Notes from India by Shanti Moorjani

As of March 24, 2018, the governing civic branch (BMC) of Mumbai (Bombay) has banned all plastic bags, cups, cutlery and the like! You have one month to get rid of your household plastics. After that, if you are caught with a plastic bag you will get a citation and pay a fine of 5,000 rupees ($80.00), second offence R10,000, third offence R25,000 plus 3 months in jail. In 2005, Mumbai found that plastic bags were a major reason why storm water drains were clogged, leading to floods in various parts of the city. I have relatives in the Santa Cruz district of Mumbai whose cars were submerged during the monsoons on two different years recently. Other cities in India who have already instituted bans on plastic are Delhi, Rajasthan, Kamar, and Tiramalu.

Another project Mumbai executed a little over a year ago, was a massive art project to draw attention to the importance of mangrove trees along the coast and inland waterways. Over the course of seven days, the walls of 36 railway stations in the city were beautified by 25,000 volunteers who painted mangrove trees, exotic birds, insects, and butterflies. Between October 2- 8 people are asked to give something back to society by volunteering to help a project or another person less fortunate. This is called Daan Utsar, previously know as the "Joy of Giving Week". MAD (Making a Difference foundation) sponsored the event, conceived by Mumbai First, a not-for-profit think tank in Mumbai.

I was very proud to see my niece, Deepika Tahiliani stepped out to design one of the 36 stations. . Deepika is an accomplished artist, designer, mother of two and active crusader for the environment who lives in Mumbai.   Her station was the Hamhara Railway Station. Over the course of the seven days, Deepika help managed 230 volunteers of all ages to draw and paint her exotic designs This week long project attracted much attention as people waited for their trains or happened to be walking by. The colorful art emerged over the seven days drawing attention to the importance of Mangrove trees, this urban forest that surrounds Mumbai.

Mangroves are tree and schrubs that have adapted to life in a salt water environment, and are recognized by their dense tangle of of prop roots that appear to be standing on stilts above the water. This biomass keeps the shorelines intact, preventing erosion, acting as a shield against cyclone, floods and tsunamis. Mangrove trees clean the air of carbn dioxide at a rate much higher than any other plant on the planet (except bambo), literally taking the CO2 out of the atmosphere and packing it away in their rich soil. They are natural carbon schrubbers and act as the lungs for our planet. Lastly, the mangroves support and amazing bio-diversity. Specifically in Mumbai this includes 82 species of butterflies, 7 species of snakes, crabs, mudskippers, 208 species of birds, zoo plankton, insects and the fan throated lizard.