How conscious are Indian music festivals of their ecological footprint? The kind of question I was sure a Google search would have an answer to, had me surprised when it didn’t.
Every year, about 25 music festivals are organised in the country. Thousands go on a 450-km road pilgrimage from Guwahati to make it to the Ziro Festival of Music in central Arunachal Pradesh. Lakhs attend NH7 Weekender across cities annually. Then there’s Sunburn in Goa.
Social and economic impacts aside, there is not enough dialogue about the negative impact such festivals have on the environment. The number of articles on the internet talking about the eco-unfriendly practices of such festivals in India is close to zero.
Over the weekend, I attended the Echoes of Earth festival in Bengaluru.
They call it the first ecologically-crafted music festival in India. It had four stages with a line-up of over 40 artists mostly from India.
The theme this year was ‘Bugs of the Ecosystem’. This was enforced by an installation you saw when you entered, which was inspired by the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
Two of their stages celebrated nature. Standing 55 feet tall was The Dragonfly stage, which had its giant wings made out of recycled scrap metal and fabric.
The Channapatna, Toy Town stage was inspired by the ancient forms of puppetry and toy making in the tiny town of Channapatna. It was over 60 feet tall and made of bamboo and paper.
Artist Abhijit Samant’s installation was an Air Well, which is a 30 feet structure that can collect water from the atmosphere by condensing fog. Setting it up required minimum resources. It could collect over 100 litres of water throughout the festival. The water is collected in a huge tank which is later used by the guards.
Then there was The Praying Mantis by Tapanjeet Singh, which was made from a variety of scrap, pipes, rods, punched out sheets and other reclaimed materials.
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The Owl by Bheemstyx highlighted the effects of climate change and other environmental changes that threatened the existence of many creatures.
The structure makes use of a natural material like gunny bags, jute ropes, areca nut plates, fruit-wood, junk metal, and also demonstrates a mechanical rotation of 180 degrees of the owl’s head.
And so followed installations inspired by the house fly, dung betel, stick insect and other bugs of the ecosystem, all made from eco-friendly materials. They also had eco-friendly bamboo cycles as well as several workshops at the festival.
Not only eco-friendly, but Echoes of Earth was also pet-friendly. You could see a lot of people attending the event with their dogs, who didn’t seem to mind the music at all. Despite the stage, set-ups and lights among other decorative material, the green site of the festival was largely untouched. You walked through the unkempt grass, separated by muddy tracks.
The decoration was minimal, and it wasn’t overcrowded at all.
Of course, the environmental impacts of Echoes of Earth don’t just vanish by virtue of it being an ecologically-crafted festival.
Beer cans and cigarette stubs continued to litter the ground. It does, however, start an important dialogue. That of peaceful coexistence between humans and nature.