Mumbai’s romance with butterflies Butterflies seem to be flitting across the Dombivli air presently, much to the delight of the residents — thanks to the ‘PRIP Kalyan Banerjee Butterfly Garden’ of RC Dombivli East, District 3140!

Who doesn’t feel joyous at the sight of a fluttering butterfly, so colorful, vibrant and carefree? Apart from being nature’s balancers enabling flora to flourish, they are a source of inspiration too. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly,” observed a nature poet. For those of us who crib that we don’t have time, “the butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough,” says Rabindranath Tagore.

Imagine a butterfly garden in congested Mumbai… the very thought is bliss! Rotarians of Rotary Club of Dombivli East have brought to life this novel concept of a Butterfly Garden at Dombivli.

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What’s more, this club has an ambitious plan to now start an International Butterfly Fellowship, organise a Butterfly Festival in April, and set up a Green Library with books on environment.

“The club is renowned for its child-centric activities since its inception in 1985,” says the Project Coordinator PDG Ulhas Kolhatkar. Rotary Children’s Park, Rotary ­Dombivli Mini-Olympics for kids, Rotary Amphitheatre and the International Dolls Museum are some of the club’s endeavours to please children. The butterfly garden is the new addition to this unique list. “Besides nature lovers and butterfly researchers from across the country, it will also attract children,” says Kolhatkar.

Established at the Rotary Children’s Park, the butterfly garden spreads across 4,000 sq ft, in the 2 ½ acre park, says club president Dr Vijay Aage.

But why butterfly garden?

Kolhatkar is ready with a whole bunch of facts and figures about the butterfly world to answer this question. They fall under the ‘endangered’ list and not much is being done on their research too. He points out that though there are around 18,000 species, only some 1,500 varieties are found in India and just 600 butterfly species have been studied! Surprisingly, of the 23 butterfly gardens pan India, three are in Mumbai.

A chance meeting with butterfly expert Divakar Thombre got him “hooked” to these beautiful creatures.  And the result … this butterfly garden!

But why name it after PRIP Kalyan Banerjee?

“This is our way of honouring him for his tremendous service to the people of Vapi and surrounding tribal regions. And now his passionate engagement in transforming lives through literacy.”

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PRIP Kalyan Banerjee and RI Director P T Prabhakar inaugurate the Butterfly Garden.

The garden is a heaven for nature-lovers. How did he think that a metro like Mumbai, which is more a concrete jungle, would attract butterflies? “Initially we too were quite skeptical about the idea. But we  conducted studies and found that Dombivli is an ideal habitat for these fascinating creatures and has been attracting them for long.”

The park has around 70 kinds of butterfly host plants such as Lantana, Jamaican Blue Spike and citrus and their brightly coloured flowers are a sure attraction for them. Presently, about 30 varieties of butterflies visit the park. To make the garden more interesting, poems, photographs and facts about butterflies are displayed at prominent spots across the place. This venture has become such a huge hit that Rotarians from other States now want their guidance in duplicating such butterfly gardens in their region.

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Butterfly Dance performed by children at the inaugural ceremony.

The garden was formally dedicated to the public by PRIP Kalyan Banerjee and RID P T Prabhakar, and created enough media buzz to attract huge numbers.  Local MLA Ravindra Chavan and Deputy Mayor Rahul Damle attended the event. Commending the initiative, Banerjee said, “Butterfly habitats have been lost due to human activities such as building homes, roads and industries. Such an endeavour will sensitise people to be nature-friendly, and help create a Green Earth, which is the need of the hour. It’s time Rotary places environment concerns as one of its focus areas.”

Prabhakar, in his address, said: “This is an awesome project that would inspire Rotarians and others to direct our services towards preserving our environment.”

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