IFS officer Aishwarya Raj converted a dumpyard in Himachal Pradesh into a green zone by planting a large variety of trees and upcycling waste material
Parvati Valley, located around 40 km from Kasol in Himachal Pradesh, is best known as a marvellous tourist attraction. The beautiful valley is part of a number of trails and trek routes to which millions flock during the peak season. Moreover, it offers a majestic view of the confluence between River Parvati and Beas.
However, there was once a time when walking a few 100 meters from the confluence would take you to a dump yard, piled with all sorts of waste generated as a result of the heavy tourist footfall. Over the years, indiscriminate waste dumping had posed a threat of river pollution, and caused the ecosystem around the area to deteriorate. Locals say the waste started piling up around 20 years ago and was never managed efficiently.
However, if you visit today, the view is serene, with no evidence of a shabby dump yard that once held ground here. Instead, it has been replaced with a beautiful landscape garden, with a variety of tree species, creepers, shrubs, herbs along the area, frequented by a variety of beautiful birds.
A wasteland becomes an asset
This has been thanks to Aishwarya Raj, the deputy conservator of the forest of the Parvati division, who has transformed around 2.5 acres of the dump yard into a lush green zone in a matter of months.
“Interestingly, the land where the waste was being dumped belonged to the forest department. Otherwise, we would have needed the support of private stakeholders as well,” Aishwarya tells The Better India.
He says he became aware of the situation during his visit to the area in February this year. “I took charge of the division in 2021 and went on a general inspection in February. I was shocked to see the pile of waste and how no one took responsibility for it. Forest officials informed us that the problem started around two decades ago and had only worsened,” the 29-year-old says.
Coincidentally, the same month, the state government announced the initiative of Swarnim Vatika, a drive to conduct plantations to celebrate the golden jubilee of the state’s formation. Aishwarya decided to seek funds from the programme and solve the crisis.
In a matter of days, 25 tippers of waste, cactus and weeds were collected and disposed of with the waste processing units. Organic waste was turned into vermicompost. “We checked the quality of soil by deep digging and it was found to be in fairly good condition for plant growth. We planted over 400 species of native varieties such as deodar, silver oak, horse-chestnut, jacaranda, golden shower, rose, thuja, cycas, ribbon plant, gladiola, apple, peach, apricot, plum and pomegranate, among others,” he says.
Additionally, discarded or used slates, a stone with which houses are made in the hills, from the neighbouring settlement were up-cycled to create a walking trail. The landscaping was done using river stones to maintain natural aesthetics. No concrete was used in any of the work.
Aishwarya says the area was fenced and security cameras were installed. “I designed the look and feel of the place on the tablet for a month, understanding the local varieties of trees and ecology around it. Around 300 plants are to be planted, and this work will be completed in the coming weeks. The plantation will take good shape by the monsoon,” he adds.
Conservation to complement development
The officer says that senior officials and the local panchayat supported this movement by providing the necessary means to complete the project. “The area will welcome locals and tourists. The mountains are not known to have such recreational spaces or parks for locals. Hence, the open space will have unique value to them,” he says.
Bablu, a local of the area says that earlier, the land was barren and full of thorny plants. “It had even become a spot for anti-social activities and elements. But today, it has been restored to its former glory, and sees visitors from the vicinity during the evening hours,” he adds.
Aishwarya says that during a recent visit to the area, he caught a glimpse of a yellow-billed blue magpie, a Himalayan bird, that had come to visit the site. “This green zone will also become a safe haven for such birds and animals,” he adds. “More such areas are being identified and will be converted into green zones. It will help revamp the area and enrich the environment.”
Aishwarya says the green zone is an example where the forest department demonstrates nature conservation and development of the area. “It is the approach to follow for the environment,” he adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu