The last couple of days of Biodiversity By The Bay feature comic Daniel Fernandes and screenwriter Anu Menon
Earlier this month, it was announced that the controversial Metro car shed at Mumbai’s Aarey colony was being shifted to Kanjurmarg, a locality in the eastern part of the bustling city. If you’re wondering why this is crucial, the eco-sensitive zone has been in the news for the past few months, ever since the government ordered the felling of over 2,700 trees to make way for the Metro Rail. Ironically, just a few days prior to the car shed making headlines once again, Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic — a collective of Mumbaikars and organisations, such as climate non-profit Waatavaran — and entertainment company DeadAnt launched a three-week digital festival aimed at celebrating the city’s biodiversity through the arts.
Founded amidst the pandemic in August this year, the collective shot to fame for their efforts to protect the city’s flamingos and their shrinking habitats. Since then, they have also highlighted Mumbai’s disappearing green cover and rapid urbanisation. Their latest initiative is Biodiversity By The Bay, which concludes on October 25.
The final week, dedicated to comedy, included live sets by East India Comedy’s Kunal Rao, The Anti Social Network’s host José Covaco, and stand-up artist Prashasti Singh, among others. Tune in today for a performance by comic Daniel Fernandes, which will be followed by a session by director-screenwriter Anu Menon on Sunday. “Menon’s sketch will explore the things women should be wary of before agreeing to date a man, and how that conveniently relates to preserving our flamingo habitats,” says Sonali Bhasin, Senior Strategist at Purpose Climate Lab (PCL), a member of the Magic coalition.
Looking back at week one
The themes explored so far have been both informative and immersive. The first week of Biodiversity By The Bay had brought together a host of artistic interventions, including artists Shilo Shiv Suleman and Pia Alize whose work raised awareness about the Aarey forest, Priyanka Paul’s piece on the Covid-hit Koli fishing community, and Vinu Joseph’s animated artwork exploring the relationship between a boy and a hermit crab.
Bhasin says the response has been phenomenal. “We’ve had over a million people engage with the festival. We have also seen an increase in the number of signatures for the petition [to Aditya Thackeray with five demands to protect Mumbai’s environment]. Everybody seems to have really embraced the fight for the flamingos.”
Beyond the fest
But how do the organisers see the collective bringing about actual change in Mumbai’s ecosystem? Addressing on-ground conservation efforts, Arpita Bhagat, Campaign Manager at PCL, says several people have been involved in these initiatives over the years. “From those working with the Koli community to activists at the frontline of the Save Aarey movement, we are excited to bring new voices into the conversation,” she says, adding, “There are many youngsters in the city who are interested in these issues, but don’t have a starting point. Festivals like these will spark new entry points into the climate conversation, and provide people with direction.”
Stream the festival on @mumbaismagic on Instagram.