If you believed a butterfly’s habitat is confined to just gardens, think again. For the last three years, Bhandup resident Priyanka Kumari Singh, 32, has been using her balcony to nurture over 300 butterflies as her hobby.
Apart from practicing anaerobic composting to convert wet waste to manure at home, Singh has organised 30 workshops in Mumbai to sensitise citizens about the importance of waste segregation, composting and how to rear butterflies for beginners as part of her citizens’ group, Green Hope.
Originally from Bihar, Singh said that from a very young age, she was interested in protecting the environment. “I spent my childhood under the care and protection of trees, plants, shrubs, etc. But after coming to Mumbai and witnessing several instances of ecological degradation, I decided to involve myself completely into safeguarding a green future for my daughter and future generations,” she said.
Singh specifically chose 45 flowering plants such as the west Indian jasmine (ixora), lemon, curry leaves, lantana and other citrus plants for her balcony to attract various species of butterflies such as common jay, lime swallowtail, monarch butterfly, common mormon and rare ones such as common crow and common tiger.
“These plants were specifically selected because they act as hosts for butterflies to lay eggs. At the same time, caterpillars feed on these plants till they turn into pupae,” she said, adding that butterflies are allowed to rest in large jars before they fly away to find a new habitat.
Environmentalists said butterflies are a symbol of a good biodiversity. “By rearing butterflies at home, she (Singh) has been able to create a micro-ecosystem of a healthy biodiversity and a model such as this can be followed by any Mumbaikar owing to its simplicity,” said Savio Silviera, environmentalist and director, NGO Greenline.
To convert wet waste into compost, Singh uses a 15-litre eco-bin that is filled with 10kg of kitchen waste every day. She then adds red soil over the top layer of the bin and dilutes it with water and a home-grown bacteria culture that helps break down organic waste faster.
“In about 15 to 20 days, I get around four kg of manure that is used for potted plants,” Singh said, adding that excess compost is either sold for Rs50 per kg or gifted during her workshops.
Dry waste amounting to two kg every two days is collected and given to local ragpickers, making her house garbage free. “Five years ago, my family and I had to shift from Chembur to Bhandup as our house was very close to the Deonar dumping ground and we could not stand the stench. While we have been practising waste segregation, many in the city do not. This leads to mixed garbage ending up at dump yards,” said Sunil, her husband.
Singh has also made an all-purpose enzyme to clean her house, and wash dishes and utensils. The enzyme acts as a substitute for detergents and is made up of fresh citrus juices, layered with jaggery, water, stored in a container for three months and used thereafter.