Online tool for green crusaders

A new movement is being observed online, off-city. A group of about 15 youngsters, most in their twenties or younger, launched a campaign by using social media to stop the felling of trees along Jessore Road, on the northern fringe of the city, in April.

By JAYANTA BASU
  • Published 24.07.17
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July 23: A new movement is being observed online, off-city. A group of about 15 youngsters, most in their twenties or younger, launched a campaign by using social media to stop the felling of trees along Jessore Road, on the northern fringe of the city, in April.

Within three months, support for the "Save Green" movement has gone up by leaps and bounds. The group that runs the campaign from various Facebook pages and through WhatsApp, now boasts about a thousand supporters and has successfully stopped the felling of trees in various other parts of the city.

Double strategy

"On March 31, some people started felling trees near Rail Gate No. 1 on Jessore Road in Bongaon. Hearing the news, I posted it on Facebook on April 1 and about 10 of my friends and I went and confronted the persons cutting the trees. They did not have any permit and the felling could be stopped temporarily. That was the beginning," observed Ra Hul, a medical student and a resident of Gobardanga, near Bongaon.

But the felling started again. Ra Hul - originally Rahul Biswas, who says he split his first name to draw attention as an activist on Facebook and to stress on the "Hul" (sting) - and his group realised that unless a sustained social media campaign was launched, tree-felling, often supported by government agencies, could not be countered.

In Bongaon, too, various government agencies, who wanted to widen the road, were at work.

"We decided on a double strategy: activism on ground and spreading awareness through Facebook and WhatsApp. Our online petition against tree felling has 9,000 signatories. We thought that if political parties can spread their views successfully through digital media, why can't we? We may not have money like them but definitely have manpower," Ra Hul said.

The Jessore Road tree felling has been put on hold - first the high court issued an order to that effect and then the eastern bench of the National Green Tribunal. About 4,000 trees were supposed to have been cut along Jessore Road.

Taste of success

"Once we realised the issue has caught on on social media , we decided to invest more into it," said Ripon, who has been with Ra Hul from the beginning of the movement. "We created a group of about 400, mostly of young girls, who share important posts. We also created a WhatsApp group of about 150," added Ra Hul.

"We often get around 2,000 likes on Facebook," said Rai, another crusader.

From April 9 till now, the group has organised a series of protests. "On May 14, we undertook a 53km walk from Bongaon to Barasat along Jessore Road to protest felling of trees along the road. Though only a few of us started the walk in early morning, many joined us as they got to know about the event through Facebook and WhatsApp," said Ra Hul.

Future of protest

Now the "Save Green" movement has spread beyond Jessore Road. Recently, when there was an attempt to cut trees along Taki Road, two schoolteachers, part of the movement, hugged trees "Chipko style" and saved them. "Through the online campaign the word got around quickly," said Kallol Roy, a green activist from Barrackpore.

But on Taki Road, almost half of the 1,500-odd trees were cut before "Save Green" arrived.

"There was a plan to cut about 30 trees in the IIEST compound.But a professor, who is part of our online campaign, took the lead to stop the felling there," an activist said.