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The Need of the Hour: Delhi Greens

By Meghana Injeti

Earth Day, an annually dedicated day on 22nd April. The theme for Earth Day 2020 was climate action,

It rings so many alarm bells by now that we certainly shouldn’t take Earth Day and the Earth for granted anymore.

The People Place Project spoke to Delhi Greens, an agency in the pro-environment sphere working on issues such as air pollution, water security, waste management, biodiversity, climate change, environmental education and a lot more, and here is their story.

Delhi Greens is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation working since 2007 focusing their resources on achieving environmental harmony and sustainable development. They use various strategies such as carrying out campaigns, conducting projects, research, social media awareness, advocacy and providing consultancy to support their environmental conservation awareness efforts. For every environmental project they encounter, they deploy a strategy known as ROAR (Research, Outreach, Advocacy and Resolution). They make sure their stand on an issue is well-researched, solution-focused, on the same page as the major stakeholders in the matter and is well received by the masses.

Rural Immersion Expedition © Delhi Greens

The NGO was founded as a knee-jerk reaction to two separate yet related incidents, along with the love and passion for Delhi and trees, which led a young ecologist pursuing his master’s in Environmental Studies to launch an online ‘green outreach platform’ for the city.

These two incidents raised two different emotions; one was pride, which one of the founders Dr Govind Singh felt after hearing the highly acclaimed Professor Wangari Muta Maathai.Professor Mathai was a Nobel Peace Prize Winner (2004), an environmental activist, a key Kenyan politician and the founder of the Green Belt Movement who was invited to Delhi as the key speaker for the Eighth Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Meet where she proclaimed Delhi to be the greenest capital she had so far been to.

The other vastly different emotion felt was the sense of urgency and anguish. Only a few days after the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Meet, Dr Govind saw over 1,000 trees marked for brutal felling in Delhi University campus for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. These markings were unplanned, nonscientific and careless about the damage it was causing to the ecosystem. Some of the trees were decades old, the whole idea of felling such a large number of ‘heritage trees’ for a ‘Rugby Stadium’ was extremely irrational. These large numbers of trees adjacent to the university are part of the green belt known as the Northern (Kamala Nehru) Ridge that supports rich biodiversity.

It was the now or never situation that led to the beginning of the Delhi Greens Blog in 2007-08 as an urban ecology project, “Which took shape and was first launched as a student protest movement against the felling of a large number of trees, against unplanned and non-inclusive ‘developmental’ activities. The Blog became a tool for calling for adequate planning and foresight in decision making so as to ensure sustainable urban development”, says Dr Govind. The social media portal was used to spread awareness about the merciless issue of tree felling to the masses and the national mainstream media.

The Blog aims to reach out to citizens of Delhi NCR highlighting the urgency to protect its trees and environs. The platform offers citizens of Delhi, the capacity to reach and share their knowledge and concerns. Creating awareness and asking the stakeholders to be part of the decision-making processes on issues that impact them, their spaces, and their environment directly in the short and long term.

“In July 2008, as the citizen’s movement got stronger, the Delhi Greens Blog transformed into the Delhi Greens organization, now a registered Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) with some of the people associated with the initial movement against tree felling as its Founding Members. The Delhi Greens Blog has since been the flagship project of the Delhi Greens organization and a pioneering initiative that formed the basis for the nationwide ‘Green Media Network’ programme of Delhi Greens. The Delhi Greens Projects has won considerable Awards and was also recently featured as a Momentum for Change, Lighthouse Activity by the United Nations”, mentioned the agency’s team.

World Environment Day 2019 © Delhi Greens

Delhi Greens works towards reviving a sense of spiritual ecology for generating environmental awareness masses, especially during these intense times. They believe it’s important to empower, trust, educate and encourage the youth to be torchbearers of the pro-environment and sustainable development movements. It lies within us as humans to protect the resources we were just given to borrow and save them for the future generations as well; it’s our responsibility to be a watchdog for our forests, for our flora and fauna, our ecosystems. There is more reason now than ever to co-exist, using the precept of sustainability in the current rural and urban development projects.

Those who are aware and want to learn about what they can do for the environment, and iii. Who already know what they can do for the environment (e.g. environmental professionals, students who are finishing their Master’s etc. in Environmental Studies) and need a channel, access to resources or networking”.

Currently, the agency is engaged in the transformation of one of their flagship projects, Delhi Green Blogs into Delhi Greens Blog Magazine, which is also endorsed by the United Nations via their climate change convention called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Delhi Greens Blog Magazine is a project working to highlight all aspects of Delhi’s urban ecology, providing information and other tools to citizens whom they can use to save the trees and environment around them, and can further support local agencies and actions working towards environmental protection.

The current pandemic has disturbed the agency’s tree-planting campaigns and projects and has also affected their ecotourism initiatives. They are learning to work around the situation, setting up a virtual workspace which aids in agency’s continual functioning on focused initiatives and community help food donations projects currently.

The team at Delhi Greens believes, “The world is currently realising the sense of lost linkages between humans and the environment”.

We can’t have development without considering and including the environment. There has been a recent awakening where actions of the government agencies, companies and individuals, are concerned.

Urban Ecotourism in Guwahati city and Nature Ecotourism in Imphal Valley. © Delhi Greens

Dr Govind reminisces about one such transformation story of an elderly man, “It goes back to one of our first Delhi Youth Summits on Climate Change which was held in 2008 at Teen Murti Bhawan. It was meant for the youth…but an elderly man came to attend and sat throughout the summit for two whole days. Out of respect, we didn’t ask him anything. Towards the end, we were asking people for their feedback about the summit, and interestingly the elderly man raised his hand. He slowly came to the stage to share what motivated him to be there. He mentioned how a year ago, he bought firecrackers for this grandchild with great excitement but he was shocked when his grandchild refused to accept them… and it led to the point where the elderly man slapped him and made him cry. Amidst the crying, he heard the grandchild say how the bursting of firecrackers will actually harm the environment and his grandfather the most and he would never do that. So post that the elderly man had heard about our environmental event and had come to learn what was happening to the environment. He mentioned how he now understood how right his grandson was!”

He further adds that “With regards to a comparative world scenario, looking at what we have done to the climate system, and given that science now is absolutely clear, we should have long stopped taking out and burning ‘fossil fuels’. But the fact that we continue to do, shows how far away from reality and acceptance we still are”. The agency points out that the year 2020, in the last few months has been the best for the environment since the advent of the industrial revolution, though it hasn’t really been favourable to humans. We could speculate that the pandemic could be a warning sign by Mother Nature. Our lesson is to create a harmonious ecosystem for present generations, future generations and Mother Nature.

Pledge against the use of Single-use Plastic at Dilli Haat, INA .© Delhi Greens

Delhi Greens believed that a pro-environmental action starts from an individual-grassroots level, which can be easily implemented in our daily life. One can hone these green tips and lifestyle changes from their blog article titled 30 Green Tips on World Environment Day. Though the agency started off from Delhi they aren’t only sticking to it, they want to help protect India and help it transform into a sustainability leader.

An ideal world for Delhi Greens and for all would be “one where all citizens and decision-makers work in harmony with nature and the word sustainable development is not just a catchphrase but is actually achieved in letter and spirit”.

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