A forest that grew from an idea

Samarrth Khanna was 16 years old and studying in Class 11 at the Delhi Public School, Faridabad when he noticed the patch of land near the Lal Bahadur Shastri Chowk in Faridabad city near Delhi. He passed by it every day on the way to and from school and he saw how people were treating it like a garbage dump. Over time the land had become choked with polybags, packets and other rubbish.

By then Samarrth was already interested in environmental issues and had been looking for vacant places in his neighbourhood where he could plant trees to fight pollution. This patch of land near the busy traffic junction seemed the perfect place to start.

The project begins

Samarrth (holding the dog) and friends at the site
Samarrth (holding the dog) and friends at the site

Samarrth and his friends started visiting the spot on weekends to clear out the garbage. They continue to do so even today (as people keep dumping rubbish) and have so far removed 4000 kilograms of waste from the spot.

The problem didn’t end with the clean-up. The land had become barren and soil infertile. So, the group used earthworms (these are great for loosening the soil) and bio enzymes to bring the soil back to life. After a year, the land began to show signs of healing and plants started growing better. They also planted native grasses that helped revive the soil even more.

To make these decisions, Samarrth took the help of his Residents Welfare Association (RWA) as well as experts from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and those who were behind the Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Gurgaon.

What to plant?

Samarrth and his team turned to native plants and trees of the Yamuna flood plains and Aravallis, the two habitats that are seen in the Faridabad area. And the result? As Samarrth says, “Our efforts soon bore fruits, and leaves and branches and roots! And we were finally successful to transform the site adopted by us into a healthy and functional Mini Forest!”

Samaarth’s remarkable project has inspired many people and he is already working on two more mini-forests in Faridabad. That’s the power of a brilliant idea.

A mini-forest of multiple habitats

 

Three different micro-habitats have been created within the mini-forest.

Wetland

  • Home to aquatic plants, fish, dragonflies, damselflies and frogs
  • Collects rainwater and recharges ground water
  • Aquatic insects check mosquitoes by eating them up in different stages of their lifecycle.

Grassland 

  • Home to native grasses
  • Habitat for many grassland birds like Prinias and Indian Robin

Tree and shrubs

  • Provide ground cover and prevent erosion
  • As the trees become taller, they absorb pollution from the nearby chowk and replace it with oxygen we can breathe.

The mini-forest is home to many different plants and animals including 112 species of plants, 37 species of birds and 22 species of butterflies

Paintings by Vibhav Peri