Among the regulars at Kandivli’s Samta Nagar police station are criminals, citizens with complaints, and these days, schoolchildren.
The station’s backyard —which once held only seized vehicles rusting away, and years of uncleared garbage — is now a compost-fed garden that is home to several species of birds and butterflies, even a couple of monkeys. And the station’s policemen are giving guided tours of the garden to successive batches of schoolchildren from the vicinity.
The garden was built with advice from a local couple, environmentalists Afzal (59) and Nusrat Khatri (57) — winners of the President’s award for their environmental work — and the municipal corporation.
“When we began work on the compost pit and the garden, we emptied out 10 truckloads of garbage and debris,” said Afzal, who lives in Thakur Village in Kandivli.
The resulting pit is now regularly fed with biodegradable waste from the nearby market and the police station canteen.
“Last week, 50 students from the St Xavier’s school in Borivli visited the station on an educational trip, with the policemen showing them around, and explaining the concept of composting, as well as the segregation of dry and wet garbage, and how it can be started at home,” said Afzal.
“The area around the pit has become so beautiful that all of us from this police station maintain the garden and clean it ourselves,” said Police Inspector S Mule.
“This is a first-of-its-kind compost pit in the state. The garden with its birds has a very soothing effect that is essential for policemen who tend to be under acute stress every day,” added Khatri.
“For children, the image of a policeman is of someone to be feared. After the schoolchildren visited our station and we chatted about the pit and the environment, they were completely at ease. We also took the opportunity to tell them about basic police procedures,” Mule explained.
This police station is now flooded with requests from schools for field trips.
“We’re planning to make our backyard a picnic spot for schoolchildren, where they can also get practical lessons on conserving nature,” Mule added.
Additional Commissioner of Police (central region) Sadanad Date is the latest convert. He contacted the Khatris to build a similar garden in his office compound in Byculla.
“We’re planning to eventually approach all police stations in the city to get them to also have a pit in their premises,” said Nusrat.