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A Celebration of Forests

ince 2003, Vana Mahotsava, a celebration of forests organised by Godrej, has undergone a change. The festival, formerly planned and executed by the Garden Department, had become limited to the Department itself and had slowly lost its reach. After much deliberation, it was decided that the festival needed to diversify. The subsequent involvement of the Pirojshanagar township’s Environment Management System (EMS) provided an appropriate platform and made a marked difference. The Vana Mahotsava 2003 was unique in that every section of the township participated.

Vana Mahotsava 2004, however, encountered a series of obstacles. Amar Deshpande, Education Officer for the Mangrove Project, left on a 25-day training stint in Chennai, Vivek Kulkarni, Senior Manager, Garden and Mangrove Project, was hospitalised and one of the horticulturists resigned to start his own consultancy. Our manpower was diminishing. Even so, the workforce rose to the occasion to celebrate the event. The result was that with the help of some of the core team members of the township EMS, the Vana Mahotsava 2004 was celebrated with the usual enthusiasm.

Glimpses of Vana Mahotsava 2004

Trees are the pillars of forests. The entire Pirojshanagar campus is decorated with different species of trees. It is a treat to see them in bloom.

So alienated are we from Nature, that we do not even know the names of many trees, leave aside knowing the characteristics and properties of these trees. A small Abhiyan was started on 1 and 2 July to name some of the trees in the Udayachal Primary School. Standard III students, escorted by teachers, Laxmikant Deshpande (better known as Amar) and Arti Kishore, Executive, Garden Department, conducted a survey of existing trees and had interactive sessions to learn more about them.

Identification boards have been fixed on each of these trees. This activity was very popular, and Standard IV students have made a request to conduct similar surveys.

Interaction with rag-pickers

Interaction with rag-pickers towards a pollution-free Mumbai.

An activity sheet was distributed to the students of UPS who attended the Nature trail on trees. The activity sheet was based on the campus trees and on observations made during the Nature trails. The aim of the activity sheet was to reinforce the importance of trees and enhance observation skills. The winners received prizes (products purchased from the Bombay Natural History Society).

The Wilson College Nature Club has been associated with our Mangrove Project for the past few years and is involved in plantation activities at site. This year, too, around 30 members of the Nature Club and some former members planted over 300 saplings of 30 species of medicinal plants. These species have been planted with the view to make a medicinal plants garden around the Mangrove Park area. Efforts are under way to design a park that would cater to different types of flora such as medicinal plants, palms, cacti, orchids, etc. With the help of such voluntary efforts complemented by the Garden Department staff, we are confident of creating an outstanding educational park.

The highlight of this programme was the wide range of enthusiasts. There were children from ages six to seven, to students of Arts and Science, to executives from different companies. Nachiket Mor, Executive Director, ICICI Bank, was present, along with his wife and son. The group undertook the tedious task of digging in the rocky area with good humour. The rain god was also happy and continuously blessed the group with light showers. Everybody enjoyed the session, which was followed by a sumptuous lunch from our Canteen.

Mumbai city produces approximately 7,000 metric tonnes of solid waste per day, the improper disposal of which is posing a great threat to the city’s environment and green cover. Sixty per cent of this solid waste is biodegradable, which can be converted to manure by practising vermiculture.

Trip To The Mangroves

The Senior Citizens?Group of Pirojshanagar visited the area’s mangroves by bus on 6 July, 2004. There were 18 of us. We started from the Hill Side Colony at 8 a.m. Amar Deshpande, of the Mangrove Project, gave us a tour of the mangroves. The view from the tower was breathtaking. Amar painstakingly explained the flora and fauna of the place. We were served hot snacks there and then taken to the Udayachal Primary School where there is a small Interpretation Centre pertaining to the history and geography of the mangroves.

Amar proved to be an informative and efficient guide. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Susmita Singh of the Pragati Kendra, who helped to organise this memorable trip.

Homi Bilimoria
Pirojshanagar Senior Citizens?Group

Senior citizens

Senior citizens enjoy the greenery at the Pirojshanagar mangroves.

A training session on vermiculture and the basics of gardening was conducted for rag-picker women. The Stree Mukti Sanghatanaa, a non-governmental organisation, has floated the Parisar Vikas Yojanaa under which destitute rag-picker women are trained in vermiculture. These women are then employed by housing colonies and societies to dispose of their solid wastes and for maintaining gardens. Around 25 women participated in a three-hour training programme conducted by Arti and Amar. Issues such as sources of solid wastes, classification of wastes, current practices of disposal and their disadvantages, methodology of vermiculture, its advantages and disadvantages, safety precautions, etc., were discussed and demonstrated at the Hill Side nursery in Pirojshanagar.

Arti also explained the basics of gardening such as types of ornamental plants, methods of planting and maintenance required. Some simple techniques of propagation were demonstrated to the participants.

The feedback from participants was encouraging.

The Pragati Kendra of Pirojshanagar has formed a Senior Citizens Club to encourage their participation in the management of the township. A visit by members of the Club to the Mangrove Project was organised in order to make them aware of the initiatives undertaken by the Godrej Management for environment conservation, and to involve senior citizens in such efforts. The participants reached the watchtower at 7.30 a.m. and enjoyed a short morning walk. On the way, they were briefed about the biodiversity of the area, the ecological importance of the mangrove ecosystem, etc. Many of the participants shared their experiences and observations.

Later, participants visited the Mangrove Interpretation Centre where they learnt about evolution, adaptation of plants and animals for survival in Nature and the role that citizens can play in Nature conservation. They were also briefed about various initiatives such as vermiculture, secure landfill, industrial and domestic sewage treatment, rescue of wild animals and the role of different sections in reusing and recycling of wastes. Members of the Club expressed their willingness to participate in environment conservation initiatives planned by the Management to make Pirojshanagar cleaner and greener.

The Wilson College Nature Club

The Wilson College Nature Club in action.

Beckon’s High School, Andheri, visited the Godrej Mangrove Project to mark Eco-Week. Around 52 students from Standard IX were taken for a Nature trail in the project area where they were introduced to the local flora and fauna. Concepts such as wetland, ecosystem, habitat, wildlife management, etc., were explained to the group. The participants got a bird’s-eye view of the area from the watchtower. Later, the students visited the Mangrove Interpretation Centre.

Garden Department