Borivli man’s 30-year-long fight for na­ture

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTMETRO - ECO-FRIENDLY WAYS HT Cor­re­spon­dent

MUM­BAI: Borivli res­i­dent Hi­man­shu Prem Joshi, 55, is a mem­ber of the group that cre­ated one of the most unique green spa­ces in the city and has been ded­i­cated to the cause of en­vi­ron­ment con­ser­va­tion for the last 30 years.

Joshi was part of the core team that planted 16,000 trees and 55,000 man­grove saplings and cre­ated the Ma­ha­rash­tra Na­ture Park (MNP) on a 37-acre garbage land­fill in Mahim in the early 90s. Lo­cated along the banks of the Mithi river, MNP is now home to 158 species of birds, 85 types of but­ter­flies, 32 va­ri­eties of rep­tiles and 30 types of spi­ders. Along with a hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist and an as­sis­tant, Joshi was the first ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer at MNP who de­vel­oped its ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and de­signs.

Joshi has been or­gan­is­ing var­i­ous na­ture camps, trails, slide shows, cam­paigns, street plays and many ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes for young­sters.

“While he did not go into main­stream con­ser­va­tion, he was suc­cess­ful in spread­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness across schools and col­leges,” said Isaac Ke­himkar, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and di­rec­tor, ina­ture foun­da­tion.

Born and brought up in Ahmed­abad, Joshi said his ef­forts be­gan from his school

days. “I used to bring in­jured an­i­mals and birds back home and treat them. It paved way for fu­ture ac­tiv­i­ties,” he said.

In 1994, Joshi along with other en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists ran a six-month-long cam­paign to pro­tect the then Borivli Na­tional Park. He shared news­pa­per clip­pings that high­lighted is­sues such as il­le­gal min­ing, en­croach­ments and tree cut­ting pre­vail­ing within the park. “We took up the mat­ter us­ing au­dio and video clips and sen­si­tised school stu­dents,” said Joshi.

“De­spite sev­eral threats, we man­aged to get 33,000 sig­na­tures for the cam­paign and the state took cog­ni­sance. We were told fences along the pe­riph­ery came up and min­ing stopped after our ef­forts.”

“Dur­ing the 80s and 90s, when such cam­paigns and na­ture-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties such as walks and treks were not so pop­u­lar, Joshi man­aged to con­vince eco­con­scious cit­i­zens of their im­por­tance through writ­ing, po­etry and his body of work,” said Anand Pend­harkar, wildlife bi­ol­o­gist and founder of Sprouts En­vi­ron­ment Trust.

An­other cam­paign Joshi took up in­cluded a 50-day walk across 1,200 km through 170 vil­lages, spread­ing aware­ness on the pro­tec­tion of Gir li­ons.

Cur­rently, he has de­vel­oped Bha­van’s Na­ture Ad­ven­ture Cen­tre in Mum­bai and con­tin­ues to or­gan­ise camps and ex­cur­sions.

“He [Joshi] has done ex­cel­lent work in ex­pos­ing young­sters to­wards ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties and the out­doors,” said Dr Parvish Pandya, zo­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor.

TES­TI­MO­NIAL FROM MANTRALAYA

On Au­gust 3, 1992, then en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary of Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment, UK Mukhopad­hyay, praised Joshi for or­gan­is­ing var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties at the Mahim Na­ture Park, par­tic­u­larly to­wards spread­ing aware­ness among chil­dren by or­gan­is­ing train­ing camps and trekking ac­tiv­i­ties. “Peo­ple like him help to bridge the dis­tance be­tween man and na­ture,” Mukhopad­hyay had said.

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