Punaha Aranya: A project on afforestation in and around the city of Dehradun

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We, a group of like-minded citizens of Dehradun, in partnership with the alumni of Mother’s International School, New Delhi and Purkal Youth Development Society (PYDS), Dehradun are trying to do their bit to combat the degradation of our environment by ensuring that the green cover in and around the city is rejuvenated.

Under our project ‘Punaha Aranya’ meaning ‘Forests Again’, we have planted about 200 indigenous and flowering trees on the airport road that runs through the Thano Range (on 28 July, 2022) and around Nanaksar Pondha in the Jhajhra Range (on 31 July, 2022).

The plantation was done by the students of classes 7, 8 and 9 of Learning Academy, PYDS, their mentors and teachers and citizens of Dehradun with active support from the Forest Department. We have also tried to ensure the survival of the trees by providing many young trees with tree guards so that they are not trampled upon or eaten away by the cattle and forest herbivores.

We do not want the plantation to remain merely an annual ritual but wish the young to realise how vital trees are to our planet and those that inhabit it. This is going to be an educational experience for all: something that continue and stay with the young generation.

Hence in order to develop a sensitivity towards nature, each plantation was preceded by a short programme focussing on the indispensability of trees. On the 28th of July, during the first phase, a poem in English, titled ‘The Heart of the Tree’ by Century was read aloud to the students. There was a Word Web activity related to trees and prizes were given away for the same.

The second phase on the 31st of July was an inclusive programme, the guest of honour being Mr Kamalbir Singh, (Retd.) Incharge Deputy Director of the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disability. Being visually challenged himself, he described to the students how he perceives trees and nature. He also told them about the tactile methods and aids used to teach the visually challenged about nature. A quiz on nature was organized after the plantation and prizes were given away for the same.

Amongst the guests of honour who inspired and encouraged the students and other participants were Mr Jai Raj, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force (Retd.) Uttarakhand, Mrs Chinni Swamy, Patron of PYDS, Mr Kamalbir Singh Incharge Deputy Director (Retd.), NIEPVD.

Mr. Nitish Mani Tripathi, District Forest Officer, Dehradun, was unable to attend the programme on the 31st, being indisposed that day but he sent his blessings for a successful plantation. Similarly, Mr. Kapil Lall, the serving Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Uttarakhand too sent his good wishes and blessings for a successful planation.

Amongst the other participants present on site were teachers, doctors, school principals both serving and retired, retired bank officers, doctors, dental surgeons, entrepreneurs, tax consultants, IT experts, teachers and students of schools other than PYDS.

We are grateful to the Forest Department, Uttarakhand for their active support and for being present on site providing practical knowledge and adding glamour to the plantation activity, having turned out in their official regalia.

We are grateful to Mr Gurmeet Singh of Nanaksar, Pondha for allowing us space within the gurudwara to conduct our programme and for helping us organise the langar we planned for the students and guests that day.

We are also grateful to our donor friends, both in India and abroad for supporting us financially to see the project through.

In conclusion, we wish to say that this is not a one-time affair. We hope to return year after year with growing strength to repair and restore the natural resources that are getting eroded due to modernization and a spurt in population growth in Dehradun.

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