Diwan Singh, when turned to become a role model in the field of environment from the field of social activism, he never thought that he would manage to save the Yamuna flood plains, revive water bodies and fight to save the flora and fauna against the urbanisation etc. What he has done in saving the environment and the biodiversity of Delhi is a milestone and inspiration for the next generation. His efforts not only compelled the administration and government to think over the natural assets of the National Capital but also he persuaded the government to accept the fact regarding the destruction of the environment in the name of development. For his efforts, recently NGT (National Green Tribunal) directed the agencies like DDA and DJB to ensure the revival of water bodies in Dwarka.
A resident of Sector 23, Shaman Apartments Diwan Singh has opted to serve the environment and the society besides choosing any profession for his livelihood.
CitySpidey had a chat with him on his journey and fight for the environment.
The beginning of activism
Diwan recalls, “It was the time of Kargil war in 1999 when foreign media was projecting a negative image of India on the global stage. The BBC was also playing with the facts making a negative image of India. I decided to condemn that and organised a demonstration at JantarMantar showing the real face of Pakistan. I raised 10 points and CNN showed the interview to the world about the fact of the war. It was well supported by retired Army people and the people from Jama Maszid area and Gurdawara committees. It became very successful and the BBC had to change its stand and they started showing the real facts and the face of Pakistan with respect to war."
Turned as environmentalist
Diwan Singh turned as an environmentalist in 2004-05.How and why he shares, “You can fight against corruption in future but one cannot save the natural environment in future; most of our natural resource loss is irreversible. What you have to do for the nature you have to do in present and that I realised and jumped to do something for the environment. I raised the voice against the planning and developments which were against the environment. What was in the plan in ridge forest areas and in Yamuna floodplain was known to few only. I found all those planning dangerous for the biodiversity and the environmental assets in Delhi. In 2007, movement was initiated to save Yamuna flood plains from encroachments. Kuldeep Nayer, VikramSoni Rajender Singh and many more people were there who gave their full support in the movement and we got success with a moratorium on further constructions.”
Efforts and achievements in Delhi
Diwan has been making several efforts to save flora and fauna of the National Capital. On his achievements he says that for Vasant Kunj ridge, Yamuna flood plain and revival of water bodies are some of the milestones for him in his journey. He shares his concept, “Delhi presents a picture of largely unplanned city, and even where planned colonies exist, many of them present little scope for revival of its traditional water resources like water bodies. However, Dwarka presents a different story. The city is planned and spread out so well that its water bodies have a decent chance of rejuvenation if proper efforts are put into. I have been working on that with the help of the community.”
Success for Delhi
Diwan shares, “In save ridge movement due to the order of the Supreme Court, we could save an area of 250 acres out of 315 acres along the Nelson Mandela Marg. It was a mixed result as the Malls could not be stopped, but I am satisfied with it, as we are able to ensure protection for the rest of the area. On the other hand our big achievement was to save the Yamuna flood plains. Besides raising a public campaign working with Ramon Magasaysay Awardee Rajender Singh, I also worked with scientists like Dr Vikram Soni and others and prepared a scientific paper evaluating the value of flood plains as a natural water recharge and storage system and showed it to the government. Also we planted trees on the flood plain with the help of the farmers. We showed that we could have at least 100 MGD water from the plains and it could be increased to 200-250 MGD while Delhi requires 800 MGD water. LG at that time got convinced by our efforts and points, and in the Zonal plan for Zone ‘O’ covering the Yamuna Flood Plains it was placed that no urbanisation would be done in that area and only use allowed would be water recharge and biodiversity.”
Diwan believes that without the involvement of the community in saving the water bodies nothing can be done. For this he organised several meetings, called many experts and inspired the community to think over the subject of revival of water bodies and harvesting of rainwater. With the help of the community and some youths of nearby villages he managed to revive a water body at Sector 23. On his repetitive efforts and follow-ups the then LG directed the DDA officials to work together with the community and formed a formal committee for that. Shares Diwan, “Certainly, without community involvement, the state is less likely to be active for it. A lot of efforts for a period of almost three –four years went into trying to revive the water body at Sector 23. At times support and many times hostility from the DDA staff tested our perseverance and patience. However, the team including many local youths did not give up and we continued with our pursuance. We have been duly supported in our research efforts by Professor Vikram Soni, a well known scientist, with deep interest in environmental matters, waterman Rajendra Singh and social organisation like SDKS etc. Besides research, we have been doing shraamdaan, involving children in bird watching, doing awareness drives for the community, pursuing with the authorities etc to raise the issue.
The achievement for water bodies
Diwan says that formation of a body named Water Body Committee Dwarka consisting of the community and authority’s people is the biggest achievement in the direction of revival of dying water bodies in Dwarka. He shares with satisfaction, “The day of celebration was 7th June, 2013, when after a presentation made before the Honourable Lt. Governor, he immediately announced formation of a special committee for the purpose of revival of water bodies in Dwarka. The committee consists of Diwan Singh, Capt SS Maan, a RWA representative, Professor Shashank Shekhar (Delhi University) and Chief engineer, Dwarka. The committee monitors the work of authorities and also suggests them. Besides that the committee makes people involved in the revival of the water bodies by organising activities.”
Diwan further adds, “ Around 9 water bodies that were not in records but have great potential for revival have been identified and marked for revival. Had it not been for these efforts, these water bodies would have submerged under continual expansion of Dwarka. Presently, we are specifically on job to identify surplus storm water drains and connect them to these water bodies. Also, we are talking to experts on how and where to source the local species of plants, herbs, and shrubs with the purpose to preserve local biodiversity.”