How It All Began – FODS Story
One wintry morning in 1983 found Mady Martyn and Florence Pandhi working on a plan to stop the limestone trucks plying through the town of Dehradun from Mussoorie. The town’s water supply was diminishing due to unscientific, open cast mining that was rampant in the aquifer belt above the town. The trucks were endangering the lives of residents throughout the day and night, and a pall of white dust hung in the air over the northern side of the town. Gulab Ramchandani, Ranbir Bakhshi and Vijay Mathur joined in to form the “Founder Group of Five” that became the base, evolving into The Friends Of The Doon Society.
As more and more citizens joined, it became obvious that political and legal action had to be taken if changes were to be made, and joining the Rural Entitlement and Litigation Kendra on a caveat of its public interest litigation, the Supreme Court of India became the battleground. A landmark decision by the Chief Justice brought the limestone mining to a halt. For many months FODS worked alongside the local administration to catalogue and supervise the lifting of mined material lying on roadside sites.
Other activities came into FODS’ focus, tree planting over the degraded hillsides, along with a spotlight on the nearby Rajaji National Park (RNP) which was vital for Doon Valley with its rich bio diversity and its important role in rain pattern for the area. Families of Gujjars (nomadic people who spent the winter with their cattle in the park), were creating man/animal conflicts, leading to degradation in the natural environment and danger to man and beast. FODS helped create a settlement for the Gujjar families outside of the park, with a health centre and primary school, veterinary facilities and education in stall feeding that was to give the community access to a better future. From there FODS took over more than six villages on the fringe of RNP, again with the same objective – to protect the natural environment, reduce man/animal dependency on the forest and provide facilities to the villagers of education, agriculture, veterinary services, health camps, technical training, scholarships, women’s empowerment etc. All with a single purpose – to create better awareness of our eco -fragile environment and save nature’s generous and unique bounty of forests within the valley.