For Ridhima Pandey, environmentalism runs in the family. Her father, Dinesh Pandey, is an activist and victim of the 2013 Uttarakhand floods in India, one of the country’s worst natural disasters. Ridhima is a Haridwar native, raised in the ancient and historically significant Hindu city that rests on the Ganges River, on the banks of which she has often found statues, clothes and plastic: “We say the Ganga is mata (mother), that Ganga is a goddess for us, and we just pollute it.” This sparked her anger and her interest, and she began asking her father question after question about the environment.
In 2017, when Ridhima was only nine years old, she filed a complaint against the Indian Government through her father, requesting establishment of environmental laws, an assessment of industrial projects, and the creation of a climate recovery plan. She argued that India is “one of the most vulnerable countries to be affected by climate change.” Because of her efforts, some of the children at school mocked her, but soon realised the importance of the issue and started to help in their own ways. Ridhima strongly believes that “making people aware is a key step we need to take.”
This year, she was one of 16 children from across the world, including Greta Thunberg, to petition the United Nations to hold Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey accountable for their contributions to the climate crisis – namely, their excessively high levels of pollution emissions. Her father, who accompanied her to New York, was proud to support her, saying, “To see children from all over the world coming together for such an important issue is really heartening.” Her mother, Vinita, also commented that she is amazed at how much her daughter has taught her.
Ridhima is determined to make a change, not only for herself and her country, but for everyone in the world. At the UN, she said, “I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future. I want to save the future of all the children and all people of future generations.”