Surgeon in COP bid to save the planet

A consultant general surgeon at the Borders General Hospital found himself at the forefront of the recent COP-26 summit in Glasgow.

BGH surgeon Srihari Vallabhajosula, right, meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP-26.
BGH surgeon Srihari Vallabhajosula, right, meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP-26.

Srihari Vallabhajosula, who is also a volunteer priest at the Hindu Temple of Scotland in Rutherglen, Glasgow and a trustee on the board of Interfaith Scotland, had been discussing with the board how the faith communities could get involved in the summit.

However, on the run-up to the event, he was persuaded to be lead delegate, which brought extra duties and unforgettable moments.

He said: “What will stay with me forever is the COP-26 vigil in Glasgow, on October 31.

"The most unforgettable part of that was all eight communities coming together and agreeing that this is an important issue and we need to negotiate to come up with a solution, to have something in place for climate justice and social justice.

"The best thing was each faith community saying with one voice, standing on the same stage, and being broadcasted across the world.

"That became a personal moment for me, saying the Hindu prayer across the world.”

Srihari is also a signatory to the historic Glasgow Multi Faith Declaration, where all the faith communities agreed to a standpoint about the climate.

He also took part in the climate justice march across Glasgow.

He said: “I thought it was morally right for me to go and participate.

“It was a great day for the march, with gusty winds and rain, and a rainbow appeared as well.

"I feel absolutely glad that I did it, because there was nearly 100,000 people saying exactly the same thing, and I have never done anything like that before in my life, marching alongside everyone in good spirits, trying to raise awareness.

"For most of the march, from Kelvingrove to Glasgow Green, I had to be a banner holder, right at the pointy end of the march. That was a very nice moment, even though it was the longest three-and-a-half mile walk I’ve ever done, the energy going up as we were reaching the end was amazing.”

Srihari added: "I was also asked to give a reflection across BBC channels on Diwali and COP-26, and what really chuffed me was that lots of parents I did not know sent me messages saying how well it was received by the children, as it led them to conversing about the issues at their own schools.”

But the whole experience has made him think about what he can do at the temple to reduce waste.

He said: “I have piloted a programme where we are trying to be more environmentally friendly, eliminate plastic usage and reduce wastage, and the temple community is being very supportive about it, and they are now looking at ways of doing the same at home.”

As part of COP-26, Srihari was also introduced to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Srihari said: “I had the honour to be a part of a small group introduced to him, and it was one of the highlights of my life.”

Srihari, who enjoys playing badminton and can be seen pedalling the country roads of the Borders when not on duty, said that had to be put on hold for a while given his many duties for COP.

He said: “Unfortunately, I have not been on my bike for eight weeks, almost every single evening was spent planning on Zoom, but it was an excellent experience.”