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Grow with nature

Sunday, Sep 27, 2020 13:00 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Sep 27, 2020 07:26 [IST]

Grow with nature

Dr DEBAPRIYA MUKHERJEE                      

The COVID-19 pandemic has engulfed the world. To contain the spread of COVID-19, lockdown was imposed and that compelled us to retreat into our homes and forgo physical social contact. We are still not sure when we will be back to normal. Practically we are all in a temporary state of lockdown. During the lockdown, I was  in great difficulty to go out for operating the rural science centre established in my village (about 200 km from Kolkata) for the benefit of the students (classes V-X)  those are deprived of any practical demonstration of science and maths  in their schools. In addition to this, activities related to production of vermi-compost, experimentation on organic farming, fish cultivation and manufacturing of handicraft utilizing water hyacinth have been jeopardized.  Even I could not come in contact with the resource persons to discuss about scope to further improvement.

 In this piquant situation, I was practically demoralized and stressed in the initial phase of lockdown. Stress is a worldwide 21st century problem that can cause physical problems such as higher blood pressure, muscle tension and digestive problems, while long-term stress can lead to serious health issues including depression and anxiety. I was also suffering from digestive problems during this period. Keeping fit and healthy is important at any time, but during the coronavirus pandemic, it was critical. All on a sudden, one message of Confucius- “When it is obvious that goals can’t be reached , don’t adjust the goals, but adjust the action steps” helped me to change my action plan.
In times like these, I realized  the crucial bond between humans and the environment particularly flora and fauna around us. Now best action is to grow and nurture plants in my home. Based on sound scientific evidence it can be mentioned that gardens and gardening are good for our physical, mental and social wellbeing. Having something to nurture brings a sense of unpressured purpose to our lives. Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity, and support emotional well-being(EWB), which can reinforce this healthy behavior.
Gardening at home had a similar effect on EWB (or happiness) as biking, walking or dining out. Household gardens could be key to providing food security in urban areas and making cities more sustainable and livable. Though I maintain roof garden but space and resources (like soil and water) available was not optimally utilized. During complete lockdown,  many garden centers and retailers were closed, but I utilized this time to prepare the garden. For this purpose I began to collect kitchen waste, aquatic weeds (water hyacinth and pistia) from the ponds closed to my house. Cow dung available with me was mixed with these collected material for vermicomposting. Vermicomposting using earthworm(Eiseniafetida) is being done in my house in small scale as a source of organic fertilizer for my roof garden. I started to increase  production of the vermicompost.   Within 30 days, about 100 sqft land and more than 100 pots were ready for sowing seeds and planting vegetables, fruits and flowers.   
Different varieties of plants and flowers which are found in our local environment are grown in my garden. By spending time throughout the day connecting with nature I  could  reduce stressful feelings and increase my  wellness with sound sleep at night at the age of 65 years.  Sowing seeds is really a relaxing activity for me as I think about the beautiful plants that would be growing for me very soon. It has been reported by many medical institutes that domestic gardens and indoor plants act as therapy and reduce stress in the age of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, depression, anxiety, etc. There are many aromatic plants which help us remain calm and also ease the flow of blood in our body. Spending active time gardening can also burn up to 1200kj (almost 300 calories) which can encourage weight loss, improve fitness and overall health and wellbeing. Gardening actually gives us quite a diverse workout. From squatting to stretching, lifting pots, pushing wheelbarrows, digging and walking, our body is enjoying the benefits of movement. Though the coronavirus has caused severe human suffering but it also provides the time and opportunity to create the garden producing a sense of pride and of course pleasure for my all family members.

Every morning, I wake up excited to observe minutely the buds and flowers of plants and the growth of vegetables for harvesting. I go to the roof  and  adjacent land  for watering the plants, removal of weeds, checking of pests and application of organic pesticides, loosening of soil as necessary, removal of infected plants, checking the moisture content of vermicomposting bags and collection of vermi-wash  as much as possible and many other activities. Introduction of vegetable garden along with flower garden gives more EWB.  Spending  time in the garden with these activities I am actually giving the garden and the plants our positive energy, so this will help them thrive. Garden also give all that great energy back to us in the form of chemical free and nutritious foods. This will also reduce our ecological footprint and also help us save money. Of course at this stage, I cannot depend fully on my house garden to fulfill the daily requirement  of vegetables and fruits but offers the hope of some fresh vegetables and  the chance to improve and beautify the small pockets of greenery around us. In addition, many plants attract different  insects for pollination. The water-stations built in this garden helps the  birds. Gardening has become a family hobby with everyone taking care of some plants. This has reduced our dependency on using smart phone or watching TV to some extent.
Moreover, in this way, we can monetize the waste generated in house particularly those are biodegradable as this waste produces valuable compost that is an  important requirement for building any type of garden.   Also we can upgrade  waste management skills and stop throwing away wet waste  ends up in an overflowing landfill and comes back to us in ugly ways. Hence, we can establish the cyclical process of resource-to-resource and learn that nothing in Nature goes “waste”. On the contrary our carbon footprint will be reduced.  In addition to these, there are numerous environmental benefits of having a  garden. This can provide a partial but important solution to issues of polluted water, parasites, and smoke inhalation.

In view of above it can be mentioned that gardening might be a big part of improving quality-of-life particularly in city. Ever since the industrial revolution, the boundaries of human establishments have been expanding continuously. They keep penetrating deeper into several ecosystems which were initially inhabited by different plant and animals species. Some of these plants and animals are now endangered or are already extinct. Gardens provide a place for experiencing nature and maintains varieties of plants, insects and  birds. Gardens are going to play an important role in keeping society happy and healthy.  Gardening is a practical, cost-effective and sustainable solution for multiple issues that we are facing. A pandemic like COVID-19 can help us realise the vital components of human life and work for a more sustainable future. Looking at nature and appreciating its beauty reminds us of the wonderful things that we have around us. I am  sure this is a great way of creating positive thoughts and feelings in us all. Another way of connecting with nature is ‘Being’ in nature, not ‘doing’.  We all become good at ‘well-doing’ but not so good at ‘well-being’.


Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi