Girls of Piplantri - PhMuseum

Girls of Piplantri

Michael Rhebergen

2019

In a village in the Northwest of India a hundred and eleven trees are planted for every girl being born since the death of one single girl in 2007.

The dry and rocky department of Rajasthan is known for its marble production. The large open-pit mines create employment, but have a negative environmental impact: using millions of litres of water a day and dumping huge amounts of debris. Together with longer periods of droughts this accumulated in high levels of water stress in the region.

However since the death of Kiran Paliwal twelve years ago things started to change in the village of Piplantri. Community members planted a tree in her remembrance at the edge of town; where after the new tradition of planting trees for baby girls was being born. In a yearly ceremony parents start planting the first trees for their daughter. The practise not only changed the arid landscape into a forest of fruit trees, it also transformed the perception of girls who were seen as a burden in a largely male oriented society.

Within twelve years time more than 400.000 trees have been planted, creating new forms of employment (also for women), and together with smart water management the trees helped restore groundwater levels.

In India the girls of Piplantri are an example for more gender equality and climate change adaptation.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • Girls from surrounding villages walk up the slope to participate in the ceremony on the 14th of August in Piplantri.
    In India people celebrate Raksha Bandhan every year, a tradition to honour your brother. As a sign of your love and to symbolically protect them a bracelet is tied to his wrist. Here in Piplantri girls do the same ritual in an annual ceremony and tie a bracelet to a planted tree the day before Raksha Bandhan. For every girl being born a hundred and eleven trees are planted in Piplantri since 2007.

  • A picture of Kiran Paliwal is tied to a tree in the village of Piplantri to remember her death. Kiran died in 2007 when she was fifteen years old. Her death sparked a series of changes in the region. A new tradition started to plant a hundred and eleven trees for every girl that is being born. This is a holy number within Hindu religion and symbolises the father, mother and daughter.

  • Shyam Sunder Paliwal has just spoken to the women and all the new-born baby girls at the annual ceremony in Piplantri. He was the village leader from 2005 till 2010 and started the tradition to plant a hundred and eleven trees with every girl being born.
    Twelve years before this exact place was covered with rocks and sand and became one of the first tree nurseries of Piplantri.

  • In Puthol a sign is advertising the village and region of Piplantri. The philosophy of the village is spreading to neighbouring villages that are adapting the ideas. People from all over the country visit the village to learn from their concepts, the planting of trees, harvesting of rainwater, respecting the rights of girls and women.

  • The largest open-pit mine in the region is owned by R K Marble, the largest mining company of the region and the biggest producer of marble globally. The sinking groundwater levels are widely attributed to the marble-mining industry in the region and longer periods of extreme droughts.

  • Two mineworkers inside Mumleshwar Marble mine. The area surrounding Piplantri is particularly known for its large marble-mining industry. Rajasthan is India’s largest sandstone producing state and mining is the most important source of employment in the region. Together with longer periods of droughts the mining industry is held responsible for sinking ground water levels.

  • Near the village of Puthol marble dust lies on the side of the road. Half of the production of marble is waste and is left somewhere in the landscape.

  • Inside the kitchen of the guesthouse in Piplantri the staff is preparing food for the ceremony. Everybody at the ceremony will receive a lunch. Most of the kitchens here in the area have open wooden stoves. Although trees are cut for firewood, "people are now more conscience of their environment and the function of trees," tells Shyam Paliwal explaining the changes in behaviour and the attitude towards the environment after they started with the tradition of planting trees.

  • Women walk home with a harvest of grass for they cows and buffalo’s. In twelve years time more then 400.000 trees have been planted in the region. Together with water basins to collect rainwater groundwater levels have steadily risen enabling people to grow more food during the year.

  • A few days after the ceremony Shyam (in the middle) speaks with a group of visitors who came to see the village. He explains what is being done apart from planting trees: "Before the rainwater just washed away. Now we catch and store it in basins." After all these years the village has become a role model for other villages struggling with droughts for example.

  • Kamya Paliwal (12) stands for a portrait at the primary school in Piplantri. Twelve years ago people started planting a hundred and eleven trees for every girl being born in Piplantri. Over 400.000 trees have been planted since then. Also for Kamya a hundred and eleven trees were planted.

  • Asha Rajput (right) is waiting with her daughters to plant the first tree for her youngest daughter during the ceremony on the 13th of August. Baby-girls are carried in woven baskets to the place where the trees are planted. In twelve years time more then 400.000 trees are planted in the name of newly born girls.

  • Women harvest grass for their cows and buffalo’s. In twelve years time more then 400.000 trees have been planted in the region. Together with water basins to collect rainwater groundwater levels have steadily risen enabling people to grow more food during the year.

  • Sisters Basanti (11) and Sangita (8) sit in the grass while their mother is cutting grass for their buffalo’s. In twelve consecutive years over 400.000 trees have been planted. For the two sisters two hundred and twenty-two trees have been planted.

  • Young boys hang out in front of the primary school in Piplantri. It was normally boys who finished school, because girls got married at an early age. Now a family receives a fixed deposit in the bank for their daughter, which is released when turns eighteen, taking away the financial burden of the dowry system for marriage. The new traditions are slowly changing cultural perceptions on women and girls in an otherwise male oriented community.


Newsletter