Madhav Datt: On a mission for saving the planet since the age of 8

An eight-year-old started an NGO-like movement for the environment. It may sound like a slice of fiction out of a movie or comic. But it was not a childish play for Madhav Datt. He took it into his heart and gave his best, while his school-mates were busy playing.

Rest is history, one can say. His organisation—Green the Gene—is one of the largest youth-run environmental NGOs in the world. And he is counted as one of the young impactful global leaders working for the environmental change.

No wonder, currently this 23-year-old is in London to attend the One Young World summit in London (from October 22-25), along with big names. The annual One Young World Summit brings together the brightest young talent from every country and sector, working to accelerate social impact.

Delegates from 190+ countries are counselled by influential political, business and humanitarian leaders such as Justin Trudeau, Paul Polman and Meghan Markle, amongst many other global figures to attend the meet, according to the website of the organisers.

Madhav was there last year too and made a mark with his amazing story. That story started in Grade 3. He did not know much about environment as an 8-year-old when his teacher said the water table in Haryana was dropping by two feet per year. But, something stuck him deep in the heart and kept disturbing him. He wanted to do something sincerely, though he did not understand how and what the water table is all about.

He finally convinced a few friends and started an environmental club. They did no great things. But they tried what they can in their way – planted some trees in front of the school and went to nearby stores, urging the shopkeepers to stop the use of plastic. That is the beginning of a long journey that would impact millions of lives over the next 15 years.

“Since then, we have scaled the organization to one of the world’s largest completely youth-run environmental non-profits, with projects in 62 countries. I have mobilized over 7000 people, all under the age of 24, to join me and volunteer to build tangible solutions for communities facing acute climate crises,” he says.

Having completed his graduation from IIT Kharagpur and studied at Harvard, he leads the innvoations for the organisation. It has initiated and led technology and data intensive projects to address very specific yet acute water accessibility problems faced by local communities.

It has developed extremely low cost (< $8 per unit), machine learning driven water filtration units, providing safe water access to over 40,000 people in rural Tanzania. The organisation recycles 3,000,000+ liters of swimming pool water annually in Haryana. They have  planted over 1,500,000 trees in Gambia and 600,000 in India. It developed  compact box-gardening urban farms empowering 1,200+ people to start home based agricultural enterprises (towards food security) in water-scarce urban areas in Uganda.

Madhav’s organisation deployed 45,000 retrofitted stoves in Sierra Leone and India, that cost less than $5 to build, increase energy efficiency and lower harmful emissions.

“As a software engineering intern at Google, I developed machine learning algorithms for Nest thermostat energy demand response programs, to reduce energy used by home heating/cooling systems during peak energy demand times,” he says about himself.

“We pioneer extremely low-cost technology and data driven solutions to help local communities in acute and immediate environmental crises across the world. We envision a world where no human lacks access to safe water, faces food insecurity, or is forced to live in survival mode. We’re completely youth-led,” as per the website of the organisation.


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