Sabuj Dweep: Children and Youth Groups Transforms a Dump Yard into a Green Island

Kolkata recently witness the inauguration of Sabuj Dweep, a green space within the premise of Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC) of Ward 65. The place is situated at Tiljala, which is a densely populated slum in the heart of the city of Kolkata.

The space was a pond earlier, wherein debris such as construction rubbish and domestics waste were dumped on a regular basis thereby turning it into a solid open disposal ground. Gradually, it turned into an unhygienic space for children, adolescents and senior citizens, patients visiting the centre as well as the health staff who provide services to the community.

The ground attracted the attention of youths engaging in unsafe practices such as substance abuse and gambling after dark. In order to help in the positive transition of the space, local youth club members, community group leaders from mothers’ groups, children’s groups and youth groups, residents of surrounding households, Ward heath office staff, conservancy staff as well as ward councillor and her associates worked together relentlessly with Save the Children Urban Resilience Team to motivate the community to stop throwing garbage in the space.

The idea has emerged from a dire need to convert the space within the health centre which was being used by the surrounding communities as an open dump yard into an oasis of greenery which would be maintained by the community members themselves.

The campaign in the community has already sparked a positive shift in the attitudinal mind-set of the community and their participation has ensured a sustainable green space which could be utilised by them. Through tactical intervention approaches, environment friendly and hazard-free waste materials were used to transform the space into an accessible and a child friendly area.

Ms. Susmita Guha, Senior Manager, West Bengal State Program, Save the Children said, “We, as Bal Raksha Bharat, advocate for Children’s Rights and you as responsible adults of the community can help us in doing so. This Green Space is a perfect example of one of those rights to have a clean and a green environment.”

The journey has witnessed several turns and milestones starting from identifying the space, reaching a consensus, approaching the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and Municipal Health Officer for approval, finalising the designs, organising campaigns, mobilising communities, many of whom had inhibitions about the success of such initiative, cleaning the debris and finally setting up the entire space through innovative designs and immense hard work.

Creative Footprint, a specialized agency in tactical intervention, helped in designing the green space and supervising the execution. Greenwood, another agency based in Kolkata, was entrusted with executing the design at the field level. It has been exemplary model of collaboration, innovation and creativity.

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