A peep into Science Express

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A few days back, ‘Science Express’ train embarked on its seven-month journey of over 19,000 km covering 68 locations in India to create awareness about climate change. This has been a yearly ritual from the past nine years.  Such is its popularity that the government wants to start four more trains in future.

Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS) 

Science Express, redesigned as SECAS, is an innovative mobile science exhibition mounted on a 16-coach AC train which has been custom-built for Department of Science & Technology (DST) by Indian Railways. It is a unique collaborative initiative of DST, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Railways and Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC). Of the 16 coaches, exhibitions in 8 coaches are developed by MoEFCC. These exhibitions have been exclusively devoted to information, case studies and material related to various aspects of climate change, the underlying science, impacts, adaptation activities, mitigation solutions and policy approaches in a manner that is not only easy to understand but also interesting for school students as well as masses. Exhibits and activities have been put up by DST and DBT in other coaches.

The broad themes covered in each exhibition of the coaches are:

  • Coach 1: Understanding Climate Change – Insights in the climate as a system, the greenhouse gas effect and the underlying reasons for climate change with key message that the current change in the climate is due to human activities.
  • Coach 2: Impact of Climate Change – How temperature rises, monsoon variations, sea level rise are predicted to affect vital sectors like water, agriculture, forests and biodiversity and human health; and what are ways to reduce their effect?
  • Coach 3 & 4: Adaptation – Concepts of adaptation and examples from day-to-day life, adaptation strategies and stories from field. Adaptation options in urban and rural contexts and the adaptation actions India is taking.
  • Coach 5 & 6: Mitigation – Concept and definition with examples, emphasis on restoring balance, enhancing sinks and reducing emission through Renewable Energy (RE) technologies. Various programmes implemented by India; low carbon strategies; and ambitious goal to increase RE footprint.
  • Coach 7: International Negotiations for Climate Change – Introduction to UNFCCC, IPCC and internationally agreed action and targets. Explaining concept of equity and common but differential responsibility, Kyoto protocol and other key outcomes of major COP, Paris Agreement, etc.
  • Coach 8: Positive Actions – What can one do at school, on roads, at home and in offices; and focus on concept of lifestyle choices with the key message ‘Increase your Handprint. Decrease your Footprint’.
  • Coach 9 & 10: Biotechnology – Exhibition put up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India, covering themes like biotechnology for bio-resources and nature conservation with emphasis on tiger conservation and chemical ecology and India’s research and development initiatives in the field of biotechnology.
  • Coach 11: Innovation – Exhibition put up by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) showcasing select innovations, demonstrating the ingenuity of common people and an innovative project which uses augmented reality techniques. Exhibition on themes like innovations in S&T, science education, DST scholarships and schemes, technologies for rural development, etc.
  • Coach 12: Kids Zone – A kids zone has been set up for children from class 4 and below to participate in fun-filled activities, games and puzzles in science, mathematics and environment.
  • Coach 13: Lab – The Joy of Science (JOS) Hands-on Lab in this coach is a space where students from class 5-10 can perform experiments and participate in activities to understand concepts in environment, science and mathematics in an interesting manner. A training facility is also set up for orientation of teachers here.

Solar panels have been installed on the rooftop of Science Express coaches 11-13, as a collaborative effort of DST and CEL, for harnessing solar energy.

SECAS will stop at 68 stations in the country and at each halt, activities have been planned for visitors of different age groups to reinforce the message about climate change. Also, in order to create excitement among students, an outreach programme is being conducted in local schools/institutions, along with activities on the railway platforms.

Background

This unique mobile exhibition was first launched in October 2007 by DST. Since then, Science Express has travelled about 1,42,000 km, exhibited at 455 locations in the country, and received 1.56 crore visitors. SECAS has become the largest, the longest running and the most visited mobile science exhibition, as per the organisers.

SECAS will stop at 68 stations in the country and at each halt, activities have been planned for visitors of different age groups to reinforce the message about climate change

While Science Express Phase I to IV showcased cutting-edge research in Science and Technology from all over the world, Phase V to VII was based on the theme of biodiversity and showcased the rich biodiversity of India along with the conservation measures. Phase VIII as ‘Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS)’ highlighted the global challenge of climate change.

Why climate change is the focus this year as well?

Climate Change is an important environmental issue, with many short-term and long term impacts. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impact of climate change is enormous and unprecedented and can severely affect the poor and marginalised people. There is, however, very little understanding about climate change and its impact. The state-of-the-art exhibition on board the SECAS aims to address this issue.

Future

Encouraged by the success, government hopes to start four more trains in the coming years. It aims to reach out to 6.5 lakh villages of the country in future, so as to transform the project into a peoples’ movement.

Science Express will continue its journey till September 8, 2017 and is expected to attract 30 lakh visitors. There is no entry fee for visiting the exhibition which is open to all (from 10 am to 5 pm), but primarily targeted at students and teachers. During its run across the country, the railway station of the respective city will be the venue for visiting the train.

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