Swacch Suswa Abhiyan (Clean Suswa Mission), a CM Uttarakhand initiative

Suswa river clean up campaign was first of its kind river cleaning movement in Uttarakhand during which 200+ volunteers of UTF and thousands of good Samaritans of Dehradun supported the drive with zeal & rigour and cleaned the river for nonstop 60 days. The drive was only stopped when monsoon started.  ‘Swacch Suswa Abhiyan’ is Shri Trivendra Singh Rawat dream project as the river falls under his own constituency and his motivation and implementation by U Turn Foundation led to a successful beginning of Clean Suswa river mission. 

Objective: To work for a permanent solution for revival of Suswa river with local participation and support of Dehradun Municipal Council, District Administration, MDDA, water experts, local NGOs,etc.

Brief History of Suswa river: The Suswa river is lifeline of Doodhli valley at Dehradun. It is home for thousands of citizens of Dehradun and wildlife as the area extends upto Chilla range of Rajaji National park. The river got its name from Suswa saag (green vegetable) which was in abundant alongside the entire stretch of the river. Two important seasonal rivers Bindal and Rispana which are the carriers of the sewerage of Dehradun, gets connected with Suswa in Doodhli valley. Suswa river is tributary of River Ganges which eventually merges into river Ganges near Motichur, Raiwala. Suswa was once a natural stream of fresh water flowing into Ganga river. It played a significant role in people’s lives and Dehradun’s shape. The residents of the valley are dependent on Suswa river for potable water, irrigation and other domestic uses. There was a time Suswa river used to be a boon for Basmati growing belt of Dehradun.

Problem statement:

The main problem we face is that Suswa faces is becoming a ‘dead river’ or ‘forgotten river’. The Susva river was once the pride of Dehradun but due to neglect and continuous garbage flow it has reached a very tragic state. The non biodegradable & sewerage waste along with chemical waste trapped in the Bindal and Raspana rivers eventually flows into Suswa river.  The river’s latest water analysis report has stated that the water of the river Suswa has become extremely poisonous and harmful for both human life and wildlife. Although a sewerage treatment plant has been installed near Kargi Chowk and another near Doon University but these plants are not working therefore all the sewerage from homes and commercial sector including factories fall into the Dhoodhli through Rispana and Bindal. The result of water samples from villages of Doodhli valley, such as Mothrowala, Daudwala, Nagaland Simlas Grant, showed presence of large number of pollutants and chemicals into the water. It has become completely unfit for drinking water and it can spread water borne diseases related to stomach, skin, ulcer and other harmful effects like hair loss, dysentery, jaundice and may also cause cancer. The filth and sewerage of city has ruined the entire irrigation system of Doodhli valley, badly affecting the entire system of potable water management of the valley and contaminating ground water as well. 

Another major point of worry is flourishing tiger population in Rajaji National park at Chila, uses this tributary for drinking water. They have already been exposed to many diseases. Unlike human, it can go undetected in initial stage and spread like wild fire later on resulting in serious consequences.

U Turn Foundation efforts:

On 7th May 2017, CM Uttarakhand Shri Trivendra S Rawat initiated Svacch Suswa Abhiyan from Suswa river front near Sainik Colony. The drive was an attempt to spread awareness on pitiable state of rivers of Dehradun. For years, Non Government Organisations and Citizens of Dehradun have been advocating for revival of Suswa river as a bio diversity hub once again. To take Clean Suswa mission ahead, U Turn Foundation has been continuously working with the local residents, Nagar Nigam, MDDA and fellow citizens. Please find attached the report of last 15 days of efforts. 

Through our experiences and challenges faced in the project so far, we have identified non biodegradable waste as the major culprit in the plight of Dehradun’s river. Without a ban on usage of polythene and other disposable products, all the efforts for revival of rivers would be in vain. We appeal to CM Uttarakhand for enactment of Uttarakhand’s own non biodegradable garbage control act to put a long lasting curb on non biodegradable products in the state. We would also like to request citizens of Dehradun to become part of revival of doon rivers by engaging in eco friendly life style and saying no to polythene. Private participation in revival of doon’s rivers would also add to the accomplishment of Clean Suswa Mission.

Current planned activities: Base line survey

Smart City Dehradun plan

Smart City Dehradun Plan by CAG

     SMART SUSTAINABLE DEHRADUN

INTRODUCTION

A dictionary definition of “smart” is something that has a “clean, tidy and stylish appearance”. If this has to be applied to the city of Dehradun, almost no area qualifies.

There is potential, though, to improve Dehradun within the confines of the Central Government’s Smart City Mission without destroying its heritage and green areas like the Arcadia Tea Estates.  Citizens’ Action Group, (CAG), which comprises 27 NGOs (see pgs 8-9) plus hundreds of other eminent citizens of the valley in their individual capacity, feels that the Smart City concept as it stands proposed by the Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority (MDDA) appears to be premature for Dehradun.

The plan is to “retrofit” an area it has called Zone 4 of Dehradun, a 3788 acre area that covers the Clock Tower or iconic Ghanta Ghar, Paltan Bazaar, Khurbura, Jhanda Sahib, Lakshman Chowk, Indirapuram, GMS Road, Mohitnagar, Indiranagar, Vasant Vihar, Rajendra Nagar, Vijay Park and Majra.

The Citizens’ Action Group agrees that the town or city centre of Dehradun needs refurbishment but it must keep in mind the fact that Dehradun exists in an eco-sensitive zone.

As a seminal report on Doon’s development by NEERI points out, “The Doon Valley is a distinct and unique ecosystem. The geological fragility and hydrological sensitivity of the Himalayan mountain system contribute to the ecological sensitivity of the Doon Valley ecosystem. The deterioration of this fragile ecosystem is aggravated by poverty driven ecological degradation, in which resident population as well as migrants overexploited the forest and natural resources to meet their short term needs at the cost of long term equilibrium between environmental and societal systems. Unplanned industrial development and inappropriate technological choices have destroyed the balance.”

This is not just a damning indictment of ill-planned development but also bears omens of how difficult the future can be without a course-correction.

The area under “Zone 4” as described above therefore needs re-assessment. For one, it takes us back to the boundaries of the contentious tea gardens, which are vital as a green lung. Secondly, this demarcation does not consider Dehradun’s improvement in a holistic manner. Rather, it appears to be a line drawn on a map.

The CAG suggests that Ghanta Ghar is made the hub of the smart city retrofitting plan, taking into consideration an arc that covers Paltan Bazaar, Jhanda Sahib, the river courses of the Rispana and Bindal and extends all the way to Dilaram Bazaar. The revival of these rivers is vital to Doon’s water-charging capabilities. Gandhi Park, Pavilion Ground and Parade Ground need to be brought under this Smart City plan, being the city’s only green and open areas.

This area is the heart of Dehradun in terms of heritage and history besides being its commercial centre. A maximum number of Doon residents and visitors regularly visit or pass through here. If this “smartification” is successful, the rest of Dehradun would undoubtedly benefit.

PROPOSALS

These are vital parameters that the smart city plan must cover:

Trees

Dehradun needs to go back to its tree-lined avenues. Roadside trees need to include local varieties like Peepal, Mango, Acacia, Silver Oak, Kachnar, Jamun and Tun as well as some ornamental trees as desired. While these trees will help with air pollution by absorbing CO2, latex-bearing plants which can absorb NO2 and SO2 can be planted in road dividers. A return to Doon’s once iconic litchi orchards would be magnificent.

A Pedestrian Plaza from Ghanta Ghar to Paltan Bazaar

Paltan Bazaar can be a tourist attraction with its old-style shops with good bargains and a wide variety of products and all the atmosphere of a traditional Indian bazaar. The two-wheelers that are permitted however are a nuisance and a danger. The idea of making Paltan Bazaar vehicle-free needs to be reintroduced. Vehicles can be allowed at some point in the afternoons (1 pm to 3 pm) to allow shopkeepers to bring in their stock and also between 10 pm and 8 am. However, no pedestrian plaza can work without adequate parking which has to be accommodated within walking distance. The malls built for the rehabilitation of shopkeepers from Chakrata road are currently lying almost empty and are eyesores. Their use needs to be reconsidered and their underground parking facilities increased.  

Green and open spaces

Of what use is Dehradun’s famed natural beauty and greenery when the truth, as we all know, is that our green cover is constantly being destroyed. Apart from Gandhi Park, we have no public park worth the name. From New York’s Central Park to Mumbai’s maidans, all cities need open green areas to improve air quality and allow citizens to appreciate and enjoy nature. The Smart City plan must earmark other smaller areas which can be transformed: for example, the old bus stand near Hotel Drona can also be utilised. 

Heritage conservation

Dehradun is known for its grand institutions like the FRI and IMA. It is also home to some unique art and architectural features which can be seen, as at the Guru Ram Rai Darbar at Jhanda Sahib. The Smart City plans needs to keep these precious resources in mind. Pritam Castle, Arhat Bazaar, Tagore Villa, Imanullah Building, etc., must be included to save our history and culture.

River Rejuvenation

The river courses of Rispana and Bindal are struggling under the burdens of encroachment, unchecked garbage and waste disposal and the blocking of their sources higher up in Rajpur and Jakhan. If we do not rejuvenate these, our future is in jeopardy given the twin threats of climate change and global warming. In addition, our canals are lost to mind and sight. The recharging of aquifers may be an additional blessing.

Pollution control

CAG proposals: An effective, efficient and sustainable solid waste management system to be put in place throughout the city.  Air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution to be monitored and controlled. Industries to be confined to designated areas outside the city. Slum-dwellers to be rehabilitated in accordance with the National Slum Policy, 2002. A strict moratorium to be imposed on construction on the slopes of fragile river-beds and raos.

Wifi and IT

Being “smart” in 21st century terms means the use of technology. Therefore free wifi and internet access are paramount. Special services for tourists and citizens could include information about emergency healthcare, restaurants, shops and so on. Effective use of IT could also help government services assess the extent and use of facilities offered. IT can help improve public services like water supply by checking on bill defaulters but also check on leakages and pilfering. Disaster management protocols must also be included in the IT section of the Smart City Plan.

Tourist facilities

Any smart city needs well-marked road signs, which includes tourist attractions and roadside maps. Information kiosks which use technology and/or manpower are an additional much-needed feature. An adequate number of ATMs in the area would be of additional help.

Roads, pavements and transportation

Solar lighting, already in use on hill roads in the Guniyal Gaon and Bhagwantpur areas of Dehradun will be of ecological and economical use and serve as an example to all of Dehradun. Pavements need to allow walking space as well as some greenery as well as water runoff. Existing infrastructure projects like flyovers must be completed. There is also a need to reduce the dependence on diesel and encourage autos, vikrams and buses to shift to CNG or battery options.

Allotments and water conservation

Many western cities now allow citizens to set up kitchen and/or regular gardens on public land. This not only encourages urban farming and increases greenery but also opens more city land for ground water recharging. Could this be considered in the smart city zone? It may well help the water department reduce its dependence on tubewells. Rooftop rainwater harvesting is another suggestion which accrues enormous benefit after a small initial investment.

Vocational Training

Dehradun is already known for its educational institutions. But India and this city also need people with substantial skill training. Part of a smart city would include encouraging the setting up of polytechnics and diploma colleges for professional training.

If these suggestions are kept in mind, Dehradun can become an example to the rest of India on how nature and development and the past and the present can coexist in harmony. We owe that much at least to the future.

Save the Tea Gardens

Although the destruction of part of Dehradun’s tea gardens are no longer part of the current “Smart City” Plan, the CAG believes that we must work towards the conservation of this vital green space and heritage district of Dehradun. The tea garden area contains over 30,000 trees and also contains the upper catchment area of the Asan river. Then there are the tea gardens themselves, the first in India, which ought to be a matter of civic pride instead of the current indifference and ignorance.

The CAG suggests that the government works out how to preserve the Doon valley’s tea heritage as well as this essential green lung. The existing tea gardens can be made into a museum of India’s first teas. We could also showcase speciality teas with health benefits, as demonstrated by the committed and concerned tea workers.

Part of the land could become a biodiversity park, which allows nature to thrive and us to survive. A botanical garden, fruit orchards, herb gardens and floriculture are other possibilities.

The National Forest Policy of 1988 mandates that a forest cover of 66 per cent is maintained in the hills and of 33 per cent in the plains. NEERI suggests that Doon needs “harmonious and environmentally compatible growth” with “judicious exploitation” of Doon’s natural resources. There is a lesson waiting in those words.

The CAG is certain that these suggestions will be taken on board so that Dehradun does not walk down the sorry road of other Indian polluted and unlivable cities.

References

Smart City Guidelines,  NEERI Report, National Forest Policy, National Slum Policy, 2002,  Himanshu Parikh’s work in Indore slums; 

CAG:  CITIZENS’ ACTION GROUP            

  • All-India Consumers’ Council, Uttarakhand
  • Astley Hall Traders’ Association
  • DAV (PG) College Alumni Association
  • Dhad Mahila Manch
  • Doon Citizens’ Council
  • Ex-Servicemen’s League
  • Friends of the Doon Society …  Greening, tree-planting
  • HESCO – Dr Anil Joshi …  Greening, tree-planting
  • Hindi Sahitya Samiti
  • Human Rights Parishad, Uttarakhand
  • Indian Medical Association, Dehra Dun … Bio-waste management
  • IAU-Industries Association of Uttarakhand      … Non-Polluting Industries
  • Mahila Bal Kalyan Samiti
  • Mahila Kalyan Udyog Kendra
  • Maiti Tree Foundation … Greening, tree-planting
  • Making a Difference by Being the Difference   … River Rejuvenation, SWM
  • Navdanya … Bio-diveristy Park
  • Pammi Nanda Foundation
  • Peoples’ Science Institute         … Water conservation, pollution mgt; slum rehabilitation
  • Pramukh … Solid Waste Management
  • Research Foundation for Science, Technology, Ecology …  Biodiversity
  • Doon Residents’ Welfare Front … Greening, Colony Planning
  • SEWAA
  • Shail Kala Manch, Dehra Dun
  • University Women’s Association Vocational Education
  • U-Turn Foundation … Biodiversity, Greening
  • Waste Warriors Society … Solid Waste Management

__________

Citizen Action Group, Dehradun

GREEN FORCE

Young people constitute a large part of the Uttarakhand’s population. Many, especially young children, are particularly vulnerable to environmental risks associated with, for example, access to hygienic living conditions. Future generations will also be affected by there decisions and the extent to which they have addressed concerns such as the depletion of resources, the loss of biodiversity and menace of plastic bags. Whatever we say but we know real change comes when the youth starts contributing something or the other towards society and we youngsters are optimistic of bringing better times for the future ones, so we have come up with this enthusiastic group of young members who have formed an army to fight against environmental degradation. An inspiring thought by Margaret Mead “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” and G Force is a group which has been built for this anticipated change. G Force is moving ahead gradually and making its impact for a new kind of “green revolution”. 

Project Green Ward 38 :

Project Green Ward 38 aimed to create a sustainable and environmentally-friendly green space for the local community. It’s goal was to strengthen the foundations for growth through tangible (growth of plants and flowers) and intangible (growth of interpersonal relationship in the community) aspects.

In addition to encouraging the planting of healthy food through collaborative activities, the Green Ward 38 became the role model to promote environmental awareness and a healthy lifestyle. It was also revitalizing a sense of green community among neighbours and serving as a communal space for the local community to socialize.

 Greenery was identified as a potential project theme as it offers the opportunity to address challenges of declining green space and increasing environmental degradation due to harmful effects of polythene waste. In deciding a suitable micro-level project, the team shortlisted two possible options (Tree Planting and Polythene Bags free Ward).The Green Ward 38 project was chosen because it had greater potential for serving as an example for other wards to follow.

 Our project served six broad objectives:

a. Contributions to the community. The project aimed to beautify the surrounding environment and provide edible plants, herbs and flowers for the local community.

b. Sustainability. The project was able to be cared for by the local community.

Money was also be generated to raise funds for maintaining the project.

c. Social Capital. The project aimed to bring people together and to provide a community space for local residents.

d. Raising Environmental Awareness. The project aimed to improve knowledge in the local community about environmental issues.

e. Planning for the Future Generation. The project allowed and facilitated the participation of children and youths.

f.) No usage of polythene bags. Green Ward 38 was the first ward in Dehradun to completely say no to polythene bags usage by the local community.

Background of Ward No 38.

 Ward 38 is spread in an area of 10 kms with a population of 5000+. The areas under Ward 38 includes Bannu School, Police line, A block, B block, C block, Officers Colony, etc. There are 50 shops in the area.

 Project Schedule: The Green Ward 38 project lasted 27 weeks to implement.

 ACTIVITIES

 Our activities aimed to fulfill our project objectives. In addition to encouraging the planting of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, the project became financially sustainable, served as a communal space for the local community and provides activities for children and youths to enjoy. Cloth bags were distributed to replace polythene bags through ‘Carry your Bags’ drive. Our volunteers went Door to Door to spread environmental awareness. Drawing, Painting and Plays with theme of greenery were organized in the schools under Ward 38.More than 500 trees were planted in the area.

PROJECT BUDGET: The Green Ward 38 project cost was Rs.1,50,000 which was staged over seven months.

Adopt a Plant

While devising campaigns for ‘Preserve Green Doon’, it became apparent that there was something amiss in the conventional tree plantation process which we were witnessing around us. Lots of tree plantation drives were being conducted on a regular basis but the survival rate of such saplings was quite low. We realised that he success of tree plantation lies in ensuring that these plants survive for posterity. Tree Plantation is not a day’s passion but a duty like a Father/ Mother has while raising his/her child that span over years. There has to be only one way to describe this campaign – “ADOPT A PLANT”. Like any adoption, one can either adopt a plant another has sown/planted or take one up for the cause and adopt one through U Turn Foundation’s efforts.

More than 1,00,000 trees have been planted in Uttarakhand with success ratio of 90%.

Polythene free Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand Non Biodegradabale Garbage Control Act

Since inception of U Turn Foundation we have had strong aversion to polythene usage because of it’s never ending non degradable life span and the irreversible damage it is inflicting on earth and on life that earth sustains. The Foundation drafted an act with the help of our esteemed advisers and consultants which was presented to the honorable “Ex-Chief Minister of Uttarakhand”.

Signature campaigns were conducted all across the length and breadth of Dehradun, rishikesh, chakrata, narendar nagar.  The Foundation’s team members and volunteers conducted door to door awareness campaigns on the importance of this act. More than 20,000 signatures were recorded in support of this cause. Starting from the honorable speaker of Uttarakhand, member of parliaments, district magistrates, city magistrate, doctors, lawyers and people from all walks of life supported the movement.

Awareness Drives: We have been cleaning roadsides of non-degradable waste, have set up dustbins, requested the municipal board for regular cleaning of bins, talking to people about the ill-effects of polythene. Appreciating the model of “DVWM” we worked alongside the municipal board, health department and Doon valley waste management to improve its effectiveness by advising / suggesting measures based on our door to door campaigns for proper segregation of garbage. Our findings and reports were incorporated by DVWM.

 The Foundation strongly pursues the idea of a polythene free Dehradun.

Carry your Bag :Demand controls the supply. So to control the supply of polythene we have to cut down on it’s demand ( in simple word stop asking for polythene). And before we stop asking for polythene we need to have a substitute with us and the best substitute is a Cloth Bag. Has anyone thought what was being used to bring groceries from the market before polythene bags came into existence?.

We have started “Carry your Bag” Campaign in Dehradun. Just imagine if 1 out of 100 people in Dehradun cuts down on usage of 5 polythene bags per day as a result of cloth bags then that would amount to a reduced demand of 100000 poly bags every day.  This calculation is our motivation in pursuing “Carry your Bag” Campaign. We have started collecting unused cloths (strong enough to carry decent weight) from our members and volunteers. We are making bags out of these clothes. Sewing these bags is generate income for a family in Dehradun and they can be obtained through us for a nominal price of Rs 10 per piece.

The Foundation’s teams is visiting local markets explaining the public the harm of polythene bags and urging them to use cloth bags contributing towards protecting the earth. The Foundation has distributed thousands of free cloth bags to the general public in shopping areas all around Dehradun.

Just remember to ‘Carry your Bag’ whenever you go shopping and think about the calculation and you would be carrying the campaign ahead.

Save tea gardens of Dehradun

Collaboration work with Citizen Action Group