Environment - friendly

  • Shilpy Arora / FG
  • India
  • Nov 08, 2013

Every morning Kavita, 13, a resident of Nakhdola, makes sure that all the herbal gardens in the village are watered and manure is put into every pot. She ensures that plants are exposed to enough sunlight in the winter, while they are kept in the shade for some time in summers. She is well-versed with not only the cultivating process, but also the benefits of these medicinal plants. “Complete germination of this plant is achieved within 10 days. Adding manure during the germination can have negative effects, but if manure given after the germination, it is good. It is important for everybody to know about the cultivation of this plant, as it can be used as an alternate to diesel!” says Kavita, while talking about the Jatropha plant. Thanks to the efforts of a City-based NGO, Uthaan, rural and urban youth in the City has been learning about various medicinal plants.  

Started some nine years ago, Uthaan works in the field of environment conservation. It promotes vermiculture, organic cultivation, herbal planting, animal welfare, green movement and conservation of non-renewable resources in urban as well as rural areas. To promote the cultivation of medicinal plants, Uthaan has distributed over 30 rare species of medicinal plants in schools and villages. “An important medicinal plant, Guggal, had become extinct due to the indiscriminate cutting of trees. But now, we have been able to bring it back to the City, and have distributed its samples across the City. We promote Guggal as a herb that can help in alleviating joint pain and cholesterol,” says Sanjay Kaushik, President, Uthaan. 

Despite most people being aware of the benefits of local medicinal plants, some prefer to plant foreign trees, which don’t grow fast in the Indian climate and often need large amounts of water. This can impact the underground water table. The NGO promotes the cultivation of Indian medicinal plants such as Buch, Gwar-patha, Reetha, Arjun, Meetha-neem, Sarpgandha, Tulsi, Agave, Beal patra, Bamboo, Saptparni, Gudhal, Peepal, Gudmaar, Champa, Teak, Mint, Poplar and Senjana. The NGO also educates cultivators on how to protect these trees from insects. “We have planted many Aloe vera plants around the medicinal plants so that they are not attacked by termites,” says one of the villagers.

In urban areas, the NGO has formed Eco-guard Clubs in schools - like Amity International, DPS, Ryan International and American Excelsior. Members of these Clubs set-up a medicinal plants’ herbarium in their schools’ premises and also motivate other people to plant these at home. “We provide more than 20 species of rare herbal plants in pots to the schools. The cost of these plants is taken care of by the co-ordinator,” informs Kaushik.

The NGO has also established a vermiculture unit in the City. Interestingly, this unit produces manure with the help of earthworms, in farms. “Earthworms are live factories of natural fertilizer. They eat and digest almost all biodegradable wastes and thus provide vermicompost - an organic manure,” informs Kaushik, who is also a horticulturist. Schools students are invited to visit these vermiculture units, to watch a live demo of vermiculture activities in the farms. Students are also taught about other agricultural activities, such as sowing of seeds, weeding, transplanting, harvesting, picking and tractor riding. “It’s a picnic-cum-learning experience for the students, as they are given the opportunity to perform all these activities themselves. The NGO has also started a novel concept, wherein each school is allocated a separate field, named after the school, and its students then take up farming activities in that field - from sowing to harvesting and taking the crop back home. “It’s certainly a great learning process for the students,” feels the Director of Excelsior American, Shalini Nambiar. Moreover, students of member schools are involved in plantation activities in the school as well as in their respective localities. To ensure a good survival rate of plants, the families of the students are asked to adopt five to six saplings within their locality.


Uthaan is credited with launching solar-electric rickshaws, Soleckshaws, in the City. The NGO joined hands with the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Science and Technology, and rolled out the revolutionary idea. A Soleckshaw is easy to drive and offers a pleasant riding experience to the passengers – being equipped with shock absorbers. “It is a fast, balanced and eco-friendly means of transport, and offers a smooth ride. Being low-floored, it is also easy to step in and to alight. I always prefer a Soleckshaw while commuting from the Metro station to home,” says Vasundhra, a senior citizen. Soleckshaws offer their passengers a mobile charger, a newspaper and mineral water. The objective is also to provide a better livelihood to the poor rickshaw pullers. “When I used to see rickshaw-pullers sweating and pulling the rickshaws, I wanted to provide them a better solution. We therefore came up with the Soleckshaw,” says Kaushik. Currently the Soleckshaw service is available in Sushant Estate, Maple Crescent and the Sushant Lok area. Initially the rickshaw pullers faced issues like a charging station facility, but now RWAs are offering them this and also helping them in establishing a fare chart.

Awareness of Energy Conservation

This is one of the success stories of Uthaan in the last two years. The NGO, in coordination with Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA), has been spreading the message of fuel conservation among women and children. Many seminars and workshops have been conducted for women in different sectors in the City, and also in villages. Uthaan volunteers teach them about conservation of LPG, Petrol and Kerosene, as also water harvesting and the benefits of using solar equipment. They are also encouraged to plant trees. So far the NGO has planted nearly 56,000 saplings in the City, and has ensured a survival rate of 85 per cent. “When I moved to the City I found that the authorities were struggling to bring down the pollution levels and people were quite ignorant about environmental issues. That is what made me set-up Uthaan, to initiate care and concern amongst the people for the critical need of environmental conservation,” recounts Kaushik. He adds that apart from just encouraging or ensuring plantation drives, there is a need to spread awareness about the proper cultivation and protection of trees.
The efforts of Uthaan are clearly helping protect our green cover.


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