Thursday, June 1, 2017

Emulate these heroes

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the US Consulate General, Mumbai, are organising Green Heroes Film Festival in Mumbai on Tuesday. This programme will recognise individuals and organisations who work relentlessly at grassroots level to protect the environment in their neighbourhood and communities.

As part of this effort, TERI identified Green Heroes in five cities in western India — Ahmedabad, Indore, Mumbai, Panjim and Pune — and enabled up-and-coming storytellers to make films on the initiatives of Green Heroes through workshops in each of these cities. The programme has resulted in 22 insightful, heart-warming short films on the heroes who are working in diverse fields such as forest and water conservation, composting, wildlife protection, waste management and clean energy.

Four of them are from Pune — Jeevit Nadi Foundation, Sunil and Priya Bhide, R Cube, Charity Store and Sharad Shinde from Mawal.

Three Green Heroes share their stories with us:

Cause of a river
A group of Punekars are working to ensure that the Mula-Mutha river and its eco-system thrives and the future generations be a part of it. For the first few years, Punekars, now formed into a group called Jeevit Nadi, spread awareness about the importance of saving our rivers from pollutants. In the following years, along with actual work there has been awareness too.

Shailaja Deshpande of Jeevit Nadi Foundation, says, “From last year, we are concentrating on awareness+action programmes. Our first programme is toxic-free lifestyle and promoting bio-degradable products. Various studies have shown that 70 per cent pollution of Mula-Mutha is domestic, while industrial waste amounts to 30 per cent. This tells us that individuals can rectify the mistake. So now we are meeting with corporates, visiting colleges. We are telling them that there are two bio-degradable products that they can use. One is toilet cleaners and another is floor cleaners. This will reduce the pollution and also reduce the load on Sewage Treatment Plans (STPs).”

The members are also promoting Mission Ground Water actively in Aundh, Pashan, Baner areas. Plus they are also networking with other organisations to drive this cause.

“The second awareness+action programme is building an app, which will tell people who are buying land, to know whether it falls under Blueline and Redline areas (areas which encroach on the river bed),” adds Deshpande.

Their third action plan is ‘adopt a stretch’. “If the river/ stream/ rivulet flows through your neighbourhood, people should come together to start a clean-up activity. We want people — individuals, corporates, Ganesh mandals and temple trusts — to take ownership of that particular stretch,” she explains.

The foundation also focuses on riparian vegetation. Riparian vegetation means the grass, bushes, shrubs, trees that grow alongside the river bank. “This vegetation is the association between ground and water. It recharges ground water and provides support to the river body,” adds Deshpande. Next, the members have also approached schools to include ‘river’ in their curriculum. “That means, the students can study the river and its eco-system. Make projects which will be a part of their science and environment subject. The students will thus be involved with their eco-system,” she points out.
(The film is called Jeevit Nadi)

The urban agriculturists
The outside temperature hovers between 40 and 42 degrees Centigrade. But inside the home of Priya Bhide, it’s 3-4 degrees cooler. It’s all due to the efforts of the Bhide family, who enjoy physical labour, and therefore do not have TV and AC installed in their home. Says Bhide, “We are urban agriculturists. More like waste managers. We collect dry leaves, vegetable waste, segregate them, create compost and use it for our plants on terrace. This is our main season of work — from November to May. Our neighbours send us some 20 gunny sacks filled with leaves and waste. We haul it up to our terrace. That’s our idea of enjoyment. We enjoy physical labour.”

Priya Bhide’s terrace garden is teeming with vegetables
The former physiotherapist, Bhide, currently, is involved in guiding people who want to set up similar gardening, composting or waste management projects.

“Many people in Bhandarkar Road and nearby areas are into urban agriculture. Then, there are people from other cities, who too want to change their lifestyles for the better and need tips. I make presentations, attend phone calls, reply to emails and also write for a Marathi daily on how to create your own green corner,” she adds.

Bhide has taken up waste management and gardening project on a bigger scale, but her advice to beginners is to take baby steps. “You feel reassured and satisfied only when you see results. And, that takes time,” says she.

Constantly innovating and following a green lifestyle, the Bhides use drained water for their terrace garden. “Every year, we hear and read stories of drought and water scarcity. We require a good amount of water for our terrace gardens. So we collect drained water from the bathroom, washbasins in a storage tank. We pull it up to the terrace via a pump, where it’s filtered and then used to water the plants. In this way, we use about 1000 litres of drained water for our garden,” explains Bhide.

She also points out that they haven’t faced any problems because of their large terrace garden — no mosquito menace, etc. “Only before monsoon, we ensure that the drains at home are not choked with leaves,” she adds.
(The film on Sunil and Priya Bhide is called Green Soil)

Don’t be a consumerist
A father, waiting to pick up his daughter from a birthday party, to kill time, enters a mall. A few minutes later, he walks out with a shopping bag, filled with items worth Rs 800. That man is architect Prashant Shah.

Someone who is always conscious about energy issue, Shah was stunned with his impulsive shopping. “I didn’t need half the stuff that I bought. That happens with most of us. Strategically placed eye-catching objects in a mall or store lure us and we end up buying them. We hoard stuff in our cupboards and wardrobes and then they are hauled up to the loft because of lack of space,” explains Shah.

That incident and two other connected episodes set Shah thinking. And, he started Rcube, a Charity Store, which believes in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

“I was once giving a lecture and quoted a principle of Jainism — Aparigraha — which means ‘less is more’. It means that what is in excess should be given away, shared, distributed. A lady in the audience asked, ‘Give it away where, to whom?’ That set me thinking. And, then when I was travelling in the UK, I came across many charity stores on high streets. The West is admirably ahead of us in ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ philosophy,” he says.

Five years ago, Shah started Rcube in Mayur Colony. “People can donate clothes, books, toys, appliances in good condition. And, those who can’t afford actual goods, can buy them from this store at nominal price,” adds Shah.

His only wish is that more such stores open up in Pune, so that the gap between the haves and have-nots is bridged. To this effect, Shah sends a WhatsApp message every Saturday to his group. For instance, he says, how a t-shirt is manufactured. He provides a graphic of the assembly line — from where the cotton is produced to the end product. “There is so much of energy and cost involved. We can’t afford to turn a blind eye to this. Do you really need 40 pair of shoes? Or 50 pairs of shirts and trousers? Think about it,” he concludes.
(The film on Prashant Shah and Rcube is called Aparigriha)

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