ARAVALLI BACHAO GROUP’S WORK IN 2019
HOW WE STARTED?
Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement started with just a few citizens from Gurgaon, Faridabad and Delhi in early February 2019 who went to meet the Haryana Forest Minister and give him a petition asking the government not to amend the Punjab Land Preservation Act which would open 33% of Haryana state’s measly 3.6% forest cover for real estate. The amendment would leave no legal forests in the state of Haryana which has the lowest forest cover in India. As citizens living in one of the most polluted and water stressed regions in India, this was completely unacceptable to us. On 24th February 2019, more than 300 citizens from the National Capital Region descended at Khushboo Chowk flanked by the Aravallis near DLF phase 1 in Gurgaon to hold our first on-ground protest.
Below article in the Quint covers this first protest by the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group.
CITIZENS PETITION THE HARYANA GOVERNMENT NOT TO ACT ON THE PLPA AMENDMENT BILL
The Honourable Supreme Court was aghast at the Punjab Land Preservation Act Amendment Bill passed by the Haryana State Assembly on 27th February 2019 and directed a stay order on its implementation on 1st March 2019.
School students accompanied the adults to go to the Haryana Bhavan in the 1st week of March 2019 to give a petition letter addressed to the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Manohar Lal Khattar to withdraw this regressive amendment bill that aimed to open 74000+ acres of our forests in Haryana i.e 60,000+ acres in the Aravalli hills around Gurgaon, Faridabad & the rest of South Haryana and 10,000+ acres in the Shivalik hills near Chandigarh in North Haryana for real estate development.
AWARENESS EVENTS FOR ARAVALLIS
Below link has a video called ‘Teenage Rebellion to Save Indian Forests’ made by Let Me Breathe in which Students 4 Aravallis team members express their views about the lack of attention being given to saving our forests in the election manifestos of political parties at the time of India’s ongoing Lok Sabha Elections in April-May 2019.
School students associated with the Aravalli Bachao campaign highlighted the need to save the Aravallis in the various climate strikes they participated in throughout 2019.
Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group members spent the rest of 2019 doing many awareness events like forest walks & plogging sessions in the Aravallis to connect more people with the campaign. This video shows students and adults exploring the Aravallis and cleaning up the forest.
Aravalli Bachao Group members also spoke at many air pollution events in different cities of the National Capital Region to make people understand how important Aravallis are for life in North India to sustain.
ARAVALLI BACHAO GROUP’S WORK IN 2020
HIGHLIGHTING ILLEGAL ENCROACHMENTS IN ARAVALLIS
Aravalli Bachao group members along with forest experts and a few media people went into different Aravalli areas in Manger and Faridabad to photograph and film the illegal encroachments on a cold winter morning in early January 2020. Subsequently, the journalists questioned the district administration and highlighted this issue in the press. This is one of the articles covered by the media.
Aravalli Bachao team made this film to show how illegal constructions are eating away the oldest mountain range in India.
SILENT PROTESTS OUTSIDE TOWN HALL IN GURGAON
The year 2020 started with many urban and rural citizens including school and college students from NCR cities forming a human chain outside Town Hall in Civil Lines in Gurgaon holding posters and banners saying ‘Withdraw Punjab Land Preservation Act Amendment Bill 2019’, ‘Aravalli Bachao’ as Mr Manohar Lal Khattar’s (Chief Minister of Haryana) motorcade passed by on way to address his monthly grievance redressal meetings in January and February 2020. This article in the Hindustan Times captures one such protest.
CITIZENS’ SYMBOLIC FUNERAL PROCESSION MARCH
As the one year of the passing of the regressive PLPA Amendment Bill drew near… dressed in white attire, the citizens of Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad took out a symbolic funeral procession walk on 19th January 2020 to highlight the grave danger looming over the Aravalli forests. This protest was held a few days before the Haryana state assembly session. Sounds of “Withdraw PLPA Amendment Bill”, “Aravalli Bachao”, “Remove Illegal Constructions from our Forests” reverberated through the air as around 100 people consisting of school & college students and citizens from different walks of life marched from Sikanderpur metro station to MG road metro station and back in Gurgaon. This video by Pluc TV highlights citizens’ voices.
To show solidarity with the Aravallis, the citizens held hands and took a sacred oath to be the voice of the forests and the birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles & insects that live in the forests. This article in the Times of India gives more details.
SILENT VALENTINE FOR THE ARAVALLIS
In a unique form of protest held on Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2020, college students from Delhi accompanied by a few adults from Gurgaon went to the Haryana Bhawan in New Delhi with a card and petition letter addressed to Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar, the Chief Minister of Haryana. The Valentine’s Day card made out of recycled newspaper in the shape of a green heart with a few leaves and twigs pasted inside to represent the Aravalli forest was given to the officiating Resident Commissioner for the Chief Minister of Haryana by the students. The card said, “Respected Chief Minister, A very Happy Last Green Valentine’s Day! Please don’t destroy our Aravallis. The future of your family as well as ours is in grave danger. We don’t need development at the cost of our trees. Please save our Aravalli forests!”
The petition letter signed by all the students and adults was given at the CM’s desk. This article in the Hindu captures this unique protest by the NCR students.
ARAVALLI CALLING EVENT
To mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of the disastrous Punjab Land Preservation Act Amendment passed by the Haryana government on 27th February 2019, more than 100 citizens from the National Capital Region came together to embrace the last remnants of the Aravallis on 1st March 2020. The event started with citizens forming a human chain on an encroached and flattened land, which used to be part of the Aravalli forest. Holding hands at the periphery of this encroachment, people showed their commitment to not let this encroachment go any further into the forest.
Inspired by Sunderlal Bahuguna and the women of Uttarakhand, people hugged the Aravalli trees re-enacting the famous Chipko Andolan of the 1970s, in a symbolic commitment of their love for the forest. People also recited poetry celebrating the life-giving Aravallis.
Read more in this article by the Hindustan Times.
VRIKSHAROPAN AND NATIVE PLANTING
On Raksha Bandhan day, women and children tied symbolic Rakhees to the trees using leaf veins taking a sacred oath to protect the Aravalli forests. The citizens also participated in a plantation drive organised by the Gurgaon forest department near Kholi Baba Mandir behind Suncity in Sector 54. Around 40 saplings of native Aravalli trees were planted.
STUDENTS PROTEST AT BANDHWARI LANDFILL IN THE ARAVALLIS
As part of the Global Climate Strike on 25 September 2020, a group of young urban and rural students of Gurgaon participated in a protest against the Bandhwari landfill in the Aravallis. Aged from 7 years to 20 years, the youngsters voiced their concerns on ground water pollution being caused by the landfill and how it is threatening the life of wildlife and people living in the vicinity. Below NDTV article highlights this protest by students to protect their green lungs and critical water recharge zone.
NATIONWIDE TWEETSTORMS DONE IN THE YEAR 2020 TO HIGHLIGHT THREATS FACING THE ARAVALLIS
Citizens from India’s National Capital Region and forest, environment and climate action groups across India participated in these tweetstorms to raise demands for saving the Aravallis. Hashtags like #AravalliBachao #SaveOurAravallis #WithdrawPLPAamendment #RemoveBandhwariLandfill #EnforceSWMRules #NoWTEinAravallis were used.
This article in the Hindustan Times covers one such nationwide tweetstorm done for the Aravallis in December 2020.