New Delhi: Meera Singh, who works as a domestic servant in South Delhi, said that when she heard she could save trees with a missed call, she immediately dialled the number.
Meera is among many who received a WhatsApp message on her mobile, asking all to give a missed call to a particular number to save trees in Delhi.
“I don’t know what it’s about but it said that I could save trees just by dialling a number. So I did. It is anyway so hot. Why not help the environment if possible?” Meera asked.
While at least 11,000 trees are now being proposed to be cut in Delhi, a Bangalore based NGO has started asking people to give missed calls in order to save trees.
Jhatkaa.org, an online campaign platform, has started a ‘Missed Call Campaign’ to protect the trees of Delhi.
The movement gathered force after controversy regarding a recent proposal to fell 17,000 trees in Delhi as part of Central project to redevelop South Delhi. The proposed number of trees to be felled has been brought down to 11,000 after massive protests in the city and petitions filed in the Supreme Court.
“Delhi often ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the world. Earlier, it used to be a problem only in the winters. But now, even in summers you can see the pollution. With such a poor Air Quality Index, it is impossible to even think of cutting down so many trees in this situation,” said Shikha Kumar, who works as the head of the campaign at Jhatkaa.
“This is why we started the campaign. We have tried similar protests in Bangalore as well as in Mumbai. We are hoping it will bring a stay on the felling,” Shikha said.
The missed call campaign is part of a larger effort signature campaign to stop the felling, intended to make room for about 18,000 flats. The organisers promote the campaign on social media as well as through leaflets.
Those who want to support the campaign can do so either by signing the digital petition or by giving a missed call to this number – 8971222911.
Upon dialling, the number disconnects itself and Jhatkaa sends an automated message with further details about how to stay connected to the campaign. The message also provides a link to join a WhatsApp group where those involved in the campaign share their views, latest updates and other related information regarding the environment.
So far the campaign has amassed 60,000 signatures and according to Jhatkaa, over 70 percent of these came through missed calls.
“The reason why we wanted missed calls to be way for people to join the campaign is because it increases the participation by giving more people access. People may not always have internet or be o Facebook or WhatsApp. But most people today have a phone. And missed calls are free,” Shikha told News18.
The senior campaigner also hoped that the campaign can consolidate into a larger movement for helping the environment.
“We at Jhatkaa have hosted several campaigns regarding environmental issues, which is one of the organisation’s primary concerns. We have campaigned against the felling of trees in Mumbai’s Aray colony, which gathered the support of 3 lakh signatures,’ said Shikha.
Jhatkaa has also been part of protests that ultimately led to the scrapping of the contract for the construction of a steel bridge in Bengaluru. The bridge would have joined the heart of the city to the main road leading to the airport but at the cost of hundreds of trees.
The Bengaluru government had stated that the estimated that the number of trees to be cut is 800. In Delhi, the numbers are astronomical.
The state-run NBCC which is leading the South Delhi redevelopment project, on Sunday received Environmental Clearance for the felling of 11,000 trees to redevelop Sarojini Nagar.
While the initial proposal was to fell approximately 17,000 (or 16,500) trees, the final proposal barely seems to have done much better. But Jhatkaa seems to be prepared.
"We are going to continue the campaign. we had demanded for no trees to be cut. We are not saying don't build houses. We are saying don't cut trees to build houses. Development cannot come at the cost of environment." campaign coordinator Shikha told News18.
The Jhatkaa campaign is focused on finding alternate avenues of development that do not harm the environment. The group said they will wait for the National Green Tribunal hearing, scheduled on July 4, to chart further action.
While the NBCC has proposed to plant double the number of trees that are cut, many claim that compensatory tree planting has never been successful in the past.