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GOA’S FIRST CAR-FREE DAY
By Saloni Sardessai
May 13, 2012. A day all evironmentalists in Goa and citizens of Panjim had been planning and looking forward to. Wondering why? Well, because of NoMoZo of course! NoMoZo, which is short for “Non Motorized Zone”, was supposed to be, as the name suggests, a day with no vehicles. And boy, was the day a grand success!
NoMoZo was organised by a group of enthusiastic citizens to build an awareness programme about growing pollution and deterioration of the environment. A part of the Dayanand Bandodkar Road, from Kala Academy to 2 STC Building, was blocked for all vehicles. Yes. Blocked for two whole hours. And the traffic, you ask? Well, that was diverted to the inner roads. Besides, it was a Sunday when Goans are at their ’sussegaad’ best, so the amount of traffic we had to deal with was considerably less. On that approximately 1 km stretch, people were doing what they have always wanted to do, but couldn’t due to the road being taken over by vehicles all the time. From playing football, cricket, badminton, cycling and skating to quizzing, artwork and treasure hunts. “This was just amazing! I would have never even dreamt of playing my favourite game, football, on my favourite road!”, said Akshay Juwarkar, jumping with joy.
Around hundred and fifty people participated in this event. What a great start to something so awesome! There was even a little stall with red velvet and chocolate cupcakes and lemonade, which made everyone want to be there even more. The best part was, they were for free. “With all those yummy red velvet and chocolate cupcakes being given away free, the event might as well have been called OM NOM NOMOZO”, quipped Shreyas Naik. Some of my friends were even lying down on the road and as usual, clicking pictures for Facebook. It was something no one had ever experienced. The most beautiful and main road of Panjim was blocked for two hours. Some people even thought this was a joke.
“NoMoZo was a great initiative in bringing about awareness about the existence of non motorized zones within city limits”, said Pritha Sardessai. So, as I said this before, NoMoZo was a grand success and everyone is eagerly waiting for the next one.
WHERE I LIVE: WATER ISSUES IN DWARKA
By Khadija Khan
Dwarka is a suburb in Delhi, located around forty minutes away from Connaught Place, the heart of Delhi. It’s filled with high rise apartment buildings. Most parts of modern day Dwarka are now being developed under the ‘Urban Expansion Projects’ of the Delhi Development Authority. One of the largest residential areas in Asia, it is supposed to have a “Zero Tolerance” policy towards common misuses of land and the disobediences of any existing laws and regulations, such as encroachments, which are frequently thought to be flouted in other parts of Delhi. It is also frequently referred to as the “Model Township” and is also thought to be the most organized and cleanest of all parts of Delhi and nearby townships.
However, this is not to say that Dwarka is without its fair share of problems, and the biggest one among all is that of the quality of water. The water here is of a very poor quality and is full of several impurities. It is ‘hard’ water and is not even usable in most places. It is full of mineral salts (as calcium and magnesium ions) that limit the formation of lather with soap. As a result, washing clothes, utensils or even taking a bath and shampooing one’s hair is a daily ordeal here. Furthermore, clothes washed in hard water look greyish and feel harsh and scratchy. Dishes and glasses appear spotted when dry. Hard water causes a film on glass shower doors, shower walls, bathtubs, sinks, faucets, etc. Hair washed in hard water feels sticky and look dull. Water flow is also reduced by deposits in pipes. Moreover, many times a day, the water that flows out of the taps is muddy brown-a clear indicator of the poor quality of water provided.
The reason for the same is that in order to fulfil the daily water requirement of the fifty thousand or so families living here, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) takes water from the adjoining state of Haryana but doesn’t treat it adequately to make it potable. In the rush to ensure that water reaches the residents, this basic and most important step is forgotten with the result that most of the water flowing from the taps here is of a very bad quality.
Mr. Kapoor, a resident of Dwarka and an avid gardener, is unable to water his plants with this water as his plants start wilting. As a result, he has to buy mineral water and use that instead. Mrs. Bagrodia, another resident, is unable to wash her face with the water coming out of the taps as it leaves her skin itchy and her eyes red. As a result, she has to resort to using the precious little water that she purifies through her own highly expensive water purifying system that she had to purchase, to merely wash her face. Several similar stories abound of the hardships faced by the residents here.
Hard water is also potentially damaging for the environment as it contributes to inefficient and costly operation of water-using appliances. Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals that can contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances. Pipes can become clogged with scale that reduces water flow and ultimately requires pipe replacement.
Many housing societies here are now pooling in money to buy expensive water treatment plants to clean the water supplied and then send it up to their apartments. Along with this additional expense, they are also being charged for the water supplied by the MCD at the same rate at which the other residents of the posh south Delhi colonies are charged. They understand that this is a problem for most other Delhi residents as well. But their only question is, why is it that the water sent to their houses is not accorded the same treatment as that sent to the houses of ministers, politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi? Do they also not deserve to get access to clean water for which they are also paying the same amount?
TRASH TROOPERS: THE CHILDREN OF DHARAVI’S 13 COMPOUNDS
Text by Shagorika Ghosh, 17. Photos by Maitri Bheda, 19 and Abhishek Kori, 20
We visited Dharavi recently to see how waste is recycled. It is at Dharavi’s 13 Compounds that a major part of Mumbai’s waste gets recycled. Dharavi is probably the world’s largest recycling unit where almost 80 per cent of Mumbai’s dry waste is recycled, sometimes by children younger than us.
According to Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Mumbai produces more than 6,500 tons of garbage every day. That’s 13 million pounds, roughly equivalent to 17 fully loaded Airbus A380s!
The waste generated daily by the city cannot be entirely picked up by the municipal corporation, and the gap is filled by Mumbai’s rag-pickers who pick up the tons of garbage littering the streets. For this work they are not paid by the city and the city does not recognize them as a workforce. These thousands of children women and youth earn a living by selling the dry waste to scrap dealers, and most of the rag-pickers make barely 75-100 rupees a day.
We spent a day at 13 Compounds. We first met Mr. Vinod Shetty, founder of the NGO ACORN Foundation (India), which works with ragpickers in Dharavi. Then we set off to visit 13 Compounds, accompanied by two ACORN committee members Laxmi and Rafi. Both are former ragpickers. Laxmi is still involved in plastic segregation.
At 13 Compounds, we interacted with many children. There are children who work here as ragpickers and attend school too. They spend their mornings studying, afternoons working and evenings playing. There are some kids as young as six and nine who work as ragpickers to supplement their family’s meager income. Some of these children in are sole income providers for their families. When an eleven year old is the sole breadwinner in his family, he does not attend school. With an ailing mother, deceased father and eight younger siblings, how can he afford to?
There are some children here who are lucky enough not to need to work as ragpickers at all – like the daughter of ACORN committee member Laxmi. But don’t think she is idle. After attending school, this seven year old takes care of all household chores — from cooking to cleaning. Then there is Navin, a football player, dancer and artist. He is very mischievous and has been nicknamed ‘Shiva’ by his friends — not after the God of Destruction (though that would be oddly apt), but after the silver screen baddie played by Rajnikanth. When we met him, however, he was shy and exceptionally well-behaved, much to the amusement of all those who have known him at his worst. He also complied with our request to draw us all something.
All the children we met were friendly. Some were shy and reserved at first, but once they warmed to us, we were treated like long-lost friends. We were shown how to execute Bollywood dance steps, told us about their lives and posed for many photos with us and generally made us feel welcome. When asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, with the sole exception of one who asserted she wanted to be a doctor, all the kids replied ambiguously. We got a lot of ‘we’ll see’s, ‘I don’t know’s” and myriad references to ‘naseeb’ (fate).
After spending quite a lot of time with the children, we proceeded to the site where rag picking is done. We made our way down a narrow, slippery, makeshift stairway. There were houses on both sides of this barely 3ft-wide stairway, and we were regarded with great curiosity all the way. We reached a wide pipe that was featured in the movie Slumdog Millionaire (as we were told, repeatedly, by the residents). We met Mangala Mousi, another committee member of ACORN. Her work-toughened hands were continually sifting through metal waste with a magnet, looking for iron, as she talked to us. She had been doing this for so long that her palms had become really hard. So much so that they weren’t even pricked by the sharp iron pieces that she cleaned off the magnet at regular intervals.
We then made our way to the mounds of garbage where a few ragpickers were still working despite it being evening. The gigantic mounds seemed to go on forever. Rafi told us that the mounds were divided into sections. One of them was only for women to work in.
After spending quite a few hours in 13 Compounds, we left to go home. We had learnt so much about amazing people society chooses to ignore, about resilience and positivity. We came away with first-hand information about a whole section of people, and about children whose childhood was so different from ours, and yet we could connect with them. And we came away with a drawing made by the little boy fondly known as Shiva, to remind us of our encounter.
It’s time to cut down on garbage. Mumbai produces 6000 to 7000 tonnes of garbage every day. We are generating garbage faster than nature can break it down. When you throw out that bag of garbage, or your gadgets and gizmos, do you think about where it’s ending up? It’s not disappearing – it’s building up around you… on landfills around the city, in the sea, in groundwater. Most of the dry waste that can be recycled – like plastic, paper, metal etc – is taken to Dharavi’s 13 Compounds where it is sorted through and recycled, sometimes by children.
What we saw made us realize that it’s time we took responsibility for our garbage. Changing your habits is the key — think about ways you can reduce your waste when you shop, work and play.
NEIGHBOURHOOD RECYCLERS: MY RADDIWALA: A profile of Namdev Arde, 58 years old
By Mehr Basantani, 9
Where are you from? Baramati
How long have you been working as a raddiwala? I have been working in this field for 37 yrs, since 1973.
How much do you pay for everything? Paper Rs5 to Rs7 a kg; plastic for Rs12 to Rs15 a kg.
What do you buy? I buy any old thing but mainly newspapers, old books and magazines, glass bottles, and plastic items like containers and bottles.
What’s your day like? I wake up at 7am, and do all my household work till 10 am. Then I get ready and leave for work. I go from house to house on cycle buying old things which people want to dispose of. These are put in sacks and collected on a handcart which I keep at a fixed place in Union Park in Khar (West). Finally, I return home around 8.30pm with all the stuff.
Why do you do this work? Because I did not get a job for a long time and I had to survive. So took up this work.
NEIGHBOURHOOD RECYLERS: MY RADDIWALA: A profile of Khimji Kuver, 28 years old
By Krisha Bastawala, 9
What are your working hours? 10 am to 8 pm.
What are the different things you collect? I collect old newspapers, carton boxes, plastic boxes, bottles, old furniture and old appliances.
How much do you pay for everything? Rs5 per kg of raddi; Rs12 per kg of plastic; Rs 10 per kg of iron; Rs50 per kg of aluminum.
What do you do with it? We sell it to wholesalers who recycle it and make new things out of them.
What is the most expensive thing that you have bought? An old colour TV.
What is the strangest thing you have ever bought? That would be a fan with a chandelier in the centre.
Where are you from? I am from a village called Bhachau in Kutch, Gujarat.
What happens to the kabadi (waste) in the rainy season? All my things become wet and we are forced to sell everything at low prices.
NEIGHBOURHOOD RECYLERS: MY GARBAGE COLLECTOR: A profile of Roopa, 42 years
By Krittvee Bastawala, 9
What time do you start working? I work from 8.30am to 2.30 pm.
How many societies do you collect garbage from? I collect garbage from three societies — approximately 30-40 houses.
How much garbage do you collect? Every 15 houses, 1 drum gets filled up.
What do you do with the garbage? I wait for the municipal garbage van to come and then we empty all the garbage in it.
But the van comes at 11 ‘o’ clock. What do you do after that? After the garbage collection and disposal, we clean the staircases and the compounds of the buildings.
You work for long hours. Don’t you feel hungry? Yes I do feel hungry. People in the houses are very nice – they give us tea. And every day, someone gives us leftover food to eat.
How can we make your job easier? You can separate wet and dry garbage.
Do you do anything else other than this job? No. I have to go home and take care of my house and kids.
Where do you stay? I stay in a hut at the Bandh area in Khar (West).
Where are you from? I am from Gujarat.
GREEN WARRIORS: AVANTI NIKETAN SOCIETY
By Shavi Jhawar and Mitali Gore
Water cuts and water shortages are a persistent problem for most Mumbaikars on and off, But not for residents of Avanti Nitekan society, in Kings Circle, Dadar, thanks to their long term successful plan of rainwater harvesting.
After a lot of hardwork, the residents hit on the idea of tapping the abundant rainfall Mumbai gets every year. Their idea has proved to be a boon for the housing society. The water harvested in the 4-5 months of monsoon is about 25-30 lakh liters, which is saved up in the bavdi, or underground water tank and used by everyone for tasks like gardening, washing cars and to clean their houses. The society has now been able to cut down on their water tanker expenses. They have planned and executed their rainwater harvesting unit by devoting four hours a week. The residents are very keen on making themselves self-sufficient and have also started a garbage segregation project. On their horizon is the setting up of solar panels to save electricity.
We think this is one of Mumbai’s most self-sufficient and green societies and everyone should take a leaf from their book.
GOOD IDEAS: Zany bags from used plastic
By Maitri Bheda, 19
Imagine your college bag made of cloth — colourful, fashionable, trendy. Now imagine a knitted bag same as your bag, not made from any cloth or fibre but with plastic bags just like the ones you get from a supermarket or a shop. Yes, a knitted plastic bag which looks like a snazzy well-designed handbag.
Cristen Rene has been making trendy handbags, caps and purses from plastic bags. Cristen is a resident of Texas and had visited India last year.
During her visit, she found that the amount of plastic used here was enormous. She thought of doing something and came up with a novel idea of making handbags from used plastic bags. She came back in July this year and held workshops in Mumbai and Gujarat to spread this innovative idea of hers. One of her workshops took place in Mahim in Mumbai and I got chance to attend it. I saw so many people crocheting zany bags out of thick plastic strands — a lady in her sixties, a small boy sitting on his mothers lap, burka-clad women, girls in spaghetti tops, men.
Cristen’s plan is to find groups of people interested in learning how to crochet with plastic bags. She says that she would like to “visualise turning the plastic bag crochet idea into a larger project – one that involves selling recycled plastic bag items online and sending the money back to these communities.”
OF GRAND TRUNKS AND FESITY WOMEN
By Maitri Bheda, Shagorika Ghosh, Parina Muchhala, Kushal Umakant and Abhishek Kori
More than a century old trees in a botanical garden to be replaced by a Singapore-style zoo? That would mean less trees, and more animals in captivity. When Jalebi Ink’s reporters heard about this rather bizarre idea that BMC, Mumbai’s municipal authority, is planning to execute, they were stumped. They decided to spend a day at the more-than-a-century-old botanical garden and met a group of eco warriors who are trying to stop the BMC.
Spread across 53 acres in Mumbai city is our Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, more commonly referred to as Rani Bagh. Despite being in the heart of the city, it is an oasis of peace and greenery. Visitors can be soothed by the sounds of birds chirping and admire the tall, gnarled trees. Established in 1861 as Victoria Gardens, Rani Bagh has a total of 3,170 trees of 227 different species including many rare ones. It’s a perfect natural lab for botanists and environmentalists. It is rightly known as the lungs of the city, and because of its minimal entry fee, it is accessible even to the poorest of poor.
However, this rare stretch of greenery is under threat. In 2007, the municipal authority announced plans to set up a “Singapore style” revamped zoo on the location. The budget for this makeover was a whopping 480 crore. Our first thought on hearing of the proposal was—what will become of the grand old trees?
This question was on the top of the mind of a group of eight feisty ladies, who came together in their love for nature and for the garden. They are known as the Ranibaghwalis.
It is thanks to them that the grand old trees in Rani Bagh are still standing, and have not been chopped down by the municipal authority. In April 2007, the women formed “Save Ranibagh Botanical Garden Action Committee” to challenge the BMC against their proposal to convert this botanical garden into an international zoo. They set up a website www.saveranibagh.org and hosted an online petition demanding the garden should be preserved intact. “We don’t want a single tree shrub or bush to be felled. What surprises me the most is that BMC is not ready to accept Rani Bagh as a botanical garden,” says Hutokshi Rustomfram, one of the founders of the committee. Ironically, the 150-year-old garden was originally created as a botanical garden, with animals being brought in later. If the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) accepts the existence of the heritage botanical garden, then it will have to protect it. Which means then the international zoo plan has to be chucked out.
Rustomfram along with other members of this association have written letters and petitions to many government bodies, and also personally approached the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee. Other bodies like BNHS, WWF-India, Sanctuary Asia, Citispace, Oval Trust, NAGAR, Awaz Foundation, AGNI, Clean Air, Indian Heritage Society and BEAG have fully supported and encouraged the Save Rani Bagh Committee.
Despite there being no approval for the makeover from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC), construction activity has already started in some parts of the garden with the aim of making a veterinary hospital. The MHCC is currently examining the redevelopment proposal and has not granted approval. They have taken a serious note of the illegal construction and have also asked for the plans to be redrawn to preserve the botanical garden. On May 19, 2010, thanks to the efforts of the Savi Rani Bagh Committee, the MHCC has sent a very strong letter to the BMC asserting that BMC must accept this garden as a botanical garden. After all, these are irreplaceable trees. They cannot be cut and they certainly cannot be transplanted elsewhere. The oldest specimen in the park– the giant baobab at the entrance– is around 300 years old. We think it is sad that such a unique environment should be threatened to make way for an amusement park. Hopefully, with the efforts of its committed citizens, Rani Bagh will continue to provide a rare patch of green in the heart of the city.
Sign up for a tree trail across Rani Bagh. The trail meanders through the wide, tree lined boulevards of the park, dotted with ivy covered statues and rustic drinking fountains. Every so often your guides will point out specimens of particular interest, or spider webs, ant hills or fruit bats dozing upside down on the branches of a Rain Tree. You will become aware of the fragile ecosystems that exist around trees.
Check their website for more: http://saveranibagh.org/
“The Tree Authority should be renamed the Tree Cutting Permission Authority”
Shagorika Ghosh and Parina Muchhala talk to Tree Authority member, Dr Nilesh Baxi about Mumbai’s vanishing tree cover
Tardeo resident Nilesh Baxi was chatting with a friend one sunny morning when he mentioned that there were no Gulmohar trees in the area they were standing in. The friend told him he was in fact standing under one. From that point on, Dr Baxi, who runs a clinic at Forjett Street, got interested in trees in the city. On a close friends suggestion, he applied to be a member of the Tree Authority. Of a total of 30 members, the body has 20 corporaters and 10 members from NGOs. When another candidate withdrew, Dr Baxi was appointed as a nominated member of the body.
Dr Baxi has spearheaded many initiatives to promote the well-being of the fast-vanishing tree cover in Mumbai. The most visible one was when he asked the city’s residents to come together to protect the 84 trees at Haji Ali promenade that were going to be cleared to make way for a ‘beautification programme’. To save the trees, he set up an initiative called ‘Chalo Haji Ali Rakhi Bandho Vruksh Bachao Andolan’, where people tied 6-7 rakhis on each tree.
Mumbai sees a many trees destroyed on a daily basis in the city, in the name of development projects. Moreover, despite the rule that twice the numbers of felled trees are supposed to be replanted as replacements, this is rarely ever done in practice.
“When the Tree Authority was asked a few years ago about where 28,831 trees that had been cut for a building project were replanted; they bluntly replied ‘they didn’t know’. When further questioned about the caretaking of replanted or transplanted trees, their shocking response was that they weren’t mandated to look after transplanted trees,” says Dr Baxi. This, he feels, is the biggest problem that needs to be worked on.
“Builders can easily get permission to fell even a large number of trees, and they rarely replant twice the number of trees that were cut down as they are supposed to. This not only reduces the total number of trees in the city, it also causes the specific population of several rare species of trees to become almost extinct,” points out Dr Baxi. The penalty for unauthorized felling of trees is a fine of Rs 2000 to Rs5000, or a jail term of one to four weeks. However, even if builders are made to pay the fine, they pass it off as necessary payment or part of overheads and do not bother replanting the trees.
It is all this and more that cause Dr. Baxi to re-christen the TA (Tree Authority) to the TCPA (Tree Cutting Permission Authority).
LORD OF THE SLUGS
Meet Vishal Bhave, 24, whose passion is studying sea slugs and their behaviour. He lives in Ratnagiri where the inter-tidal areas on the coast are great breeding grounds for sea slugs. Vishal has been studying sea slugs for years and has discovered 40 new species of Ophistobranchs apart from 40 new species in Gujarat.
Vishal was one of the winners of Sanctuary RBS young naturalist awards, 2009, and is going to head a new Marine Centre in Ratnagiri. He is a keen underwater photographer. He spoke to Jalebi Ink about his research on marine life.
I began my ‘research’ when I was about 6 years old. If anyone asked I used to tell them that I am going to do research and would go off for ages to collect and observe fishes, Insects, butterflies. I would make a net out of a broken badminton racket to catch butterflies. At that time I was unaware of anything like research papers/books or methods. I was curious about plants and animals but teachers were incapable of answering my questions or resolving my doubts about name of animal/plants which were outside the syllabus. Even during college life, most of the teachers would orient their lectures only on the syllabus or on careers (how marks are important to get a job and blah..blah..blah). No one knew what our city harboured.
I did Zoology in college and then went to Mumbai. Here I was fortunate to meet some people who sparked my curiosity and imagination — Dr. Phatak, Dr. Deshmukh (Head, Dept. Zoology, Kirti College) and her husband Mr. Deshmukh (SIC, CMFRI, Mumbai). Dr. Deshmukh was the one who suggested that I join the Marine Biodiversity couse of BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society).
Before I began studying slugs under BNHS, there were about 100+ identified slug species and we now have data of nearly around 250 species of which 150+ are new to India.
I enjoyed my childhood. We used to play a lot in rain, mud, sand… In a small town Ratnagiri, I was closer to nature. During the rains, I, my sister and some friends used to go the nearby naalas to capture fishes. Then we would keep them in bottles (aquariums were too expensive for me), observing them for hours together. Raising them from tiny fries (1-2 cm) to larger fishes (8-10 cm).
During my F.Y.B.Sc years, my father brought me a computer. I used to surf a lot for information and I used to think why there are so few Indians uploading information about Indian fauna.
Then I decided I will do my PhD and/or research on Coastal Marine Diversity of Ratnagiri (to start with). I am working on it with support from BNHS.
We have collected data of about 265+ slugs (including older recorded species) and about 155+ are new to India.
Observing sea slugs require training and patience – they are tiny with the majority ranging between 6-22 mm, though some are quite big – about 8-10 cm. They have great camouflage techniques and can hide from our sight quite easily. I have bought an underwater camera (Canon G10) to capture those marvelous creatures.
I am currently in charge of the Ratnagiri center of BNHS, India. Our aim is to index the marine life of coastal Maharashtra and map major marine biodiversity areas.