For the past ten years, 59-year-old Om Prakash Singh has been a regular visitor to the district park in Janakpuri. Post his bypass surgery in the year 2005, he made it a habit to wake up every morning and come here. Sitting with his group of friends, they make the most of the chilly morning with someone breaking into a loud laughter as they all get up to walk slowly each trying to keep pace with the other.
Fondly recalling the time he breathed a much cleaner air, Singh smiles and says: “I came to Delhi from Meerut in search of work. I started my own shop after a lot of struggle. Earlier the air was much cleaner. People used to opt for morning walks as a recreational activity. Now doctors recommend morning walks as a compulsory activity so that we old people get some fresh air. Here they started an initiative to enhance the greenery by encouraging people to adopt a plant. I feel this has indeed increased the green cover in the park.”
Om Prakash Singh is one of the several visitors who feels that “Adopt a Plant” has worked wonders in creating a much cleaner environment for the residents and the college students who often throng the place after the classes get over. Situated right next to the Bharti College, District Park is a hub for students who get to catch up in between their classes. Neha, a 20-year-old Political Science student of the college, feels that the initiative to plant a sapling in the name of their loved one has caught not just the attention of the elderly citizens but also the younger lot as it seems a cool way to contribute towards the environment.
“Earlier we used to have classes in schools where we were made to plant a sapling. This was an annual affair. Though it instilled in us a sense of duty to contribute to mother nature, we never got the time from our otherwise hectic schedule to continue the values which have been taught to us in school afterwards,” said the college going student.
In 2012, students of a private school in the area held a drive to create widespread awareness about the importance of planting saplings. Calling it a campaign instead of a plantation drive, the students made use of posters to raise the issue. This small scale campaign later gave way to a policy called “adopt a park” by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in the year 2014.
Starting on January 1, the odd-even policy was a step undertaken in the national capital introduced by the AAP government to reduce air pollution and reduce traffic congestion on the streets. This scheme alone cannot eliminate air pollution. To ensure that our present generation and the coming generation breathe cleaner air, plantation drives and adopt a plant such initiatives need to be implemented on a large scale level.
In 2014, the DDA had mooted the plan to promote ‘Adopt a Park’. This was one of its several schemes which was launched to promote maintenance of green cover by the Resident Welfare Associations (RWA’S) and also allow establisment of kiosks which can sell newspapers, magazines, flowers and edible stuff. The primary feature of these kiosks included selling of saplings.
Ram, a roadside vendor, who sells flowers and also keeps plant saplings all racked up in a bag sits outside the park all day. He said: “Many people come to the park but not many are willing to shell out a few bucks to buy sapling. Despite the low cost, they are hesitant to buy the plants. Although bouquets are sold out like hot cakes, these saplings are only sold when a large group of people mostly school students or a few college girls come.”
He further added, “I don’t earn much from these saplings yet I keep them. I want my children to plant them one day when I will have enough money. These seeds are not just which feeds me but also gives a shade to many labourers during hot summers. There are not many trees around the neighbourhood. It is only here that you see trees that also because of the old people who buy from us when they come out for morning walks.”
This was the situation in one of the district parks in West Delhi. Speaking to Millennium Post, many commuters passing by the park feigned ignorance about the adoption of tree in this park.
Apart from the Janakpuri district park, there are more than a 100 district parks in the city outlined by the DDA meant to purify the city air. Specified on its official website, these district parks are touted to provide a 'serene socio-physical environment. With features like lush gardens, picnic huts, musical fountains, playfields and children's park, these are reportedly situated to provide a cleaner and a better environment.
According to environmental experts, the initiative to adopt a plant in other words the popular scheme launched by the DDA in 2014 under the name ‘Adopt a Park’ was just a sham as it had no overall impact on the reduction of air pollution in the city. “The onus to create a clean environment lies on each and every individual in the society. Following eco-friendly methods can help sustain the air only in the small run. However, in the long run, it is the role of the community to come together to fight the environmental degradation. A small gesture like planting a sapling near your house can go along way in making a difference,” said Shirin Bithal.
“These parks were announced to be adopted by the public to make them aware of their responsibility towards the environment. The prerogative behind the scheme was to create employment for the unemployed in the garb of promoting environmental issues. At the end of the day, a lot of money has been issued in the name of curbing the menace yet the end result is visible to one and all. Schemes and policies are launched by civic agencies year after year but they end up lying just on paper,” said a senior DDA official requesting anonymity.
"Adopt a Plant’ in the name of their loved one has caught not just the attention of the elderly citizens but also the younger lot as it seems a cool way to contribute towards the environment- Neha, Political Science student at Bharti College.
Forget me not:
District Park in Janakpuri: The campaign launched by students of a private school went a long way in creating awareness among the residents and the locals who set up their kiosks outside the park.
District Park in Sarai Rohilla: Surrounded by residential colonies, throngs of people got together to ensure tree plantation on a large scale in the park. Here too students came out to raise awareness about the same.
District Park in Ghazipur: Scores of land lying unutilised was put to use when the civic agencies came together to make the residents of Khichripur, Kalyanpuri and Ghazipur to make them aware about the importance of planting trees.
District park in R K Puram: The park which saw many morning walkers and street children from the area witnessed a change when a few DU students came together and started
a plantation drive.
District park in Shalimar Bagh: RWA was the first organisation who approached the concerned authorities about the utter lack of green cover in their park. The fallen leaves were cleared and paved way for multiple plants in the park.
District Park in Hari Nagar: The park near the Jail road bore a barren look a few years back until the locals came together and started planting trees. Although there is still a long way to go, the barrenness has disappeared.