Islamabad: As many as 20 art teachers from the twin-cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad participated in a live painting competition in the Margalla Hills National Park. The objective of the activity was to capture the beauty and the biological diversity of the mountain environment. The participants had their second and final session of on-the-spot painting on Friday which commenced on Tuesday. The competition was organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) with support of UNDP Pakistan in connection with the 7th Pakistan Mountain Festival. Briefing about the painting competition, Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed said, “The competition was a rare opportunity for the very busy female art teachers who hardly find time to continue exploring their own creative passion. Most of the time, they are teaching and grooming their students and taking care of their families. On-the-spot painting for art teachers was a creative retreat for the continuity of their expression in the projection and mainstreaming of the mountain ecosystems. I believe that art can be used in multiple ways to enhance aesthetics in society leading to the conservation and protection of nature to the cleansing of the social environment.” He said, “Environmentally sensitised teachers especially those teaching art can give a push to the environmental conservation efforts through aesthetically enriched visuals. There is a need to engage and sensitise teachers to their active role in the conservation efforts. A sensitised teacher is more effective than anyone else in the society because of the social status that a teacher enjoys in the society.” Paintings done by the art teachers will be put on display at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on December 11 that is celebrated as International Mountain Day. This year again, UNDP Pakistan is taking lead to celebrate the International Mountain Day with its development partners in Pakistan. Top three winners of the competition will be given prizes and certificates while all participants will receive certificates. The winners will be especially invited to the main event on International Mountain Day so that they are able to grab the essence of the mountain conservation. Riffat Ara Baig, coordinator of the competition said, “It was quite unusual for the art teachers to take part in the competition when they organise such events for their students. Competing to explore and be recognised for their creativity as experienced teachers and practicing artists, the response has been very exciting and encouraging. The enthusiasm of the art teachers showed their passion to be competitive even in this phase of life.” Ms. Baig said that several art teachers have asked to expand the scope of the initiative to make it a permanent programme to be able to develop and groom a devoted group of art-activists to engage youth and their families in awareness raising. This way, outreach can also be established in the communication of climate change and other relevant subjects. Beenish Ali, one of the participants said, “I would like to say thanks for organizing and arranging such a competition to appreciate nature, and especially in this time and age when life is going on so speedily that we don’t have time to stand and stare and appreciate the beauty of nature, it has been a wonderful platform for the nature lovers. Nature can have a profound effect on our senses; the gateways from the outer world to the inner were really enjoyable. Everything was positive and well organized, and the feedback on what was happening the entire way was an awesome experience.” Published in Daily Times, December 5th 2017.