Standing Tall and Green

  Jeevan Singh Thakur, Yogendra Anand |     September 1, 2023
An inspiring story of a school teacher, transforming a barren hilltop into an evergreen haven with sheer grit, indefatigable passion, and true love for nature.
An inspiring story of a school teacher, transforming a barren hilltop into an evergreen haven with sheer grit, indefatigable passion, and true love for nature.

My name is Jeevan Singh. I was duly appointed in government service by my state’s education department in 2010. But I got properly initiated as a teacher only when I was posted at the Government Primary School, Sidhot, based in Salooni Educational Block of Chamba district in Himachal. Promoted to ‘TGT Non-Medical’ in 2017, I got an opportunity to disburse my services in the Government Senior Secondary School, Himgiri, also located in Chamba. Over the past six years since then, I have belonged here.

Along with educational, I’ve always been interested in social initiatives. Perhaps, because I’ve inherited these pursuits as virtues from my parents. Therefore, since I arrived here, in addition to observing the vast campus, I sensed the possibilities of greening and landscaping it. So, I formulated a plan and began working in an organised manner. Among the first tasks I undertook was the beautification and plantation of our ground.

At the site of our school, which is a hill’s peak, wind blows from all directions and loses a lot of humidity. That’s why moisture for any vegetation is a constant requirement. So, I served my plants regularly by watering them daily, particularly, by reaching the school at six o’clock in the morning and post four o’clock in the evening in order to not waste any office time. And regarding the need for gobar (cow dung manure), I collected it in sacks from wherever it was available on-route and dumped it on my vehicle to unload it in our garden.

Observing my diligence—as I performed these chores with a lot of heart—I was appointed as the in-charge of my school’s eco-club in 2018. The same year, my staff honoured me with the Green Valley Award. Soon, I got a chance to meet and became very inspired by, Shri Ravi Sharma, Senior Scientific Assistant in the Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology & Environment. Working under his guidance, our herbal garden received all kinds of support.

Currently, a diverse flora is thriving here, including over 200 plants in the playground and over 500 saplings queued alongside. Deodar, lemon, plum, rose, marigold, jasmine, khanoor, chooli, aadu, khumani, kena, nargis; and medicinal plants like, tulsi, wild onion, ashwagandha, saunf, mulethi, etc. are flourishing here. To protect these species, we nurtured them periodically.

We launched a campaign whereby each student was allocated two plants to inculcate environment consciousness whithin him/her. We also framed a calendar to raise awareness among our school students and in our neighbourhood. Our calendar scheduled all our eco-activities and I gladly contributed approx. Rs. 9,000 towards its expenses. I also invested over Rs. 25,000 on more than a hundred ornamental plants sown in our compound. From 2017–22, our eco-club planted more than 2,500 saplings of which over 700 have already developed into trees. Thus, in 2018–19, our school secured the first position in our district for our special efforts on environment conservation, and also bagged the state’s Environment Leadership Award.

Our rich flora, comprising the herbal and kitchen garden, consumed manure on a large scale. Thus, thrice I’d self-funded the supply of gobar wagons. Many times during shortages, I transported water on my own vehicle to irrigate them. Throughout the COVID when all institutions were closed, I continued visiting the school the entire year to remove weeds, spade the mud, water the plants, and fertilise them.

Due to the lack of a boundary wall, livestock often went astray inside our campus, causing a lot of damage and even triggering feuds. The rampaged plants included some especially purchased decorative species, like mor pankh, green thuja, araucaria, and pencil palm. As a result, some of these were sown thrice to ensure their survival. At times, the locals even thieved some shoots; say, fifty plants, each pot costing Rs. 200 or more! So, new plants were grown in replacement. There were many worse challenges I faced, which I can’t even disclose, while accomplishing this mission.

But now, I feel relieved. Earlier, there was not a single tree which could shade us from the sun. But now each sapling has matured into one. In the past 2–3 years, several honeybees, butterflies, and birds with their nests have got attracted to this one-hectare area. Presently, our entire canopy is sheltering our children and motivating them towards eco-sensitivity.

In appreciation of our eco-club’s endeavours in 2019–20, my school again bagged the state Environment Leadership Award, offered to us by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Jai Ram Thakur, in Shimla.

Following that, in 2020–21, we were again rewarded at the district-level, this time with a second prize. And in 2022–23, we were conferred with the Land Management Award and the Green School Award at the Green School’s Carnival in New Delhi, conducted by the Green Schools Programme of the Centre for Science and Environment. On 5th June this year—the World Environment Day—in Shimla, my school was bestowed with the Chief Minister’s Rolling Trophy. Receiving so many accolades under the banner of eco-club is indeed a matter of great pride for us.

Many people have contributed from time-to-time towards fulfilling our goal. My school principal; Miss Akansha, the Agriculture teacher; Jagdishji, the Lecturer of Political Science; Dharam Singhji; and Rekha Sharma had helped a lot. Plus all the kids of the eco-club were an indispensable helping hand.

The article was translated from Hindi by Anubhuti Sharma.

About the Author

Teaches Science and Maths to classes 6–10 in Government Senior Secondary School, Himgiri, Chamba District, Himachal Pradesh.

Illustrator, Art & Design, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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