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Mumbai railway worker turns trash to treasure

Shirishkar, who was been an employee at the workshop since 1987, converted a dumpyard in the premises into a garden with over 200 plants.

mumbai Updated: Apr 09, 2018 01:10 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Balaram Shirishkar, 52, has taken it upon himself to develop more green zones within the workshop area.
Balaram Shirishkar, 52, has taken it upon himself to develop more green zones within the workshop area.(Hemanshi Kemani/HT)

A senior technician in the city’s suburban railway has single-handedly converted a quarter-acre scrapyard at Matunga railway workshop into a garden with over 200 plants.

From removing the scrap materials himself to arranging manure, plants, and all other amenities for the garden – Balaram Shirishkar, 52, has taken it upon himself to develop more green zones within the workshop area. Mumbai is fast running out of open spaces and green zones considering the number of infrastructure projects underway in the city. Green zones help reduce pollution and improve the aesthetical beauty.

Shirishkar, who was been an employee at the workshop since 1987, was always concerned about open dumps within the workshop, he said.

“For many years, this is one spot, near the administrative building had seven-foot-high garbage and scrap material dumped. In 2016, I decided to take remove it and informed my superiors about the issue,” he said. Initially, he felt defeated as his efforts to sensitise railway workers failed.

“People continued dumping garbage at the site despite reminders. Subsequently, I wrote to seniors to call for dumper trucks to remove the garbage,” he said. “While the trucks removed close to 60 tonnes of scrap over a month, the remaining garbage was removed by Shirishkar alone over the next six months. As a one-man-army, he ensured the site was garbage free,” said Ravi Kumar, another Railways employee.

It took Shirishkar a year to set up the garden. “I had to work fast to stop dumping at the site. Once the garden was ready, I designed the peripheral areas and used scrap from the yard to construct a boundary. I put up pictures of how it looked before, painted the area and put up signs to keep the workshop clean,” he said. “The result of my efforts was witnessed when the dumping stopped.”

Some of the saplings planted by him include coconut, basil, bael, jasmine, rose, daswadi, etc. He will now do the same across three patches within the workshop premises. He was felicitated by the chief railway manager of the workshop and officers from the Central and Western railways last year. Apart developing green spaces, Shirishkar is part of aan NGO working towards women’s empowerment and rights for below poverty line groups in rural Maharashtra.