Pune is a city that has always attempted to find a balance between urban development and nature, but has lately been tilting towards the former.
With rapid development, the population of the city has boomed in the past decade. The streets that once flaunted green canopies and chirping sparrows have been replaced by vehicles that pollute the environment and the cacophony produced by city traffic follows one around everywhere.
However, many Punekars still dream of a cosy corner in the house, which is green and untouched by the pollution outside, and 19-year-old Pratik Dalwale, an engineering student in the city, is helping them turn this dream into reality.
“Nowadays, we can see air pollution levels growing right in front of our eyes. The most basic thing we can do to curb this is to increase the number of trees in our cities,” Pratik told The Better India, adding that
“The simplest of contribution here is to plant just a couple of potted plants in our windows or balconies.”
I am sure that many of us have had this idea, but the question of maintenance is what made us refrain from acting upon it. This is where Pratik comes in. His innovative and simple solutions are just the motivation one needs to get a few plants and not worry about killing them in a couple of months.
“One of the simplest irrigation methods is to punch a hole in the cap of a water bottle, put a piece of cotton cloth inside and invert the bottle over your plant,” Pratik told TBI. “This way, there’s a regular water supply to the plant, and you don’t have to worry about it all the time.”
For those of us who have fish tanks at home, Pratik suggests that while cleaning them, instead of throwing the water away, we can use it to water the plants.
The excreta of fish is extremely nutritious for plants and can help them grow better.
Pratik works with Nature Lovers, a Pune-based NGO which conducts awareness and plantation drives and also introduces green innovation to schools in the city, in a hope to encourage young minds to be eco-friendly.
Speaking about his work in the NGO, Pratik informed Pune Mirror, “We designed a low-budget harvesting model (it costs Rs 80-100) and taught students how to save water for their home gardens. We also taught the students the stages of collecting, transporting and filtering water.”
A few months ago, Pratik visited a farm near the Baramati district in Maharashtra and came across a simple but brilliant innovation that had immensely helped farmers.
Usually, farmers dig up canals in the farm, with passages near every plant to water it.
“What happened then, was that the first plant in the row got a lot of water, the second a little less, so on and so forth. And you’d think that the last plant suffered, but it was the first one that got waterlogged, and the last one got ample water,” said Pratik.
And so the Konkan Kanya Agro Farm—an organisation near the Baramati district—helped Pratik to develop a pipe that would work as a water canal but provide the same quantity of water to every plant.
“This mechanism is very simple and can be modified for a house garden too,” says Pratik. “You take a big pipe that would be the main canal and punch holes or make lanes at distances where your plants are located. The first hole in the pipe (in the direction of water) will have a hole measuring 1 cm, the next will be 2 cm, and the diameter just keeps increasing, which ensures that all the plants get an optimum amount of water,” he added.
So easy, right?
Pratik is hugely inspired by nature and often turns to it for solutions. In fact, he says that if you ask anyone from the field of agriculture or home gardening, they will tell you that the best innovations are a result of people being inspired by nature or applying basic lessons taught in school.
Have you seen the sprays used to water plants? Well, Pratik suggests that you can install them over your houseplants and spray them occasionally, “like a drizzle.”
This method does not imitate nature for the sake of it but solves an important purpose.
“Dust and pollution settles on the leaves and blocks them from direct sunlight. Spraying water on them occasionally will clean the dust, let the plants breathe easily and increase their green cover too!” he said.
Currently, Pratik is testing a power generation system that he hopes will give back about 40% of the electricity used in households and farms. He wants to improve farming methods and efficiency for the farmers while also encouraging urban families to increase green covers around their homes.
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Simple techniques that can be replicated at homes without too much hassle is what Pratik wishes to teach those enjoying the city life.
“Currently, the only way I advertise my ideas is by conveying them to my friends— especially those who are studying agriculture and environment. Word of mouth is the only way to go for me, currently. But I am sure the ideas will increase pace soon,” he informed TBI.
It is our collective responsibility to help the earth become greener and cleaner and taking small steps, like bringing alive our houses with either small potted plants or lush terrace gardens can be the solution to this.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)