When his son’s school declared a holiday due the rising levels of pollution, it prompted taxman Rohit Mehra, an Indian Revenue Services officer of the batch of 2004, to take matters into his own hands. Now known as the “green man of India”, Mehra has created more than 700 vertical gardens, or green buildings, across the country using just plastic waste. He spoke to Education Post about his aspirations and the importance of imbibing green habits in children.
Your company has set up vertical gardens, or green walls, in several building complexes in India. Do you see such a concept being implemented by private and public organizations?
We have already created close to 750 vertical gardens using some 80 tons of plastic waste, which would have otherwise gone to landfills.
Seeing our work, several private as well as public organizations have associated with us to make their office structures green. These organizations include Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Tihar Prisons among many others.
In one of your interviews, you had mentioned that you were inspired by vertical gardens in Singapore and Malaysia. Why do you think the concept of green walls entered India so late?
Each individual should do his or her bit to save the planet. The philosophy of reuse, refuse, recycle, reduce has to be imbibed in each of us. That has not happened yet. We should imbibe as many green habits as possible in our daily lives.
You created 200 mini forests with sizes ranging from 2,000 square feet to eight acres in area. How did you arrange funding for creation of these forests?
Creating a forest doesn’t cost as much as you think if you know how to use local resources. Like, we use dry cow-dung, which is waste material for India’s gaushalas. Similarly, we use stubble, which is again a waste bio material. Industry people channelize their corporate social responsibility (CSR) for funding micro-forests. Many people are planting forests in the name of their family members. We have got a very good help from the forest department, who gives us trees to plant generously.
Your name figures in a school syllabus text book of Jharkhand. Similarly, our school curriculum has many chapters stressing the importance of ecology and environment. What are the positives one can take from it?
All of our schools should imbibe practical green habits in children. We should teach them practical ecology. For example, some of the schools associated with us have started giving home projects as planting a plant, culturing and protecting it. The students are given marks for this assignment, which is a very good idea.
How did you come up with the idea of “tree ambulance” and “tree hospital”? Tell us about their functioning.
We have started world’s first tree and plant hospital equipped with an ambulance.
The population of the world can be divided into vegetarian and non-vegetarians. Vegetarians are those who eat a plant-based diet and non-vegetarians are those who eat those plants, which in turn eat other plants. In both cases, the health of human beings is dependent on the health of plants and trees. So, we thought of making a tree and plant hospital, which is totally free of cost and uses natural products to heal and cure plants.
According to you, how and what aid should the local administration of any district provide to environmentalists?
There is a lot of scope for sustainability at the local level. They should encourage more and more forests, which we term as “green lungs” to sustain the urban eco-system.
Along with controlling use of plastic, waste management has become the need of the hour in India. What steps must we take to act in this regard?
We should make use of waste as part of our culture and habits. Parents and schools should teach children how best to use the waste so as to reuse plastic, like waste bottles, for vertical walls, seed balls and plant care.
What are your future plans?
I want to start plant hospitals in each district of India. By the end of this year, I want to make 1000 mini forests out of which I have already made 200. Our forest-making skill has been made part of the syllabus of the National Skill Council of India. We want to take this further.
We have written books – “Super Child-52 Habits of Parenting”, “31 Green Habits to save the Planet”, and “Gift Lungs to Future Generations”. We want to spread the message contained in the books.