What is Green Yatra’s vision and mission?
We started Green Yatra in our locality with the awareness that everywhere was a concrete jungle in Mumbai. My close friend- Mr. Durgesh Gupta- and I founded this organization from our very neighborhood in an attempt to combat the issue. This organization was started with a very positive mindset and a lot of passion and Green Yatra will remain honest about the work we do. Due to our quality work, we have spread across the country and are one of the leading environmental NGOs in the urban space. We are a very innovative organization where we understand Vedic scriptures on topics like farming and agriculture and combine them with eastern methods like the Miyawaki plantation method from Japan.
Green Yatra’s vision is to make people aware of their responsibilities towards the environment and convince them to take initiative on the ground. Green Yatra studies, we do the R&D and we implement the same on the ground. Green Yatra originally only focused on tree plantation, water rejuvenation, and other projects but we quickly realized that this was not the solution. If we are producing more carbon and then planting trees, it’s counterproductive as a solution. We started a new project called sustainable solutions where we count what your carbon footprint is as a company or household unit and then suggest solutions to regulate it. We are looking to move into the wildlife space soon and are also looking at reviving 120 million hectares of India’s dead land which can also contribute to two to three percent of our GDP, creating jobs for a hundred million people. We started by taking 50 to 60 acres of dead land and reviving it in 2-3 years; now we are taking up about a thousand acres of land and reviving it. There are international organizations that are reviving almost 3,000 acres of land with a cost of 700 crore rupees or more but Green Yatra is doing that at one-fourth of the cost. Green Yatra is working to make people aware and take action, that’s all.
It’s really inspiring to listen to all of these facts, especially knowing that Green Yatra is investing in so much R&D. You mentioned that you have looked at Vedic texts and texts from cultures like Japan. This is really inspiring knowing that there is a body in India that is taking this initiative.
I would actually like to share one example. You know that Sony is a Japanese company. There are also a few other pharmaceutical companies from Japan for whom we created the Miyawaki urban forest. However, results have shown that our improvised method is yielding better results. We are using Desi cow dung and urine- also called jeevamrutham- and this enables magic. We also did one of the largest projects in the Mumbai region with 40,000 saplings planted for the urban forest project and within two to three months the plant growth was 4 to 6 feet. This was possible because we combined their methodology. did the R&D, and created our own version which works like magic.
That’s really wonderful! You actually opened up a segway into the second question that I wanted to ask you. You talked about green audits for companies, right? Your company and Inchara have been mission partners and have agreed to conduct joint programs like green audits, green schools, and tree plantations. I want to know from you your thoughts about what kind of actions we can jointly take this year 2021. Especially given that it is a virtual/digital setting because of the pandemic, what are some actionable steps that we can take to ensure that we are reaching these goals together?
Due to the covid situation, opportunities for on-the-ground activities have become limited. However, there are a few things that we can do together now: we can continue to do tree plantations while following COVID guidelines (like social distance) once the lockdown is over. Inchara can also join us as volunteers for a few of our forest projects. We are starting one of the largest water body projects- a lake rejuvenation- in the Bengaluru area and volunteers can also come for forest walks.
Virtually, multiple things can be done. Since people are bored by webinars and lectures, we have been doing some experimentation and have partnered with companies to conduct some workshops. I am not a lecturer, I am a doer; what I create on the ground is magic. We have started segments on how to make Eco-bricks or how to create your own kitchen garden while explaining the purpose of doing these activities. You see ladies’ fingers in your kitchen. It actually takes 60 to 90 days to grow a plot of ladies’ fingers. When you grow these on your own you will be completely transformed. You will understand the value of it. You also get more time to spend with family especially now when our screen time is so long. The average Indian is spending about 3 to 4 hours on the mobile apart from screen time for office work. Our goal is to reduce that by 10% and help you use 30 to 40 minutes of that extra time to save the environment, learn how-to DIYs, and how to make the best out of waste. There is a lot of plastic material in and around your house and we will give you ideas over videos and you can create solutions offline. Create a kitchen garden, see how the experience changes you. I have seen a lot of people, especially children, who report positive experiences like “OK, this was the first time I did this on my own and it was the greatest gift for me”. Some parents have said, “I have never seen such joy in my son’s eyes’ ‘. When I myself grew chilies, I didn’t know that it took 90 days to grow them. I planted about ten seeds, only three or four germinated, and only one plant grew out of it. We were praying that it would not die and when it succeeded, we were happy.
So we can do these kinds of activities together, raise awareness about things like why we should plant native trees. The reason why we avoid non-native trees is because you won’t find any birds nesting on non-native trees. In Mumbai during the cyclone, around 1300 trees had fallen and out of them, 70% were non-native trees which are not good for our environment and biodiversity. Just like the saying “Har peeli ki sona nahi hoti”, all trees are not good for our environment. This way we can jointly share a lot of interesting information on social media that is important for the general public to know. We can help the public to learn fresh knowledge.
I think those are valuable lessons for people and very timely considering there are some people who would like to use family time to get away from the screen. These are useful things that people can do to contribute to saving the environment. Another question for you is regarding the fact that we have been in a global pandemic for about a year and a half now. I am not sure how much of the deteriorating state of the environment has been part of the cause of the pandemic but there must be some steps we can take in terms of sustainability in order to prevent another such pandemic. How do you think these two are related and what are the steps we can take to deal with this?
Of course it is 100% correlated because as human beings, our lives are completely part of the environment, the universe, and the Earth. Any damage that we are creating on the Earth is going to affect us and this is just the beginning. I will share some examples: we are talking about how by 2050 the temperature will be increased by 1.5 degrees. Recently about 2 lakh deers from a specific species died and no one was aware of the reason behind it. It was later found that there was a disease that affected them in its latent phase. Such diseases, microbes, and viruses exist latently in icebergs and when the temperature starts to go higher the ice will melt, releasing them. When they come in contact with humans, oxygen, and sunlight, they become activated and spread and cause diseases. We were talking about how we will go to the moon or that we will travel on Mangalyaan or that we will visit Mars and today we are talking about how to wash our hands. Just think about how it is such a simple virus that is creating such havoc. Our whole world and economy is under the grip of this tiny organism and this is just the beginning. Did you know we are only 0.01% of the earth’s total biomass? In the last 50 to 60 years we have killed about 50- 60% of species of water bodies, flora and fauna. We are very damaging and dangerous. A big part of the economy depends on honeybees since they help with pollination and the production of food and other materials. If honey bees disappear from the Earth, within 15 to 20 years all of the human race will cease to exist. The environment has existed way before us and we think that we can save the environment. I ask- who are we to save the environment? We must respect that nature is supreme. We are not the owner of nature; we should simply learn to align and live with nature.
I was just thinking you are saying that we are only 0.01% of the Biomass of earth and if you look at historical records we have also existed for only about 100 million years in the history of the earth so, not only are we a very small percentage of the earth’s existence, but we have also existed for a very small amount of time and have still managed to cause the most damage. I had a final question for you: moving forward, how do you think the future of sustainability will change given our current circumstances and given global warming? What are your thoughts on whether it will change at all?
We are the smartest animals on the earth. We have created so many things like ships, airplanes, and other electronics. We should be able to put these to good use and come up with solutions to prevent damage and save the environment. We are now moving towards electric vehicles. People are now questioning behaviors that are harmful to the environment like cutting trees etc. If you are staying in a city like Mumbai, know that the air quality is so bad that even a newborn baby is smoking 5 cigarettes a day just by breathing. If more people become aware of this, we can benefit by creating solutions. Around 10 years ago, in 2008, Green Yatra used to go to various companies and schools on World Environment Day and ask them to partner with us to plant trees and do other restoration projects. Now we get thousands of calls and emails on World Environment Day from various companies and schools asking us to come and start some environment-based projects with them. Human beings are very smart: we do our best work when we are in tough situations. India is definitely contributing a lot to making the environment greener. We should aim to become one of the leading countries to take on green initiatives. I am a very positive person and I believe that the future is green. I wish that in the future we become so sustainable that there is no need for Green Yatra or any other environment conservation organization. My dream is that companies like mine will become completely useless; no environmental NGO is required and no Pradip Tripathy is required. Everyone is aware of a sustainable environment, is doing green activities and initiatives, and reaching zero emission. This is my vision and future and I hope we can achieve it together.
– Founder, Green Yatra