As someone who was born and raised in Mumbai, I have seen an inverse relationship between the spread of green cover and buildings. Where one burgeons, the other dies out to free up space. Furthermore, even if there is some green space, people manage to quickly turn it into a garbage pit.
But, where on one end, hope is lost each time a tree is cut or someone defaces a green spot by littering, it is kindled with the conservation efforts by eco-conscious people.
In the case of City of Dreams, a motley group in Bandra made up of young and old have been busy trying to create a pocket of greenery in 800 square metres of MCGM D’Monte Park which had become a dumping ground for people living in the area.
In their two year initiative, the citizen-led group called Dream Grove (DG) has completely revamped the place and now grows close to 200 vegetables and fruits.
“We integrated the concept of natural-eco farming that completes the life cycle of plants. We make biomass (nutrient-rich soil) from fallen leaves, coconut husk, garden and vegetable waste to grow the forest,” Premila Martis, an environmentalist and a core member of the group informs The Better India (TBI).
Swinging into Action
Almost a decade ago, the park that is now blooming with greenery and butterflies, was a dumpyard. A few years ago, Marie Paul, co-founder of the DG group, had collaborated with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and converted the place into a beautiful garden.
However, Marie noticed how the garden had started to deteriorate as people switched back to their dumping habits. Meanwhile, Premila was frequently coming across instances where residents were burning leaves polluting the environs.
The duo ended up discussing these problems at a social gathering and decided to clean up the mess, soliciting help from the BMC and people living in the vicinity of the Park.
Three Kilos of Organic Food Per Week
The transformation drive began with the mulching process where they covered the ground with dry leaves, cow dung and urine. They also added wet food waste and coconut husks to the soil. The results showed within a month with a surprise sprouting.
“We were surprised to see a mulberry tree. Something we had not seen for 15 years! It not only gave us a validation that our efforts have been successful but also encouraged us to plant more trees. From kids to the elderly, everyone was excited to see if the garden could give more edibles,” says Permila.
Today, more than 20 DG volunteers visit the park on weekends to participate in sowing, planting, harvesting and watering activities. The enthusiasm and efforts of the group has transformed the garden completely and the group harvests around three kilos of veggies and fruits weekly which includes radishes, beans, drumsticks, spinach, neem leaves, lemon grass, chili, capsicum, tomato, cucumber, brinjal, mint, turmeric, ginger, pineapple, bananas and papaya, among many others.
Interestingly, the project that was started in March 2018, is now coming to the rescue of the garden’s maintenance staff amidst the nation-wide lockdown. The gardener and watchman are able to procure fresh harvest for their daily needs.
Usually, the fresh produce is distributed among all the volunteers and caretakers.
“People new to the farm often go home with a handful of fresh leaves or a few tomatoes, chillies. Meanwhile edibles like bananas and bilimbis are always in demand. Those with an interest in nutrition, take home medicinal or herbal plants like drumsticks, insulin leaves, hibiscus flowers. Some even take seeds or cuttings for their personal garden. No one leaves empty handed,” shares Premila.
Such simple, community-led, pro-environment measures, sustained enthusiasm of people and a conscious need to bring a change are the perfect prerequisites to save the planet. Go team Dream Grove!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)