Meet Kolkata’s eco-warriors who are making a difference – Times of India

Kolkata News

Rescued snakes, cleanup of thousands of cigarette filters and half a kilometre of man-made forest — while these would certainly not solve the world environmental crisis, but can certainly make a difference. With climate change a growing concern, many in Kolkata are taking matters into their own hands and doing all they can to save the environment. Calcutta Times speaks to five of them. Read on…

Nirit Datta
Having a wildlife-enthusiast father, who would often go out to rescue animals and birds for the WWF, it’s no surprise that Nirit grew up to be a nature lover. “I quit my job and started educating people about the importance of conservation,” shared Nirit. As he kept on rescuing animals and delivering talks on wildlife, he realised that it is futile if common people do not understand the real reason behind conservation. “People must know how human lives are dependent on bees and snakes and how we can lessen pollution,” he said.
So, among many other projects, he took up a unique initiative called Buttrush in April this year. It focussed on Kolkata and Bangalore. “It was about collecting cigarette filters. Even though they look like innocent cotton, cigarette filters are actually cellulose acetate — a type of toxic plastic,” he said. During the second phase of Buttrush in September, he, along his team, collected around 51,000 filters from Kolkata and Bangalore. “This much cellulose acetate is enough to kill 28 blue whales or over 140 dolphins. We collected that in just one day from small parts of these two cities,” he said.

Mintu Hait
When he was 18, he first noticed how the 100-feet-tall coconut trees started dying at the empty land near his house in Chetla. He, along with a few of his friends, started planting more trees at the plot. “Soon, I realised, we needed seeds, rather than saplings, to fill the ground. Armed with a law degree and little money, I started investing more on the land,” shared Mantu Hait. He hired labour and transformed the entire area into an urban forest. After 12 years, the saplings have grown into trees and the area has become a hotspot for biodiversity with more than 10 mammals, reptiles and 80 species of birds calling it home. “Around eight months ago, Kolkata Port Trust, the owner of the land, built walls around the area to help protect the trees from outsiders,” he said. Mantu has taken up similar projects in Sundarbans and Howrah. He has bought lands there and is turning them into forests.

Kalyanmoy Das
Born in Hooghly, 27-year-old Kalyanmoy Das could would often hear sounds of snakes slithering on the roof of their house. One day, it happened to be a large spectacled Cobra and his family killed it out of fear. The incident pained him and he vowed to work for the conservation of sakes and wildlife for the rest of his life. “Not just in Hooghly, I go and rescue animals that accidentally enter houses in and around Kolkata too,” he said, adding, “People kill snakes simply out of fear and the fear comes from ignorance. I try to educate them.”

Nur Hossain Mondal
The 32-year-old teacher could not stand plastic from a very early age. He has been teaching his students about plastic pollution and its ill effects on the environment for years now. “From a very early age I realised that if common people are not aware and educated, our future is doomed,” said Nur. So, from 2018, he gathered a number of less-privileged children from different parts of Kolkata and started teaching them crafts and ways of recycling plastic bottles and packets. “The children would collect bottles and wrappers and we would teach them how to make something beautiful out of them. We have made flowerpots, rakhi and construction material from plastic,” shared Noor.

Bapi Chakraborty
In 2015, Bapi and his plant-roofed yellow cab become a major talking point in Kolkata. But recently, he had to bid goodbye to his beloved cab, as it could not pass the pollution test and the vehicle has been sent to the scrapyard. “I have another car now, one that I’ve decorated with plants,” he said. After a series of deaths of yellow cab drivers in the summer of 2015 in Kolkata, Bapi decided to cover the roof of his car with grass.