Sromona Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
Hailing from Kolkata and now a resident of Bengaluru, Sromona is a multimedia journalist who has a knack for digging stories that truly deserve attention.
On July 24, Ludhiana Railway Station became the first railway station with a vertical garden in India. However, it is most definitely not the only spot in Punjab where you can find a picturesque wall of green made using recycled plastic bottles.
Thanks to the efforts of one Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, Rohit Mehra, the railway station is one among many other locations across Ludhiana and other cities in Punjab where vertical gardens with lush green plants can be found. Reportedly, the Ferozepur division of the Indian Railways along with the Income Tax Department of Ludhiana unveiled the vertical garden at the train station on July 24, which is celebrated as the Income Tax Day. The event was attended by many dignitaries, one among whom was chief commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT-Ludhiana) Binay K Jha who inaugurated the vertical garden.
According to Times Of India, speaking at the occasion Jha said, “The vertical garden at the railway station is a very special project for us, as exactly a year ago on the occasion of Income Tax Day 2017, we had launched a green plastic campaign from our office at Rishi Nagar by starting the work of making the first vertical garden using waste plastic bottles. Ever since the day, there has been no looking back.” Along with Mehra, Jha too has been instrumental in spearheading the need for vertical gardens in Ludhiana.
For the completion of the project, like many others in the state, the Railways department too had roped in Rohit Mehra. The Logical Indian spoke to the 40-year-old about his journey of becoming one of the most sought-after guys when it comes to constructing vertical gardens.
Rohit Mehra’s interest in this innovative way of planting trees was ignited for the first time when he visited Singapore. He was taken aback to find rooftops and walls covered in patches of green. However, Rohit said that he realised that in Singapore, they use expensive containers to plant the saplings in. However, he wanted to implement the same technique in his house first. From then on, he and his wife, Geetanjali, expanded the initiative to other parts of the city as well.
Instead of expensive containers, he used 1.5 litre and 2-litre plastic bottles which take hundreds of years to decompose completely. What started as a home experiment, has now expanded to multiple locations in Bhatinda, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Mohali and Amritsar.
After the success of the vertical garden in his house, Rohit decided to expand into his office as well. Today, parts of his office premises have been covered with 18,000 plastic bottles with plants. From then onwards, Rohit went on to build more vertical gardens across the city. He said, “I was approached by religious institutions, schools, corporate offices and even private homes to help build vertical gardens.” Some of the locations which sport Mehra’s vertical gardens include premium hotels, district courts, schools and colleges like Punjab Agricultural University and even religious institutions like Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib in Ludhiana which has a total of 37,000 plants in plastic bottles.
Over the last two years, his initiative became a movement of sorts in Punjab. People, who are interested in a vertical garden approach Rohit for a consultation. The price of plastic bottles has even gone up! Rohit said, “When I started, I used to buy bottles for 40 paise each, but now prices have gone up to Rs 6 or Rs 7.”
Rohit said that the problem of air pollution in areas like Delhi and Punjab is rampant. “Children here get summer, winter and pollution vacations,” added Rohit. However, he says that the vertical gardens might be a solution to the problem of both air and plastic pollution.
Citing one example out of the many benefits of installing the gardens, Rohit said that during a study carried out by scientists in Ludhiana last year, it was found that while the city Air Quality Index (AQI) was a poor 274, in Rohit’s office where the gardens have been installed, recorded just 78.
Rohit added that studies have suggested that the vertical gardens not only provide insulation which helps to reduce internal temperature by 5º C to 7.5º C. Additionally, he says that rather than damaging the walls, which is a major concern for most, the plants protect the walls against pollution, rain damage, air and sun damage. Rohit also noticed that the vertical walls have also been attracting birds of different species which were earlier rarely seen in the concrete jungle.
Talking about the process of installation of the vertical gardens, Rohit explained that one needs screws and plastic bottles to create the upright gardens where 92% water is conserved using a drip irrigation system. Rohit uses a mixture of coco peat, vermicompost and coal ash as the base for planting the saplings. Rohit said the saplings which they use are native plants which are more suited to the local climatic conditions for longevity. So far, they have used 35 different kinds of plants. Talking about the success rate, Rohit said that a staggering 99.2% of all their plants have thrived.
When Rohit started this initiative, he wanted to plant one lakh plants in his lifetime. Well ahead of time, Rohit has successfully planted 1.85 lakh saplings in Punjab till date, and he has no plans of stopping. With the ever-increasing demand for vertical gardens in the state, Rohit says that he and his team build one vertical garden in three or four days on an average. So far, Rohit has created 75 such gardens in Punjab.
As the world struggles to tackle the rampant problem of plastic pollution and rapidly decreasing green cover, initiatives like these set an example. The Logical Indian applauds Rohit Mehra for his efforts in protecting the environment by creating vertical gardens.
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