat Tao Kap Kor Kuen" ("Bottles Build Dams") group.

Members of her project group seek donations in the forms of money and used bottles. The bottles are sold, and all the proceeds, as well as the financial donations, are used to help in setting up shock-absorbent triangular poles, invented by Asst Prof Thanawat Jarupong-sakul, PhD, of Chulalongkorn University, along the shoreline of the Khun Samut Jin community in Samut Prakan province.

These poles are intended to prevent a coastal soil erosion crisis as well as to accumulate earth for fortification of the coastline.

Besides this project, Suriyaphon has also arranged camps for young people, as well as initiated campaigns to disseminate information on the plight of the Ban Khun Samut Jin villagers.

"At least 80 million baht is needed just for setting up sufficient poles along the shoreline of Samut Prakan province. I would like to see social-contribution parties helping to solve this problem and trying to ease the hardships of the people there," she said.

Budding activists

Patcharee Sinngam, a student from 60 Pansa Wittayakom School in Ubon Ratchathani province who attended the camp this year, intends to apply the knowledge and skills she has acquired from the camp for the benefit of her community in the future.

She plans to study environmental science at tertiary level after completing high school so that she will be able to return to her hometown armed with the knowledge that can assist in its development in an environmentally sustainable manner.

"I would like to find more friends who want to protect the environment like I do and exchange ideas with them," she said. "I already have a lot of similarly-minded friends now."

At present, Patcharee is already an active young environmental savior. She engages in activities like garbage bank management and leading local environmental camps for students.

Another recent camper, Wiboon Wiriyarattananon, a student from Taweetha-pisek School in Bangkok, said that he attended the camp as he wanted to find out for himself whether or not he had a sufficiently strong interest in environmental studies to make a career out of it.

Right now, he has a great concern for his school's environment and is keen on doing something so that he can improve it.

"I would like to set up at my school a club that deals with garbage management and energy savings for the school's benefit," Wiboon said.

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