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