In last few decades, development at Agra has been rapid with erosion of green cover as well as water bodies which have been periodically highlighted by environmentalists and even the local press of Agra.

While we were adopting and making changes in our life style we have ignored the price which we will have to pay for this ill thought development. We have seen the effect of this partial development that we were contributing towards destruction of the city, as the citizens never thought of giving back responsibly what we were taking from nature. This irresponsible attitude of consuming the resources without trying to replenish them contributed to destruction that surpassed all other benefits of our partial development. However things are now looking bright with many citizens and NGO’s of Agra coming together in planting more trees and on other environmental issues. SPHEEHA (Society for Preservation of Healthy Environment and Ecology and Heritage of Agra) has been at the forefront of taking-up environmental issues of Agra at every possible forum to conserve what we are still left with, and try to replenish whatever we can. It has also been one of the pioneers in organising regular mass tree plantations in this city since 2006.

It is easy to plant trees but looking after them is a great task. However SPHEEHA takes this in a responsible manner by performing anti-termite treatment, pruning, manuring and building tree guards to protect these trees from stray animals. It has also invested in a water-tanker to water them through out the year. A dedicated staff looks after these trees like their own extended family thus ensuring the survival rate of over 85%. It gladdens our hearts that many others now follow our example and understand the importance of green cover in this city.

SPHEEHA organised its Inaugural Monsoon Tree Plantation function near Dayalbagh gymnasium on 27th July 2016. Over the years SPHEEHA has planted over 3500+ trees in Agra and this year it is planting another 300 trees as a part of its Monsoon Tree Plantation Drive. The focus is not just on greenery but ensuring that these trees benefit the over-all well-being of the residents of the city; thus emphasis is being laid on flower bearing trees and medicinal plants. Trees being planted are Albania Amana, Amaltas, Neem, Vajaradanti, Mehendi & Rose Climbers. The produce of these medicinal plants will be used in Dayalbagh Ayurveda Pharmacy.

This is a story of a soul that prefers the life of a turtle to that of a human:

I am Chiru, the turtle and I live in the verdant forests of Vana Pradesh. Unlike other animals of the forest, I am a little different as I come from the region of higher consciousness. In my previous birth, I was a human being. My soul went through various cycles of births to reach the human form, which is supposed to be the best and the only form that can liberate a soul. However, having suffered at the hands of fellow human beings, I have little to eulogise about the species. They suffer from ego, anger, jealousy and greed. They can physically harm each other and even commit rape and murder. They hoard, cheat, steal, waste and do many more unpleasant things.

During my 90-year stint as a human, I came across this small group of evolved souls who pleaded with people to live their lives in a worthy manner. But the rest of the human race treated them like weeds that have to be obviated. This is why, when I realised that I was nearing the end of my journey as a human being, I pleaded with God to either liberate me from the cycle of births or give me another form, never mind if it were some rungs lower than the human form. Perhaps, God took it up as a special case and allowed me to take birth as s turtle.

Being born as a turtle has its advantages. As they have a long life-span, turtles get to observe effects of long-term changes around them. I am slow, deliberate and meditative. I am not impulsive. In fact, no resident of Vana Pradesh is rash. Cheetah kills only when she and her cubs are hungry. Snake doesn’t kill wantonly. Even the much-maligned close relative of man — I mean Monkey – does not shear the branches of the tree where he lives to eat his favourite jamun.

There is no ego or jealousy at play. Crow is not envious of Peacock’s feathers. Elephant is happy with its shape and doesn’t aspire to be as slender as Giraffe. I don’t want to gallop like Horse. All the tales that you have read in folktales and fables have been spun by human beings, inadvertently reflecting their own traits. ‘For each, his own’ is the motto here. We live according to our nature. Hence, we live peacefully. In fact, we live in complete synchrony with existence. Nature is respected and no one dares do anything against nature. Here, lakes and ponds are not dirtied, trees are not felled and the air is not polluted.

We are happy that we are not burdened by philosophies. We are no longer Hindus, Muslims, Brahmins and Catholics. We are not white or black, neither beautiful nor ugly. Gold, diamond and pearls mean nothing to us. Who cares what new car Merc has launched. To hell with botox and silicone implants. These frivolities are for humans who hope to take all these to Nirvana Land. We live in tune with existence, working our way to Nirvana. Vana Pradesh is our Mother Earth and she is all we need. She takes care of us, protects us, and nurtures us and we reciprocate with the same intensity; something which humans refuse to learn. May be some day they will…

(Published in The Speaking Tree, March 21, 2013/Contributed by SPHEEHA Associate Member – Ranjeni A Singh)