Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, a citizen’s collective announced Biodiversity by The Bay Campaign, which aims to create a movement of young, progressive Mumbaikars who lead an inclusive and an active climate debate, to safeguard the biodiversity and green cover in the city. Aligned with this aim, the youth and subject matter experts have come together to invoke government action towards preserving the city’s rich biodiversity.
In the last few decades, the city has witnessed shrinking of city parks and natural forests. The well-being and livelihood security of indigenous communities have been largely ignored on the account of development. At the same time, in recent years, the numbers of Flamingos have multiplied on the few remaining wetlands which calls to attention the need to protect these spaces. Young Mumbaikars have come together to demand the protection of biodiversity and green spaces for a Mumbai where sustainability and modernity go hand-in-hand. The campaign will culminate in engagement with key stakeholders like the BMC, and writing to Aditya Thackeray, Maharashtra’s Environment and Tourism Minister, to initiate conversation on the future of Mumbai’s biodiversity. The appeal includes a five-point action plan including the protection of Lesser Flamingos and their habitats, given their significance to Mumbai; acknowledging Aarey as a forest and increasing the protection for Mumbai’s green cover; proposing a supportive policy for the Koli community’s livelihoods, in consultation with the community; and protecting and growing Mumbai’s parks.
One of the partners of the movement, Bhagwan Kesbhat, Founder of Waatavaran Foundation, said, “Nature is in crisis, as we are losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history. One million species face extinction. 2020 is a year which has given an opportunity to bring nature back from the brink. Hence, we are launching Biodiversity by The Bay Campaign to galvanize urgent and transformative action by Mumbai authorities and state governments and all of society, including indigenous people and local communities. Mumbaikars must take a pledge to protect the natural biodiverse ecosystems of Mumbai.”
Today, Mumbai stands at a critical point in its history with its rich ecosystem and unique biodiversity under threat owing to unsustainable planning and rapidly growing emissions. This has created a multifold impact on the city with reducing green cover and deforestation being the two biggest issues. According to a study published by IIT Bombay in January 2020, the city has lost 60% of its green cover in the last 40 years and is now left with only 13% of green cover. Goregaon, Andheri West, and Malad are some of the worst hit parts. From 62.5% green space in 2001 the city came down to 17% in 2011.
Speaking about the movement, Antaraa Vasudev, Founder, Civis, a partner organization conducting a consultation on urban parks, said, “If Mumbai needs to embrace sustainable urban planning – this movement has to be led by the people. Constructive citizens engagement around shared facilities like Parks, not only gives the Government actionable feedback that they can design policies around, but also gets communities involved in creating joint ownership of public spaces.”
The campaign will also include a Townhall with representatives from the State Environment Ministry, artistic submissions of youth imagining the future of green Mumbai, music concerts, virtual conferences aimed at creating discussions around the necessary policy interventions. Reputed environmentalist Stalin Dayanand along with senior advocate Gayatri Singh and advocate Zaman Ali from Mumbai High Court recently conducted a virtual conference for city’s law students to analyse existing laws to manage and conserve wetlands and procedure of drafting recommendations to influence sustainable policymaking. Renowned architects and professors from the city such as Rahul Kadri, Shilpa Chandawarkar, and Pranav Naik will be engaging with architect students tomorrow to discuss sustainable town planning and urban development.
While the BMC has devised an Open Space Policy and in its Development Plan (2014-2034) for the city promised 6.13 square metres of open space per person including forests and mangroves, along with a commitment to a 100 new parks, how much of this open green space will be accessible remains a big question. Mumbai has some of the most rapid urban growth in the country, which keeps adding to air pollution, carbon emissions, water scarcity and poor public infrastructure. This has struck the young Mumbaikars motivating them to act and save the city.