Children and youth groups turn Kolkata slum dump into a green oasis

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Kolkata recently witnessed the inauguration of Sabuj Dwip, a green oasis born out of a garbage dump, and it was all made by children. Sabuj Dwip is a green space within the premises of Ward 65 Urban Primary Health Center (UPHC). It is located in Tiljala, a densely populated slum in the heart of Kolkata city.

The space was previously a pond, into which debris such as construction waste and household waste was regularly dumped, turning it into an open-air solid waste disposal ground. Gradually, it turned into an unsanitary space for children, adolescents and the elderly, patients visiting the center as well as health personnel who provide services to the community.

The floor caught the attention of young people who engaged in dangerous practices such as drug addiction and gambling after dark. In order to assist in the positive transformation of the space, local youth club members, community group leaders from mothers’ groups, children’s groups and youth groups, residents of surrounding households, staff from the Neighborhood Health Unit, Conservation staff along with the Neighborhood Councilor and his Associates worked tirelessly with the Save the Children Urban Resilience Team to motivate the community to stop littering the space.

BEFORE
AFTER
AFTER

The idea was born out of an urgent need to convert the health center space that was used by surrounding communities as an open dump, into a green oasis that would be maintained by community members themselves. . The campaign in the community has already triggered a positive change in the mindset of the community and their participation has ensured a sustainable green space that could be used by them. Through tactical intervention approaches, environmentally friendly and safe waste was used to transform the space into an accessible and child-friendly zone.

Susmita Guha, Senior Director of West Bengal State Programme, Save the Children, said, “We as Bal Raksha Bharat stand up for children’s rights and you as responsible adults in the community , can we help to do it. This green space is a perfect example of one of those rights to have a clean and green environment.

The journey had several turns and milestones, starting with identifying the space, seeking consensus, approaching Kolkata Municipality and Municipal Health Officer for approval, finalizing designs , organizing campaigns, mobilizing communities, many of whom had inhibitions about the success of such an initiative, cleaning up the debris and finally setting up the whole space with innovative designs and immense hard work.

Creative Footprint, an agency specializing in tactical intervention, participated in the design of the green space and the supervision of the execution. Greenwood, another Kolkata-based agency, was commissioned to execute the design on the ground. He was an exemplary model of collaboration, innovation and creativity.

The whole process took about 15 months, of which the last two months were spent on construction-related work. This indicates the careful process required for such an intervention which is the first of its kind in a densely populated urban slum of a metropolitan city like Kolkata.

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