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Urban poor reclaim public spaces to plant trees

Apr 28, 2009

Residents of Madanpur Khadar, a resettlement colony in south Delhi, came together last week to plant trees on the occasion of Earth Day. Guided by officials from the horticulture department and civil society representatives, the youth learnt to plant saplings and protect the environment.

New Delhi: Nearly a third of Delhi’s 14 million citizens live in slums that are devoid of the most basic amenities. Involved as they are with basic survival issues, and given the impermanence of their residence in any one location, it is no wonder that they have little time to look around at the absence of green trees around their tiny homes.

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Yet trees are important for people’s well-being and health. They provide oxygen so essential for human survival. Trees help cool the Earth by shading and through water evaporation.

So when the youth in Madanpur Khadar, a resettlement colony in south Delhi, with the help of NGO Jagori, embarked on a project to reclaim public spaces and plant hope for a better life, they chose to begin by planting trees in the open areas.

Planting hope

Thus the local people came together on April 22 to celebrate World Earth Day in Madanpur Khadar. Joining them in this endeavour were officials from various government departments and activists from non-government organisations.

Present on the occasion were Commander Puri, Director or Organfos, S S Khandpal, Director of the Horticulture department of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, S.D. Singh, CEO of the Delhi Parks and Gardens Society, local representatives of DDA, and also representatives of NGOs Green Force and OneWorld South Asia.

The initiative was supported by the UN-HABITAT on safety issues concerning people residing in informal settlements.

Addressing the gathering, Puri focused on the history of World Earth Day and the benefits of growing trees. Khandpal and Singh joined the youth, showing them the right technique of planting the new saplings. Ankur of Green Force urged the youngsters of the locality to ensure security and care of the saplings.


Speaking on the occasion, Madhu of Jagori encouraged the local people to join the campaign in larger numbers. She linked the growth of the trees with the development of the area. Salim, the local RWA member thanked Jagori, Green Force, and the government officials who had responded to the initiative in such a positive manner. He too invited all the local residents to join the initiative in a big way.

The children and women along with officers planted about 65 trees that evening. There was great enthusiasm among the participants. They committed themselves to taking care of the plants.

Increasingly, localities in Delhi are taking the initiative for planting trees and gardens, making the city more pleasant to live in. However, for slum areas like Madanpur Khadar, it is not easy to think of such initiatives.

The inhabitants are poor and have no resources to contribute. But with knowledge and resource support of organisations like Jagori, Green Force, the MCD, and other local bodies, they have managed to move forward.

Speaking out

The loudspeakers on the occasion also highlighted the voice of Asha, a young resident, as she anchored a radio broadcast on the theme of World Earth Day on AIR Rainbow FM. This was the 189th episode of a programme called Ek Duniya Ek Awaaz, produced by OneWorld South Asia to highlight common people’s voices for development.

The youngsters are being trained to speak out their mind on various socially relevant issues and to raise awareness, through a collaborative effort of Jagori and OneWorld South Asia. The idea is to enhance communication skills and leadership qualities of the youth, enabling the next generation to be the agents of change in their own lives.

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