Sabuja Bahini of Dhansar Village transforming barren hilly terrain into lush green territory
A group of resolute village students and youths felt the inevitability of safeguarding their neighboring environment and thus formed ‘Sabuja Bahini'(Green Regiment). Emerging as crusaders in reviving green cover all along the barren hills and terrains, they have triggered penchant into the minds of local people to involve themselves for the growth and protection of vegetation in their vicinity.
Sprawling over 600 acres, Mahaparbat hill region located near Dhansar village of Banki under Cuttack district in Odisha had been remaining deserted since long due to rampant deforestation and lack of plantation activities. The undulating terrain, however, got a fresh lease of life in 2007, when it found Samaritans in form of a group of college students and youths of Dhansar village, who vowed to restore the lost greenery all along the barren hills.
Realizing the inevitability of safeguarding their environs more than 200 school and college students, youths, social workers and senior citizens, pioneered by a team of promising students namely Chittaranjan Sahoo, Santosh Jena, Surendra Panda, Adeita Pradhan, Sanjaya Panda, Sushanta Biswal, Ajit Beura and Santosh Pradhan etc. formed a forum called ‘Sabuja Bahini’ and picked environmentally conducive banyan tree primarily for plantation all over the hill tract, though later they planted other eco-friendly trees like Ashok, Neem, Maulsari(Bakul), Palm trees etc.
“We picked banyan saplings for plantation, because it is environment friendly, dark shade provider, cools the atmosphere by releasing adequate oxygen and not vulnerable to human beings or grazing animals. On the other hand, due to expansion of roads, most of such trees get uprooted every now and then without proper replacements”, said Santosh Kumar Jena, a principal activist of Sabuja Bahini.
Throughout the year, the members of Sabuja Bahini remain busy in collecting saplings, mostly banyan, roaming here and there across different villages under Banki, Damapada and Begunia block areas. They nurture those saplings with required organic manure, proper watering and then temporarily plant those alive in their own developed nursery. Later they transfer those trees for permanent plantation at unutilized wastelands during rainy season.
The activists have been doing adequate plantations along rural roads and wastelands located within 20 Kms radius from their primary working place, i.e. Mahaparbat hill region at Dhansar village. In fact, during last two years they have planted as many as 1100 palm trees along the 5km stretch of the arterial road running between Kantabada and Kendupalli villages in Begunia block and along the 4 km. stretch rural road from Naragang to Brahmapura in Banki Sub-Division. They have also been planting trees like Asoka, Neem and Maulsari trees etc. within many school premises.
Every year World Environment Day is organized amidst much fanfare at Dhansar village on 5th June by Sabuja Bahini. On this occasion different Debate, Essay, Quiz Competitions, Cultural Programmes, Street Plays, Seminar, and Awareness Campaigns based on environment related issues are held. Activists also clean village street, drain and school premises to comply the very purpose of Swachh Bharat Mission.
During Van-Mahotsab Week Celebrations every year, the activists go for massive plantation drive with gusto. On the occasion, awareness sessions among local people are conducted while school students and tribal peoples get enlightened through different sorts of street plays based on the theme ‘how to safeguard the environment’ .
The persistent endeavor by the students in transforming this region into a greenbelt is motivating the local villagers to join hands with the activists towards the noble cause. “Recently, we had taken an initiative to convince all the retired Government Employees of our village to join us in carrying out plantation activities. Our effort fetched dividends, when, most of them responded positively and keenly planted trees around village tanks” said Surendra Kumar Panda, an avid campaigner of Sabuja Bahini.
Once a barren landscape, this hilly region now has been dappled with more than 2000 Banyan, Ashok and Neem, Maulsari(Bakul) etc. trees within few years. Their toiling effort has been gradually converting this region into a nature lovers’ paradise. One and all bestow lavish praise to the exemplary deeds of the Green Crusaders, whenever visit this region.
“Our foremost goal is to drape the Mahaparbat Hill Range fully with Banyan and Peeple trees by 2030. We also are spreading gradually our wings to nearby barren lands in our block, motivating the local people, providing saplings and planting trees with help of them. Moreover, our team lend human labor to those who work for the environment in case of their need. Recently we were felicitated with block, district and state level awards due to our footmark in safeguarding the environment,” said Chittaranjan Sahoo, a leading crusader of Sabuja Bahini.
“In order to save river Mahanadi, the lifeline of Odisha, we are now planning for carrying out extensive plantation activities along the right bank of Mahanadi river shortly. We will also convince people residing alongside the bank of river Mahanadi from Kantilo(Nayagarh District) up to Banki of Cuttack to support our cause,” added Chittaranjan. g