The new eco shelter for animals made by team Urvari is derived from the motive of protecting stray animals from the heavy rains of Mumbai while also aiming to save the environment. Read about their mission below.
A lot of stray dogs in Mumbai have now found comfort in their new house made by eco-bricks. All thanks to two girls from Mumbai, Vasundhara Gupte, and Khushi Shah, who teamed up to protect the dogs from the heavy rains of the city this year. The 18-year-old girls took this initiative as part of the global Plastic Free July Challenge and made the eco shelter for animals in Navi Mumbai.
It dates back to 2019 when Vasundhara and her friend Khushi read about the Amazon forest fires and decided to take a step towards the betterment of the environment. "The raging wildfires helped them see that it was a little too late to be spreading awareness, it was time for action. They wanted to do something beyond just social media advocacy," says Siya Batham, a member of the team Urvari created by Vasundhara and Khushi.
The friends started with a small goal of planting five trees every weekend in the area and created 'Urvari'- the word made up of two different worlds, “Urvi” and “Vaari” meaning earth and water respectively. "These were the names of the houses of our founders back in their school days. Interestingly enough, the word 'Urvari' also means 'verdant', which is how we want to see our planet someday," Siya says.
However, the team did not only stop here but thought of doing something better for the stray animals, who are often left helpless during the heavy rains of Mumbai. "We realised that stray animals face a hard time during monsoons, they have nowhere to take shelter, buildings are intolerant to them and they are often forced to fend for themselves. We tried asking our societies to allow them to take shelter in the building premises during rains but they outrightly refused. That is when we decided to do something for them," Siya adds.
To save the animals while also protecting the environment, the group decided to make an eco-brick shelter for animals. They started by collecting plastic waste from people all over Mumbai. The waste was then stuffed into 1-liter waste plastic bottles to make eco-bricks, which were then sent to the fabricator, who used to help the team construct the shelter with the materials lying around in his warehouse. As the team decided the location of the shelter, they took the permission of their area's local authority and established the shelter after acquiring it.
Challenges along the way
"The making of the shelter was not as easy as one would imagine. We started with just a few volunteers, and the process required a lot of time, patience and hard work. We also did not have a particular place to store the waste and the eco-bricks. So, for most of the year, our homes were filled with plastic," Siya says.
She also says that the collection of plastic from all over Mumbai was also a tedious process for them. "We required 150 eco-bricks which estimated to be almost 40 kgs of plastic waste. It was not easy. However, after an entire year of collecting plastic waste from all over Mumbai, putting up with the awful smell of milk packets, undergoing intensive arm workouts to make eco-bricks, and an incredible amount of love and support for the project, we managed to build the shelter," she adds.
The shelter was set up during monsoons this year, after which the team has decked up to make more such eco-bricks for dustbins, animal shelters, benches, stools, and walls. "Our short-term goal is to educate people about eco-bricks and create a self-sustaining system where all the plastic waste from localities that cannot be recycled is converted into eco-bricks," Siya says.
The team is also keen on helping the world reduce its consumption of plastic. As they say, "Our ultimate goal is to force those 100 companies that are responsible for the 70% of the carbon footprint to take full accountability for their climate footprints and drive meaningful corporate action so that we are not obligated to skip schools and dedicate our youth to fighting climate change."