Delhi: As the Aravallis are under constant threat of ecological exploitation, the children of Delhi NCR seem to have taken the rein of protecting Aravalli in their hands. Around 100 children of the age group 10-15 years from different cities in NCR made a trip to Haryana Bhavan and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in Delhi on September 13, 2022. They made this trip in order to demand protection of Aravallis and revise NCR Draft Plan 2041. The students met the Resident Commissioner at Haryana Bhawan and the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs at Nirman Bhavan.
“We have been very disturbed to hear from our parents and teachers and after reading in the newspapers that a new NCR Draft Regional Plan 2041 has been proposed which is excluding terms such as ‘Aravallis’, ‘Forest Areas’, ‘Natural Conservation Zone’. Our natural ecosystems are our only shield that can protect us from the climate crisis looming on our heads. Why has the NCR Draft Plan 2041 dropped the target, ‘total forest cover proposed to be 10% of the total area of the region’ of the NCR Regional Plan 2021 when we live in one of the most polluted areas in the world? Climate action demands an exponential increase in afforestation efforts by the government,” said Aarjav Jain, a Grade 8 student from Pragati Public School in Delhi.
Over the last few days, more than 12000+ students and 900+ teachers from schools in Delhi, Gurugram and Faridabad in Haryana, Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh and Alwar in Rajasthan have written letters. These letters have been addressed to India’s Prime Minister, Environment Minister, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs and Chief Ministers of the 4 NCR states requesting them to strengthen the new NCR plan ecologically. These students demanded to revise the NCR Draft Plan 2041 such that protection of the Aravallis and other natural ecosystems is strengthened & enhanced and the forest cover target of Delhi - NCR is increased to the national average of 20 percent.
“Many of our friends and family members suffer from breathing problems. Why would the government want to bring a plan that will wipe out more than 70 percent of our precious Aravallis? Air pollution of India’s National Capital Region will become worse if the Aravallis are destroyed as these are the green lungs and only barrier protecting millions of people living in the 4 states of Delhi - NCR from the sand storms coming from the Thar desert,” said Tarini Malhotra, a Grade 11 student from the Shri Ram School Moulsari in Gurugram.
“I have done so many hikes in the Aravallis and seen jackals, peacocks, owls, monitor lizards, snakes, different kinds of butterflies, moths and beautiful bugs. These hills and forests surrounding Delhi-NCR are critical wildlife habitats and a biodiversity hotspot with more than 400 species of native trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs, more 200 native & migratory bird species, more than 100 butterfly species, more than 20 reptile species and more than 20 mammal species including leopards, neelgais, hyenas, civet cats and monkeys among others. Where will all this wildlife go if the NCR Draft Plan 2041 gets finalised?” said Aanya Aggarwal, a student of grade 6 from Heritage Experiential Learning School Gurugram.
"Along with the bundle of letters and signed sheets from the students and teachers of the 4 NCR states, we presented native Aravalli saplings of Goya Khair and Dudhi to them in the hope that they work in the interest of our future and enhance protection to the Aravallis and other natural ecosystems. As young citizens of India battling global warming, climate change, and severe air pollution, we would like our government to work on a plan to increase the forest cover target of Delhi - NCR to the national average of 20 percent,” said Mudit Sharma from Blue Bells International School in Delhi.
“We discussed our concerns regarding the environmental dilutions in the NCR Draft Plan 2041 with both the government authorities we met today. Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told us that he will invite us for a stakeholder discussion to represent the voice of the students. We hope that the Minister lives up to the promise he has made us today. If our generation has to survive, ecological conservation has to become a central part of our urban planning,” said Yuvansh Dabas, a Grade 9 student from Pathways School in Gurugram.
The letter to the govt authorities from the students’ states says:
“As young citizens living in India’s National Capital Region, we request you to save our Aravallis and along with it our future by removing the environment-related dilutions in the NCR Draft Regional Plan 2041. The terms ‘Aravallis’, ‘Forest Areas’, ‘Natural Conservation Zone’ must all be kept in the new NCR Draft Plan 2041. We recommend getting environmental experts and ecologists on board to strengthen the NCR Regional Plan 2041 from an environmental and ecological point of view to ensure more protection for our natural ecosystems so that the quality of life for the present and future generations of India’s National Capital Region improve.”