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Green revolution at Matheran

Arguably one of India's best environment events, the Matheran Green Festival wrapped up in one of India's most eco-friendly hill stations. Organising member, Prachi Gawand, tells Ashmak Maity about the festival and their green goals for the future

Q. What's the Matheran Green Festival all about?
A. It is an organic festival that began on May 21 and ended yesterday. The focus was to share all organic habits and living, in any and every sense — from building houses to growing vegetables, making food, controlling waste management, art and everything related. Hence, “green” festival.

A wall painting prior to the festival
A wall painting prior to the festival

Q. Who organises the festival?
A. The New Bombay Design organises this festival. It is a design company based in Mumbai. Matheran Pratishthan, a local body at Matheran, supports the festival. It takes care of all the cultural events happening at the hill station. It's a small village with 5,000 residents. The Matheran Municipal Council also supports it.

Dr. Benny Prasad, performing at the Matheran Green FestivalDr. Benny Prasad, performing at the Matheran Green Festival

Q. What is the purpose of introducing such a unique festival?
A. When we first came here, we started collecting waste products. Being a tourist site, there is no shortage of it. During the recce, we discovered about two acres of land that had become a dumping ground. It's a beautiful area, and we didn't expect to stumble upon this. We decided that this should be thefirst spot to transform into a green area.

We invited Naveen Kumar, a permaculture expert, from Auroville, Pondicherry. The term permaculture means going organic, from making food to making houses. Under the guidance of Kumar, a team of 15 from across the globe, including France and Portugal, as well as some parts of India, came together to work at the dumping ground. Now, you'll spot a permaculture garden in place of that dumping ground, which is open to visitors.

The second aim was the upliftment of the residents' lifestyle by providing them with sources of income. What men do is ride horses, because this is the only vehicle-free hill station in Asia. But for women, income is a problem. So, workshops were conducted to teach them to make cloth bags. They also attended dance workshops and painting workshops where one could learn how to make artwork out of waste, all of which was on display. The sale proceeds from the exhibition will go to the locals and towards the festival, so that we can do more such projects.

Q. Is this festival taking place for the first time?
A. Probably. We are a team of artists from the film industry. When we work on sets, lots of garbage gets accumulated, like clothes, fibre castings and high-quality goods. But we have to dispose of it after a single use. So, we brought such objects here to organise and decorate the venues; we also conducted workshops with waste material. We created this event using objects that have no further use. We don't have sponsors from private establishments.

Why does this festival matter?

We had participants from 24 countries. Every musician, painter or artist spoke on conservation, use and re-use of plastic, recycling waste and other issues related to the protection of nature. People from across India communicated and networked with the idea of going green and its implementation in daily life.

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