Nature lovers walk the tree talk, spread awareness | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Nature lovers walk the tree talk, spread awareness

It’s Sunday morning and a group of 30 Mumbaiites are walking through Sanjay Gandhi National Park as their trail leader names and describes each tree they pass. Prachi Pinglay reports.

mumbai Updated: May 31, 2011 01:13 IST
Prachi Pinglay

It’s Sunday morning and a group of 30 Mumbaiites are walking through Sanjay Gandhi National Park as their trail leader names and describes each tree they pass.

A year ago, this group was considerably smaller — about 15 to 20 people would turn up each week.

But as steel-and-glass high-rises and infrastructure projects gobble up Mumbai’s already diminished tree cover, its citizens are lining up for lessons in tree appreciation.

Some just want to spend a few hours outside the concrete jungle, others are eager to learn more so they can help protect the green cover in their areas.

“I always loved plants, but because of these trails I feel I now know the trees of Mumbai,” says Nandini Rane, 58, who runs a textile-design workshop and has attended two Mumbai university trails. “Now, whenever I’m driving around the city, I look out and I can identify the lovely trees.”

These weekend trails are organised by environmental organisations such as the Bombay Natural History Society and Maharashtra Nature Park, and by independent nature lovers who have also seen participation rise by 25% to 100% over the past three years.

“We started this initiative because we are passionate about nature,” says Satwiki Sarkar-Nair, a software engineer who conducts weekend walks in Chembur, Dadar and Malabar Hill with her friend Lahar Mehta Sthalekar, an architect. “We started with one short walk in Chembur. With the response growing, we now conduct walks in other parts of the city too.”

University of Mumbai, meanwhile, has seen enrollment in its day-long tree appreciation course rise from 1,000 in 2008 to 1,400 last year.

These monsoon sessions have a botanical expert walking with the students, offering detailed academic information on the flora, mainly at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the Byculla botanical gardens and the university’s Fort campus.

Similarly, at Mahim’s Maharashtra Nature Park, the number of takers for the four-hour tree walks has risen from 3,359 in 2008-09 to 8,380 in 2010-11.

Apart from helping Mumbaiites learn to care better for their plants, these walks and courses create awareness about conservation, says Dr Nilesh Baxi, former member of the Tree Authority, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation-appointed panel that monitors the felling of trees.

“Some of them register police complaints and call in complaints about illegal tree felling, others file public interest litigations when they come across illegal cutting, pruning or destruction of greenery.

They also participate in protest marches to save greenery and spread awareness.”

For filmmaker Arwa Mamaji, 30, a day-long trail at Malabar Hill’s Kamala Nehru Park was an eye-opener. “We travel out of Mumbai for treks, but it is important to know the flora and fauna of your own city too,” she says. “We must learn to take our environment more seriously.”