Kehkashan Basu Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Barely a month after arriving back from the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil to represent the youth of the UAE and the region, 12-year-old Kehkashan Basu is back to ‘work’ in Dubai.

This young environmentalist is devoting her summer to pass on the lessons she learned from the thee-day conference attended by world leaders and youth in June.

While critics have described the conference as an “epic failure” in that it resulted in just a“document brimming with good intentions but low on concrete plans,” Basu thought otherwise.

“The Rio+20 conference was not totally a failure, although the youth were not happy with the text,” Basu told Gulf News, adding with much optimism: “Prior to this conference, oceans, mountains and small islands were not considered important, but now, they are considered the main focus points for achieving sustainable development.”

Basu, who was recognised as the youngest international delegate in the summit, said the problem boiled down to one thing — too much talking.

“The main problem is that most people only talk, not do any work. So, fieldwork is something that has to be done to achieve sustainable development. It could have been made better if the government officials had really worked hard with the text and inserted the opinions of the youth about the future they want,” she said.


And Basu, to practice what she preaches, herself did some fieldwork while in Rio. She visited the city’s slums known locally as Favelas and reputed for being a crime haven.

“They are strictly out of bounds for tourists and even local people are careful before entering them. However, sustainable development cannot be achieved without integration of all sections of civil society,” Basu said, adding that the residents of Favela were warm and receptive to their ideas contrary to what they had expected.

During her short stint in Rio, Basu wrote an essay that was one of the four global winners of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification on June 17. Bringing these lessons closer to home, Basu said there’s much to be done in the UAE in terms of desertification.

“The main problem in the UAE is land degradation. So, planting more trees is a must. We should not allow even one more acre in the UAE to be claimed by the desert,” Basu said.

Basu said her generation is not asking too much when it comes to the future they want. But to achieve it is going to be hard work, which needs to start now.

“As Mark Twain said, “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing, it was here first.” So, don’t wait for an Earth Day or a World Environment Day to do your bit for the environment. The battle for conservation cannot be won by one soldier, you need an army,” Basu said.

“The Future We Want is a sustainable one, which is green and bountiful, without poverty, terrorism, pollution, global warming and all the problems we are facing now. We do not want our children to grow up with gas masks. In order to do that, we must act now, otherwise, our future generations will never forgive us.”