Meet the unsung heroes at the frontline of environmental protection

These innovators are armed with empowering ideas, strategies and perspectives for economic development and environmental protection.

Roshni Nadar Malhotra

For most philanthropists, the seeds of charity are sown early in life. For Roshni Nadar Malhotra too, it started with her parents, Kiran and Shiv Nadar. “My parents started their journey in 1994 with the creation of SSN College of Engineering in Tamil Nadu. It was both an entrepreneurial venture as well as an opportunity for social giving,” says Nadar Malhotra.

Her philanthropic journey began in 2008 after she finished MBA at the Kellogg School of Management in Illinois and returned to India. She came across the prospect of opening a residential school for underprivileged and highly meritorious children from rural Uttar Pradesh. Today the students at VidyaGyan are studying at top institutions across the world like Babson College, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr and Cornell.


In 2018, Nadar Malhotra started The Habitats Trust—an organisation that supports the preservation and conservation of India’s natural habitats and their indigenous species. “I am passionate about wildlife and most of my memorable experiences have always been with my family in nature. There’s no debate that natural habitats and biodiversity across the globe have severely deteriorated. In India, the severity is even more,” she says. With The Habitats Trust, she hopes to create a on-ground impact. “Original content like our TV series, On The Brink, which was featured on Discovery and Animal Planet last year is critical to building awareness about our rich natural heritage and biodiversity,” she says.

Akshat Gupta and Keith Mascarenhas

For childhood friends Akshat Gupta and Keith Mascarenhas, it took a run along Marine Drive in 2015, to come face to face with the real horrors of India’s sanitation issues. They were alarmed to observe that portable toilets at the Girgaon Chowpatty beach were dumping the sewage of 2 million people straight into open pits in the beach and contaminating it with coliform (bacteria present in human waste). So they decided to come up with an alternative sanitation system that is also sustainable from a socio-economic and environmental perspective. This led to the inception of Samatech Foundation, a social enterprise that has now worked on numerous smart sanitation projects.

The Marine Drive Public Toilet Project was the first of its kind. “By using vacuum technology, we use the difference in air pressure to transport the waste, reducing the water consumption per flush by 90 per cent, which also reduces the sewage waste by 90 per cent,” reveals Gupta.

(L-R) Akshat Gupta, Keith Mascarenhas

For their upcoming project, the Versova Public Beach Toilet, Gupta and Mascarenhas will collaborate with Afroz Shah Foundation and the municipal corporation to install a 28-seater public toilet on the beach and then double it in the adjoining slum in the second phase. Even as the current pandemic has put a stop on many of Samatech’s projects, it is working tirelessly towards the welfare of daily wage and migrant workers through a platform called FromU2them. Mascarenhas discloses, “We bring food out to thousands of daily wage workers. We have raised INR 1.3 crores in 8 days and served over 10,000 meal kits to 40,000 people in Mumbai.”

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