When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial in the Arabian Sea last week, a group of fishermen from the nearby village staged a protest, claiming that the 309-foot-tall statue will harm the marine life.
Around same time, a group of students from the SIES College in Sion took to social media to address concern over the project’s impact on the natural habitat of fishes and water plants. These students belonged to the college’s ‘nature club’ one among many seen at colleges across the city.
With frequent destruction of mangroves in the city and Aarey forest constantly under the threat of ‘development projects’, these nature clubs are trying to inculcate love for nature and environment among the new generation.
From organising nature trails to conducting photography competitions and exhibitions to educating students about flora and fauna in and around the city, the clubs were formed to hand pick young nature enthusiasts.
Founded in 1979, the nature club at Wilson College is among the oldest in the city. The club is known for its regular nature trails to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Karnala Bird Sanctuary and other ecologically rich areas. They even organise overnight camps outside the state. The club boasts of a ‘nature library’ at the college, with a vast collection of resources to educate students about their surroundings.
“Unless the students love nature, they won’t protect it. Some of these outdoor experiences get etched in their memory. When many of them become teachers, they tend to be better teachers. Some of them become environmental activists,” said Sudhakar Solomon, a teacher at the college who heads the club.
The trend is similar at other colleges. Aditya Akerkar who led the recent campaign at SIES College said that they have recently expanded their activities to include nature photography and a course on orchids and documentary screenings. “Under the nature club, we at least make students aware of the environmental issues,” he said.
Students at Jai Hind College in Churchgate have installed a ‘nature board’, which they regularly update with environmental news. They also have a small nursery of medicinal plants on the college terrace, in addition to a small waste management plant. Recently, they held a seminar on hazards and uses of plastic.
“The seminar was an eye-opener. There’s a myth that plastic is inherently bad. But the speakers explained that the plastic can be very useful. One just has to avoid smaller micron polythene bags,” said Safina Rakhangi, a teacher at the college.
Some city-based environmental groups have also reached out to college campuses. Earlier this year, Jaya Waghmare, a MSc student at the University of Mumbai (MU), founded Zest for Environmental Nurturing Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which organised workshops and nature trails for the students. “We are focussed on outreach and environment education and awareness. By constantly reminding students of hazards faced by nature, we are trying to make students’ lifestyle more eco-friendly,” she said.