Somewhere in Pune....

It started off as an attempt to clean up the unkempt surroundings of Baner. Today, Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan is nurturing 23,000 trees on the Baner-Pashan hills and is adding more every year.
“While cleaning up the area, we noticed that a 2-km stretch of Baner-Pashan hills was barren. Apart from the 25% area that was covered with plantation, the rest of the hills was barren. That is when the idea of restoring the hills struck us,“ said Deepak Shrote, a founder-member of Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan.

The group has worked extensively to make the hills green. Today, 70% of the Baner-Pashan hills have green cover.

Back in 2006 when VSA was established, global warming was the talk of the town. The need to do something and not be mere spectators, encouraged the six-member group.

“We started by planting saplings and protecting them. Making plants survive is a much more complicated task than planting them. The number of people who joined our initiative increased every year. Today, we have a record of almost 2 lakh people who have contributed to this initiative, directly or indirectly ,“ said Shrote, a 40-year-old software professional.

The initiative is widely popular and many volunteered to help in preserving the nature. It is not just the residents and the neighbouring business corporates but even PMC and forest department have been encouraging this movement. “PMC helps us by providing water tankers to water the plants. At the top of the hills we have made 25 storage tanks, in summers these need to be filled to ensure water availability for the plants.These tanks are filled by water tankers,“ he added.

The group has a fixed agenda for the year, the plantation of saplings happens in the time period between June to August, while the rest of the months are spent taking various measures to nurture them. They also do mulching and practise Zero Budget Natural farming for the sustainable development of the plants.

“We have almost 160 hours in a week. I feel that every person should dedicate at least one hour in a week to this selfless service,“ he appealed.

The group is also involved in initiatives for the prevention of farmers' suicides and promote toxin-free food and water conservation.

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