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Save Aarey Community and TBWAIndia use Rakhis to save the forests of Mumbai

MUMBAI — Save Aarey Community and TBWA\India have teamed up to launch a public awareness campaign to save the forests of Aarey by tapping into the emotional power of the Raksha Bandhan Festival.

Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony is five times the size of Central Park in New York, and is often called the ‘Last Lung of Mumbai’.

In February 2015, local authorities issued a draft of the Development Plan 2034 – an urbanisation plan that would result in the deforestation of 1,619 hectares of the Aarey Milk Colony reduced to a mere 232 hectares (14% of its present size) in order to make way for roads, malls and a business district.


On International Day of Forests (March 21), Save Aarey Community and TBWA\India launched the ‘Rakhis From Aarey’ campaign, drawing inspiration from the ancient Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan (Protect Relationship).

During the festival, men pledge to protect their sisters under any circumstances, and in return receive Rakhis – knots of protection tied by their sisters. This powerful symbol of love, duty and protection became the identity of the campaign.

Over 1,600 Rakhis, constructed from discarded tree parts from the Aarey Milk Colony, along with personalised letters in Hindi, English and Marathi, were sent out to key decision makers, including Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, and Devendra Fadnavis, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Prominent influencers in India also received Rakhis, including film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, and cricketing hero, Sachin Tendulkar.

A dedicated website and an online film were created to teach viewers how to make their own Rakhis to send to those they believe could help protect Aarey. The website features a gallery of heartfelt letters, written from the perspective of various trees pleading for help.

Audio letters were created and trees outside of Aarey were transformed into listening booths and made emissaries of the movement. The audio letters were then broadcasted on local radio stations over a period of six weeks.

So far, the campaign has garnered over US $2 million in earned media, and more importantly, has persuaded the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to scrap the Development Plan 2034, with the announcement delivered last week.

“Rakhis From Aarey is a very unique campaign reaching out to the influencers of society,” said Manish Gadia from Save Aarey Community. “Not just from Aarey’s point of view, but it will also motivate influencers to put in a small effort to save the forests of Mumbai. More such initiatives are needed from Mumbaikars.”

“The journey of ‘Rakhis From Aarey’, beginning as an initiative from Save Aarey Community and TBWA\India to becoming a full fledged, high decibel citizens’ movement, has been quite rewarding,” said Parixit Bhattacharya, Chief Creative Officer at TBWA\India. “The government putting a hold on the Development Plan 2034 is a great outcome, but the movement will continue until the citizens are assured Aarey is safe for good.”

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