Bandra locals get together to claim a 1-acre green lung among the concrete

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 03, 2015 17:56 IST

Imagine an orchard where you can pluck mulberries, jackfruits, chikoos and tamarind off the branches. You can then proceed to a gazebo, which houses a free library, and read while children play in a park outside.

This is not a weekend destination, but a one-acre enclosure nestled among buildings on D’Monte Park Road, in Bandra (West). Seven years ago, residents of the area decided to claim a green lung for themselves among all the concrete, and grew this park on what was once a junkyard.

Marie Paul, Arlene Fernandes, Neller Saldanha and Anil Rao have been maintaining the park under the umbrella name of the D’Monte Park Road Advanced Locality Management.

In 2008, while the locals were discussing how to remodel the junkyard, S Rama Iyer, 76, a retired chemical engineer and resident, just happened to walk in, and contributed Rs10 lakh for the park. It was ready in six months.

“I was just passing by, and saw the residents trying to start something remarkable. As a resident, I, too, wanted to leave a legacy behind, and decided the park would be a great way to celebrate the memory of my wife, who passed away 30 years ago,” said Iyer.

The park also has a patch dedicated to growing vegetables.

“Our idea is to bring children out of their concrete comfort zones and interact with nature, with these fruit bearing trees and the variety of vegetables growing right next to their homes,” said Fernandes.

Paul pointed out the advantages of having a park in the middle of housing complexes.

“Community participation and discussions are initiated at these recreational spots. The gazebo holds workshops for children, who can come together and have a good time in the play area,” she said.

The residents plan to incorporate a compost pit and a shredder in the park by the end of the monsoon, to increase the amount of manure generated for their vegetable garden.

“It is purely a resident-driven initiative and an example for other areas in Bandra,” said Asif Zakaria, municipal corporator, Bandra. “There is a lot of waste generated from cutting trees across Bandra, and compost pits can help make streets waste-free.”

The D’Monte Park orchard
The one-acre open space, which was once a junkyard, has been divided into four zones — a play area for children, a gazebo that houses a free library, the central area of the park with a variety of fruit trees and a vegetable patch with veggies such as brinjals, chilies and tomatoes

Fruit-bearing trees such as mulberry, breadfruit, chikoo, pomegranate, jackfruit, tamarind and lime form a canopy so thick that little sunlight reaches the ground

The residents plan to incorporate a compost pit and a shredder in the park by the end of the monsoon, to increase the amount of manure generated for their vegetable garden.

What trees attract birds
The park at D’Monte Park Road consists of a number of trees, but, according to Anil Rao, a resident, most of the trees originally present on the ground are acacia or eucalyptus.

“The downside of planting such trees is that they do not invite any avifauna [bird life]. Trees such as peepal, which bear fruit two to three times a year and have enough space for nesting, are the ones that attract birds,” said Rao. “For the remaining monsoon season, we will rework the vegetable patch by planting seasonal veggies such as cucumbers, okra and pumpkins.”

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