Mission possible: Save planet earth

Film screenings, lectures, city farming workshops, installations made from recycled materials, stalls selling eco-friendly knick-knacks and a photography exhibition await you at Sprouts Earth Mela 2011

In an age of information overdose, it is easy to lose track of the smaller ground realities while focusing on the larger picture. So, while nature conservation can be about making simple changes related to how you recycle your garbage, what clothes you wear and what mode of transport you use, it often ends up seeming herculean. 

Over the last four years, the Sprouts Earth Mela has been spreading this message to Mumbaikars through various edutainment initiatives such as the Sprouts Earth Mela. In its fourth edition, the annual fair has chosen Indian Forests as the theme for the year. While the event was annually held on April 22 every year to coincide with the Earth Day celebrations, this year it is being held in December to ensure the hot weather doesn't play spoilsport.

A bicycle rally was a part of Sprouts Mela 2010

The event is the brainchild of Anand Pendharkar, director of Sprouts, an NGO that serves as a platform for environment-related initiatives. "The event is a synergy of fun and learning and we are focusing on the simple changes that can have a strong impact on the environment.

Tree plantation drive

It's about making people feel a sense of ownership towards the ecosystem, which is a collective legacy. While there are one-off film screenings, shopping festivals or rallies based on nature conservation, the Earth Mela is a concentrated effort where people can take part in various events as part of a single festival," he says.

Beach clean-up drive by Sprouts

Power packed line-up
The line-up for this year's festival includes a screening of 36 documentary films including Climate's First Orphans, The Weeping Apple Tree, Kahani Dharti Ki, Goa Goa Gone, Vanishing Vultures and Raghuvansh The Seedman on environmental issues at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

The rest of the events will take place at the Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi. Watch out for the special adventure sports arena where people will be trained in crisis management and nature trails. Sports lovers can join the mini-marathon or take part in a cycle rally while shopaholics can splurge on eco-friendly products such as organic vegetables, cotton T-shirts and bags at 20 stalls spread across the venue.

The keynote address will be by activist Sumaira Abdulali who has been associated with campaigns against illegal sand mining. Some of the other speakers will include architect Parul Gupta who has been campaigning for public spaces to remain public. Snake expert and mountaineer Ashok Captain will talk on everything 'apart from tigers, birds and butterflies' while R Sridhar will demonstrate how to grow your vegetables in the city.

Photography enthusiasts can catch a glimpse of over 200 photographs shot by Sprouts volunteers at the photography exhibition-cum-sale. It includes images of forests, animal habitats and urban ecological

For art lovers there will be an art installation made from garbage by Dominic Anthony. He will also conduct a workshop on how to utilise the garbage collected at the venue to create art. There will be other workshops as well where you can learn the art of origami using recycled paper, make papier-m �ch � and clay products, learn calligraphy, energy management and city farming.  On a lighter note, there will also be face-painting sessions and ecological games. 

Journey back in time
It's been quite a long journey for Sprouts admits Pendharkar. He had envisaged Sprouts as a catalyst for nature enthusiasts to come together and engage in various activities. The group was first formed in 1995 and included sporadic nature trails and events till 2002 when Pendharkar decided to devote himself full time to it. In 2009, the first Sprouts shop was set up in Malad which offers compost, papier-m �ch � products and fish tanks among other things.

For Pendharkar, the love for nature surfaced at 16, when he was forced to attend a trekking camp. While he was initially unhappy to head to a village near Pune, he had a memorable time bird watching, star gazing and soaking in information from nature lovers. Later, he completed an MSc in Wildlife Science and an MBA in Environment Management. After a four-year stint teaching at Doon School and writing for environment-related publications, he chose to devote himself to Sprouts.

"At Sprouts, it's all about the ripple effect or how small changes can change the world. We keep things fun, so for instance,  we organise a visit-cum-clean up drive or teach through quizzes. It all boils down to leaving the place better than when you visited it," he concludes.

Call: 28784889
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Cost: Spot registration fee for adults Rs 125 per day; for students Rs 75 per day

Did You Know?
> Anand Pendharkar has devised an eco-leadership certificate course where undergraduates can learn to earn a living by becoming environment professionals. 
> He has devised the concept of Project Shoebox where children are taught to grow plants in a shoebox to create a sort of mini-forest.

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