Just opposite my housing sector is a huge slum cluster, the JJ Bandhu Camp, which has expanded with each passing year. About two years ago the area at the backyard of this slum caught my friend Anu Mehrotra ‘s eye. Amongst huge muck and filth, right from cow dung to human excreta, she saw in it, a biodiverse land. Amongst the huge pile of garbage, her eyes caught rare plant varieties like heens, jungli karonda, peelu and many such gems of the Aravalli, surviving despite the neglect. Thus started her mission impossible to restore this biodiversity park. Facing great resistance from the residents of the slum, she still persisted, restoring part of this land and planting more native trees. She spent from her own pocket and kept nurturing this small patch of land and brought it to a level that anyone would be very proud of. Every week, she would plead with the local MLA to help water the plants but to no avail.
Destiny connected us, and I started helping her in my own small way. Today she and I did a tree plantation drive in our small biodiversity park. We planted around 20 tree saplings covering the boundary wall of the slum’s backyard. In an hour into our work, we were joined by young residents of the slum to help us clean up. It was heartening to see kids as young as 5 years of age help us in cleaning a part of the filth. We concluded our day with a promise from the young ones that we’ll do a clean-up drive soon and help their surroundings get better.
Another reason why we are so driven to protect and nurture this park of ours is that there are many sparrows residing in the bougainvillaea shrub. With their population on the decline, we want to protect their habitat and help them grow in numbers.
A bit of information about this land. The area in the heart of Vasant Kunj belongs to Municipal Corporation of Delhi and is demarcated as a green area. The local MLA has ensured 24 hour supply to the slum residents but refused to help provide water to the park. And every month, the slum has only expanded into the green area and at night, it serves as a refuge to anti-social elements. It has also become a dumping ground for construction waste. So far Anu Ji has been funding it on her own. And just now a few of us pitched in. But unless there is help extended from the civic authorities and the government we have no clue how long we can carry on.
This is about what we pass on to our children. And whatever the hindrances, we shall persist.
Just opposite my housing sector is a huge slum cluster, the JJ Bandhu Camp, which has expanded with each passing year….
Author: Rama Lakshmi Dhavala
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