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For a few Gurugram residents, Raksha Bandhan morning started with expressing their love and care for the Aravallis. Using leaf vines, women and children tied symbolic Rakhees to the trees taking a sacred oath to protect the forests that are the millennium city’s lifeline for clean air and water security.  “I had only read about the monitor lizard in my science book but saw it for the first time in the Aravalli forest when we came here for the Vrikshabandhan. Along with my brother, I have taken a sacred oath this Rakshabandhan to protect the home of all the reptiles, birds, butterflies and mammals such as leopards, jackals, neelgais, civet cats, porcupines that live here,” said 13 year old Ayana Chaudhary.


This group of 20 citizens also participated in a plantation drive organised by the Gurugram forest department to reclaim encroached Aravalli forest land near Kholi Baba Mandir behind Suncity in Sector 54. “We planted around 40 saplings of native Aravalli trees. It has been a great initiative by the Gurugram forest department to involve the citizens in this native planting exercise,” stated Puja Ahmed, an active member of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group.

“We live in one of the most polluted cities in the world. It feels good to have contributed to increasing the native green cover of our city as part of this drive today. Planting native species of the right ecology is critical in these water stressed times as it helps in saving water and creating biodiversity rich habitats,” said Aditya Mukarji (@AdityaMukarji), a young 16 year old who is networking with young people across different cities to plant native flora.

Haryana has the lowest forest cover in India, just 3.62%. The national average is 21%. Scientists have established a clear link between deforestation and increase in virus outbreaks. “The biggest learning from COVID for the Haryana government and forest department should be to increase our abysmal forest cover. As citizens, we look forward to more such drives of native Aravalli plantation organised by the forest department and the administration,” said Megha Consul, a doctor and Aravalli forest friend.

Aravallis occupy only 2% of the land area in Haryana functioning as the green lungs, shield against desertification and water recharge zone for Gurugram and the entire National Capital Region. Life of millions of people living in the NCR cities is at stake. The Aravallis need to be preserved as a wildlife habitat and ecological marvel for our future generations. 


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