A few months ago, a group of young people from North Kashmir came together and started a campaign named ‘Save Environment Save Kashmir’ with the aim of cleaning waste and dirt-filled water bodies, markets, parks, springs, and residential areas.
Inspired by this campaign, Rifat Abdullah—an award-winning local journalist—joined hands with the group to strengthen this movement.
Since he joined the campaign, Rifat has worked relentlessly towards creating awareness about environmental issues in the valley.
In an effort to bring a new direction to this movement, Rifat decided to plant one crore plants all over the valley, over the next five years. He announced this mission on his Facebook page. The post was as follows: “Mission one crore plants will start from 21st Dec. Be part of this mega mission. It will take time, but we will achieve the target.”
While talking to The Better India, Rifat said, “Our focus is on planting trees and ensure the cleanliness of water bodies. We also want people should avoid the use of polythene bags.”
For achieving this goal, Rifat has travelled to various districts, and across the valley planted and distributed deodar trees to numerous people and volunteers. He has also been advocating for the protection of the iconic chinar trees and forests in the valley.
Along with mission one crore, he aims to create an Oxygen Zone in the Budgam district in the Rathsun Village of Kashmir, the first ‘Oxygen Zone’ in the state. His efforts were commended by Mohammad Haroon Malik, the Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, who also assured him of his full support and cooperation.
In the wake of this campaign, the government has imposed a ban on the use of polythene bags in Jammu and Kashmir. While plastic bags were already banned in the valley, it was implemented only in a half-hearted manner. However, once Rifat became involved, he has ensured that the ban was correctly executed.
A completely hands-on person, Rifat takes part in drives conducted by the SMC (Srinagar Municipal Corporation) to seize polythene bags.
Rifat is extremely active on social media and uses it to its full effect to spread awareness. His videos on environment awareness have been viewed more than two million times, and he has even created a page for the ‘Save Environment Save Kashmir’ campaign which details its mission and vision.
Rifat uses the page to highlight environmental and social benefits of planting trees, posting pictures of volunteers while working, and also to announce the dates for meetups and drives.
The page is hugely popular and has approximately 12000 followers.
In just two months, this campaign has been very successful. The group has planted 55,000 trees and planned to plant 5 lakh more by the end of this year. However, Rifat believes that the group has miles to go. He says, “We don’t take any financial assistance and don’t even have a bank account, but we dream big. This is a critical mission, and we need the support of more and more volunteers to prepare the pits to plant more and more trees.”