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Let us lend our support to Sukanya, an Indian national from Galway, to take part in Antarctic expedition

GALWAY: Sukanya Saikia, a student at the National University of Ireland Galway, is a source of pride for both Ireland and India.

Assam’s own environmental activist, who is also a research student, has been selected as a member of the Antarctic Exploration Team.

Sukanya will be accompanied by 80 climate fighters and environmentalists. They will begin their journey in November as Climate Force Ambassadors for an International Antarctic Expedition.

Organized by the 2041 Foundation, the expedition aims to train and motivate young leaders on current climate change, sustainability and clean energy skills. The journey will also provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss with world climate and sustainability leaders.

Sukanya is a PhD student in Civil Engineering. Her research focuses on the climate change and urbanization impact on wastewater management systems. Sukanya is excited to have accepted the application to join the expedition.

The 2041 Foundation was founded by explorer Robert Swan to engage and inspire youth to preserve Antarctica. Robert Swan has dedicated his life to the protection of Antarctica through recycling, renewable energy, and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change. The mission of his foundation is to engage businesses and communities in climate science, personal leadership, and the promotion of sustainable practices.

Sukanya at the peak of excitement

“I was jumping so much, and my housemates were very confused! I didn’t tell anybody beforehand because I thought it was a far-off dream. I might not have been selected so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

“I told my mom and my sister and, without asking me, my mom posted on Facebook about it! She was so happy; I hadn’t told anyone else at that point. The post went viral, in my community back home in India especially, and then the media got involved. It was crazy, I got so much media attention, that has never happened to me in my whole life,” she said.

Sukanya’s passion for climate change dates back to her childhood. “I didn’t know the science behind it before, but I was aware of it. I come from Assam in India, where there are a lot of floods, and every year it gets more intense. I have seen people dying, I have known people who have died. It has had an impact on me, so I was always interested in the environmental side of it.

“In India, we never waste food, we have to respect it. Indian mothers are very strict about that! If we got a plastic bag, we would save it under the mattress. We have always been like that, but with time people have changed, and plastic has become so much more available.

“After studying it, I got to know the scientific side of it, and then I got involved in projects which were climate change related, and obviously I became more and more passionate”.

Sukanya wants to spread the message of climate change not only in academic communities but also to the general public.

“For one of the projects I was involved in with the University of Southampton, I got to interact with tea garden workers. They had a lot of field knowledge after years of work, but they didn’t have that scientific knowledge about climate change. They couldn’t relate to it, they’re not literate people. I got to know how much their lives have been affected by it.

“That’s when I thought I need to do something more active, not just through research, to make people aware, so they can try to do something about it in their own way.

“There’s an attitude that if “you’re studying it, it’s your problem!” so I think that’s the main challenge,” says Sukanya.

Antarctic mission is very expensive

It costs a lot of money to go to Antarctica. Sukanya is raising funds through crowd funding and sponsorship.

“I have been contacting corporates, but I think it’s difficult in Ireland. I’m an international student and I think they prefer Irish students, so they aren’t getting back to me.

“I have to pay in instalments. I paid the first one with my savings, but I don’t know what I’ll do for the next one. I asked for an extension and the organisers were supportive of that, but the pressure is still there. The next instalment is around $5,000.

“Everything included is around $20,000. I’m trying to raise it in smaller funds. I’m a student myself so I know the limit of each person. I want to convince people that it’s not just for an individual, it’s for everyone, it’s beyond you and me,” she said.

Let’s join hands to help her

Sukanya has been granted a rare research opportunity. This will allow her to experience directly the impact of climate change on Antarctica’s fragile habitat. This study is consistent with her PhD research and provides a broader perspective on climate change.

To know more about Sukanya’s journey and to support her, you can visit the GoFundMe page:


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