Taking inspiration from the Clean India Campaign, students of a private school in the city have managed to transform a barren park being used as a garbage dump to a lush green area with two harvesting systems, compost pits and butterfly gardens.
The once-neglected ‘Ekta Park’ in Sector 2, Rajendra Nagar, was legally ‘adopted’ by the DLF Public School in Rajendra Nagar, Sahibabad, from the Ghaziabad municipal corporation in August this year. Before that, the park with a temple on one side and a cluster of shanties on the other was being used as an open urinal and garbage dump.
“Whenever a ‘bhandara’ (community meal) was held at the temple, all the used plates and leftover food was dumped at the park. On the other hand, the slum dwellers had made the park their very own urinal. Moreover, various anti-social activities used to take place here after dark, which is why residents of the area detested it,” said Seema Jerath, principal, DLF Public School.
Students from classes 4 to 10 began cleaning the park in September. According to the teachers, till November, the park was cleaned bit by bit everyday by the students and the teachers.
“A major challenge in cleaning the park came from the community itself. We would clean the park one day and the next morning someone would have again dumped garbage inside the park. However, this failed to discourage the students as they kept on cleaning it and eventually people stopped dumping their waste in the park,” said Shilpa Kale, one of the teachers involved in the initiative.
Meanwhile, children from nearby shanties who saw the school students’ work also began to show interest. Under the school’s ‘Each one, Teach one’ initiative, class 10 students taught the underprivileged children about the importance of plants, nature and hygiene and ultimately gave them the responsibility of taking care of the park.
“After the park was cleaned, we used to go there to paint the walls with cartoons, slogans and quotes. The artwork fascinated the children from the slums and they volunteered with us. Since they are the ones who spent the maximum time in the park day and night, we made them ‘Forest Rangers’ for the park in order to give them a sense of belonging and responsibility towards it,” said Suhani Vadhera, a class 11 student who was part of the teaching initiative in the last academic session.
The ‘Forest Rangers’ were given caps and badges to encourage them to take up the responsibility.
Though the park already had thick, tall trees, it lacked shrubs or grass. In their plantation drives, students planed over 3,500 saplings including Chandani, Ashwagandha, Vasaka, Vajradanti and Sadabahar varieties. A play area was also made with a badminton court and swings for children. The school authorities spent a total of `5 lakh in renovating the park, which included the cost of constructing a shelter pavilion, water harvesting systems and the saplings.
“The park has now been handed over to the resident’s welfare association of Sector 2, Rajendra Nagar. The same residents who earlier steered clear of the park now come here for evening strolls. Some have even begun gardening in the area by planting their favourite plants in the park,” said Jerath.