One of the highlights of the Biodiversity by the Bay campaign has been the opportunity to work with Rohan Chakravarty of Green Humour. Rohan worked with wildlife experts and local Mumbaikars to create a one-of-a-kind map of Mumbai’s biodiversity that has been viewed by thousands of people, from journalists in Mumbai to commenters in Karachi wishing they had a map of their own, to remind them of the kind of natural treasures they live with.
We asked Rohan a few questions about the process of making the map, and the biodiversity of Mumbai! Here are some of the highlights, and the full IG Live is above. More information on the experts he consulted for this map are on the Green Humour website, linked above.
You’ve mentioned your interest in making wildlife maps, and have created many! How does it feel to make a map of Mumbai?
Having drawn Hong Kong, the kinds of conservation threats are very similar to Bombay: both have coastlines, both have high-rise buildings, and a lack of space. I’ve wanted to have the same opportunity in India, and Mumbai has been a really interesting learning experience for me!
What were some of the challenges of creating a map like this, during a country-wide shutdown?
I’ve had to rely a lot on secondary information this time. I prefer to visit a place and explore it on the ground. I like to know what it looks like, what the terrain looks like, what it looks like in a particular season.
And what have you enjoyed about the process?
Most of these projects happen with NGOs and government agencies and experts. This time I’m working with a younger group and the energy and excitement has been palpable, and has perhaps driven me to do even better!
The response is also unprecedented – to see this magnitude of excitement around something I’ve drawn is new for me as well! For me, the learning process is the most enjoyable part, it feels like exploring every nook and corner of the city. I was already familiar with a lot of green spaces in Mumbai: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Vasai Creek, the mangroves, working with my friends at Marine Life of Mumbai, who are doing great work.
What have you learned about Mumbai while making this map? And what is your favourite species you’ve drawn on it?
I learned so many new things about Mumbai when I made this map – four to five new species which have been described from Aarey Forest itself. I also learned about the subsects of Mumbai’s tribes, which has been a tremendous experience for me. I cannot wait to come back to Mumbai and verify all the observations for myself.
My favourite has to be the Giri’s geckoella – described from Aarey Forest – it has these charming leopard spots on its hide.
Where would you like to see this map in the world?
I would like to see this map in every city park, every metro station, every train station. Because of the young and dynamic nature of this team, I’m sure it will happen!
If there was one thing to change about Mumbai, what would it be?
The very foundations of Mumbai are based on land reclamation, which the city is facing the consequences of. I hope this map will serve as a visual resource for the youth of the city to empower themselves with information at a glance, and to drive away ill-conceived measures. To make the government pause and take note that this is what we share the city with, what we must conserve and make space for. We Maharashtrans have the good fortune of having an environmental Minister who is an environmental enthusiast, and I hope his ministry takes note and continues their efforts.
And what is one thing you’d like people to take away from all of your Green Humour work?
Infectious curiosity is what I try to infuse my comics with, and my viewers with! I hope more interactive science communication will encourage that curiosity and encourage governments to invest in conservation.
What is your advice for young creative people who want to use their talents to create change?
Looking at all the activism that has been happening around environmental issues, and social causes, I think the time for art to serve purely as a means of beautification and visual pleasure has gone. I think art should adopt a political colour and a political voice. If you’re young, and looking for new directions for your art to go into, it needs to go beyond just the visual aesthetic.
Thanks again to Rohan for his incredible work, and his thoughtful insights. While there is nothing like exploring nature yourself, we hope that this map will make people rethink their first impression of Mumbai, and remind them of the incredible natural heritage of the city.