Youngsters 'synergise' to make Dubai greener

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Youngsters synergise to make Dubai greener

SynergY, a non-profit group formed by school goers, is rallying students for the cause of increasing Dubai’s green cover

By Mansi Paithankar

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Published: Fri 25 Oct 2013, 10:12 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:42 PM

Members of Synergy at the Jebel Ali Landfill site of Dubai Municipality where they planted trees and had the unique opportunity to see the medical water incineration plant. — Supplied photos

The energy and enthusiasm around these three 15-year-old high school goers, who are planning their Saturday Ghaf tree planting event at Al Barari Nursery, are infectious.

The Skype chat among founder members Simran Vedvyas from American High School, Aishwarya Shetty from Sharjah’s Our Own English High School and Anisha Mishra of Dubai’s Millennium School is nothing short of a professional boardroom discussion.

The Ghaf, also known as the ‘tree of the dunes’, and a solution to desertification is facing extinction due to rapid urbanisation and SynergY, the team says, is trying to reverse this process.

“The time, place, sponsors are all set. The Ghaf tree plants are in place, checked with Al Barari Nursery. Our members are informed. Parents will carpool,” says Simran, the brain behind SynergY, as she runs through her checklist with the other two after school and tuitions on Wednesday. Simran, who is a UN millennium campaign global youth advocate, is also one of the nine from the Middle East region to carry the Olympic flame as a torch bearer in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Aishwarya, the marketing in charge, nods and quickly logs off as she goes back to study for her examination. Anisha adds that they might have more members joining in as she has been speaking to several school students, friends of friends. They have three more events — another 250 trees to be planted, another one on climate change and a third related to how to make environmentally friendly food in November. “This is our 11th event related to increasing the tree cover in Dubai, which includes tree plantation. We have eight core team members who have different tasks ranging from getting members, looking for sponsors, making posters and creative. On Saturday we will be all set,” Anisha adds.

Small beginnings

Reminiscing how SynergY began, Aishwarya explains that it took off as a simple chat between her and Simran during an evening walk. “On one of our walks, Simran asked me if I would like to work with her on this project which seemed exciting. My personal belief is that we should dare to dream and I am glad we did it. Today, SynergY has grown into a 300-member organisation which has the power to influence youngsters to protect the environment,” she says.

Anisha adds that in the beginning it was just their close friends, “a handful of us” who went for a tree planting event. Slowly, the number doubled and the events diversified. “Further on, we went on to have waste management events, green walkathons, and visits to landfill sites teaching us how to treat medical waste. The greatest achievement was to see the numbers doubling up at every event. We do not charge anyone or force anyone to be part of us,” she added. Simran remembers how the biggest challenge came when sponsors turned their backs on SynergY.

“When we prepared the concept note we thought people would jump to be a part of us. But it did not work that way. The first 10-11 sponsors we approached to partner with us slammed the doors. But then we worked around it and identified companies with CSR around environment issues, and it worked,” Simran says. Now several sports companies, seed companies, nurseries, and even the Dubai Municipality, horticulture and education departments have partnered with SynergY in their events. SynergY was even given the 2013 Earth Day award by the Dubai municipal corporation for their tree planting at the landfill site at Jebel Ali.

The SynergY group cannot help thank social media enough for getting their members in place. Blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter have remained their primary source of spreading a word on their events. Each member is encouraged to talk to students in their schools and communities to be part of SynergY. Their parents, the girls think, have been their greatest supporters, especially when there were failures. “They told us failures are the first steps to success. Even today they carpool for us to get to events and meetings, keeping their own leisure time aside on holidays,” Aishwarya adds.

Better participation

While SynergY seems to be surging ahead towards a greener Dubai, Simran says that their biggest regret has been not being able to get local students involved in the same numbers as expatriates.

“While the Dubai municipality has been our biggest supporter, it is the local children whom we want to get involved in SynergY. It is their country first and they must work to increase the green cover and love the environment. Our members are mostly expatriates and we want this movement to be an all-inclusive sustainable movement,” Simran says.


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