Three generations of the Athalye family has transformed Aarey Milk Colony, a suburb in Goregaon East of Mumbai, into a stunning butterfly garden.
The family has been planting trees in this area for around 17 years now and is finally about to achieve their goal. The ritual of planting trees was started by Vinay Athalye in the year 2000. He initially planted over 100 trees in the area and then went on plant 3500 more saplings. His family followed in his footsteps after he passed away in 2015.
Observing Vinay Athalye’s passion for nature, his children also grew up to be nature lovers and continued the practice of planting trees and nurturing them in the same place and with equal enthusiasm. His son, Sandeep Athalye, recalls how he grew up with the habit and spirit of planting trees and nurturing them. The total number of saplings planted by the Athalye family in the Aarey Colony is now close to 5,500.
India Times quotes Sandeep Athalye saying,
My father would often tell me that nature has a startling beauty and presents us with many gifts. It is our duty to return the favor. Today everyone is only interested in planting trees; big corporates and schools often have drives to plant trees and saplings. How many of them come back to ask what the survival rate of these trees are? It is very important to keep a count of that.
Sandeep Athalye emphasized the need for nurturing the plants after planting saplings instead of just planting them and leaving them. As the climate change all across the world is severe, Sandeep and his family hope to reverse some of the damage caused to the environment and consistently keep on planting and nurturing trees.
Sandeep also says that he isn’t against growth and development but when this calls for cutting a tree, it is essential to plant at least one to recoup the loss. He says instead of making plantation drives an event that happens once in a year, a more sustained approach should be followed.
The land that once used to be barren, at present has more than 75 varieties of trees, along with a charming butterfly garden with more than 1000 nectar and host plants. The family has plans of continuing this legacy and planting more and more trees in days to come.