We are all familiar and ardent fans of Mumbai Indians and other such commercial cricket outfits. But if I ask people, “Will you bat for Mumbai Earthlings?’, they will give me a quizzical look! Who are Mumbai Earthlings and what are they selling? The reply is, you, me, and all those who identify themselves as citizens of this great urban sprawl we call Mumbai. We are Mumbai Earthlings and it should be our responsibility and passion to protect the ecological diversity of our mega-city, so that it improves our quality of life and teaches us to live in harmony with our wild neighbours — the birds, bees, bats, beetles, banyan trees, toddy palms, snakes or even the leopards.
Earth Day was celebrated the world over on April 22 and NGOs, corporates and educational organisations undertook action programmes, rallies and workshops to engage citizens to protect their local environments, forests and protected areas. However, most Mumbaikars were either too busy with their money-making businesses, cricket matches or the latest Bollywood gossip, sparing little to no time and concern for their city’s environment. After being so highly educated, don’t you think that it is sad that we don’t realise that like Europeans and other first world citizens, we, too, should actually work towards improving our city’s environment?
Start nature conservation today, as your health is linked to your ‘wild’ neighbours such as birds, bees and so on
Let’s be positive and have faith that a few among our youth, corporate houses and adults will follow the below simple, earth friendly-ideas:
1. Butterfly Gardening — Let’s create a beautiful garden on our window sill, office porch and also attract some flying pollinators. The overuse of synthetic pesticides and household insect repellents kill our pollinators and we need to restore that balance. Plants such as curry leaves, lemon grass, Jamaican spike, lemon/lime, balsams, milkweed plants, castors, Crotolaria, passion flower, Poinsettia and Kalachoe will easily attract a huge diversity of butterflies both to feast and lay eggs (and rear caterpillars).
2. Don’t burn leaves. Instead, undertake terrace farming. Sometimes, refusing to do the wrong thing can make a world of difference. Burning leaves across the city releases tons of CO2 and causes smog and increases the island heat effect in the city. Collect dry leaves and soak them in Amrit Pani made from cow urine, jaggery (molasses) and cow dung, and create a pile on a 2ftx3ftx1.5ft loose brick fencing. It is a faster way to convert leaves to compost and grow herbs, vegetables and fruits such as papaya, guava, jackfruit, mango, amla, jamun or star fruit, in it. If you have a larger terrace, then growing corn, sunflower, brinjal, chillies, tomatoes and other crops is possible too. These terrace gardens help reduce your carbon footprint!
3. Create a cycle library. Many offices, housing colonies and schools have a circulating library. Similarly, you can create a pool of geared and non-geared cycles for staff and residents to borrow and use for weekend trips or local outings, or just like the new-age gym and meditation centres at the work place. A short 4-5km ride during your break could not only be rejuvenating for your body, but is also better than your smoking or excessive tea/coffee breaks!
4. Start a nature or eco-club: Youth, Ganesh or mahila mandals and kitty parties are commonplace, but nature clubs are the need of the day. Screen documentaries, create eco-friendly Ganeshas or monitor sound and dust pollution using new-age apps to transform yourself into an evolved citizen. Set up bird nests, bat boxes and feeding tables for local wildlife such as sparrows, squirrels and even fruit bats. Open up pavers and concrete around your building’s trees to prevent them from dying.
Remember, your health, peace-of-mind and well-being is linked to these wild neighbours. So start nature conservation today. And as everyday is Earth Day, we are all Earthlings. Right?
Anand Pendharkar is an ecologist, who is the founder of SPROUTS, an outdoors and eco-tourism company and SPROUTS Environment Trust, an NGO which works with youth and underprivileged groups and aims to provide a sustainable environment for all