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How The Govt. Is Putting The Meagre Forest Land In Haryana At Risk

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

“Your life is dependent on the oldest fold mountains in the world, and they’re dying. Do you value your life and the future of your children?”

With this critical question, Veer Ojas Khanna, a 16-year-old school student from Gurgaon began his talk at the Youth Ki Awaaz Summit 2019. At an age when he should be in school, Veer is among the hundreds of residents in Gurgaon who take to the streets to protest the destruction of the beautiful Aravalli forests on both sides of the Gurugram- Faridabad road.

The Aravalli Bachao movement began as a protest against the Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s cabinet to amend the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), which opened up 33% of the forest land in Haryana for urbanisation and real estate development, which puts nearly 30,000 acres of forests at risk of complete destruction.

Veer Ojas at YKA Summit 2019
Veer Ojas at YKA Summit 2019

“Haryana has the lowest forest cover among all states in the country – 3.95%. It’s flanked in the south by the Aravallis, which are under serious, serious threat,” said Veer.

Spread over 692 km-long mountain ranges, the Aravallis have been a crucial source of sustenance for the people in Delhi and Gurgaon. Known popularly as the lungs of the Delhi-NCR belt, this range of forest cover recharges the groundwater in the region, provides fresh air and acts as a barrier from the dust storms and hot dry winds coming from the Thar desert. “Moreover, the forests are an invaluable biodiversity hotspot,” said Veer. “It preserves in itself an innumerable species of plants and animals.”

Veer is not just a man of words. He speaks equally for the Aravallis through his actions. With his sister Manya, he created the Climate Action Group in Gurgaon, a platform where anyone who’s concerned about the alarming effects of climate change can be a part of the change. The group began its work by protesting the amendment to the PLPA. “Since 2002, the Haryana State Government has not put any efforts into renewing the PLPA, which expired. Then, the PLPA amendment bill was passed in February 2019, negating the very ideas based on which it was originally instated. This led to the opening of doors for several construction projects in the area, leaving the rich, natural heritage of the Aravallis open to danger,” he said.

At a time when the air quality in the NCR region is at its worst, the loss of such lush greenery is expected to trigger a fresh wave of respiratory infections and illnesses. In the last year alone, schools in the NCR region were forced to shut for weeks on end because of the poor quality of air. Such a move to reduce forest cover further, would certainly result in an increased frequency of school shut downs and severely impact residents’ quality of life.

“We have no time left,” said Veer. “The fight is for our future.”

To get things moving, Veer recently began an initiative ‘Walks to Aravallis’, to sensitise residents about the irreplaceable importance of the forests, which he believes is the key to making people care more about the forests. “A lack of understanding is the reason for people’s ignorance and indifference.”

His talk reminded people, time and again, that the fight was real and urgent, and absolutely necessary. “If I am doing my job right, it would make you want to take action. This is a fight you and I have to win,” he said.

Agree with Veer? Join #WhyOnEarth, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz to raise our voices and urge the government to tackle the climate crisis before it’s too late. Find out more and share your story today!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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