The city’s first tryst with a battle against global warming evoked a mixed response from Mumbaikars, as opposed to the phenomenal following that the Sydney Earth Hour got. The Mumbai Unplug: Batti Bandh movement to switch off electricity for an hour from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm on Saturday was sporadic with lights switched off in pockets across the city.
Governor S M Krishna had ordered Raj Bhavan employees to unplug for an hour and the first citizen of Mumbai, mayor Shubha Raul, switched off the power at her Prabhadevi bungalow 15 minutes before the clock struck 7.30 pm. Citizens, celebrities, corporates and even NRIs chipped in to put an end to climate change but it was light as usual at the BMC and Mantralaya headquarters as well as hoardings across the city.
"We normally watch soap operas during this hour but today we took a break," said a housewife from Prarthana Samaj, one of the residents from the Chowpatty area who unplugged. The family instead played housie by candlelight. "We bonded over the game and it was a unique experience," she said.
Schools and colleges took note of Batti Bandh hour too. Juhu-based school Narsee Monji asked students to spread the message at home. "My teacher told me to go home and tell my parents to switch off lights for the noble cause," said Ria Rane, a student of the school while at Xavier’s College the campus was dark with the evening commerce classes being conducted with just one tubelight on.
While restaurants like Indigo Deli, Busaba, Gaylords, Shiro, Rock Hard Cafe and Mocha outlets cut down on their power consumption, either partially or totally, corporates like Bank of Rajasthan, Essar, Inox, Citibank, HDFC, Vodafone, Air India, Pidilite too supported the cause. While Essar incorporated the ideals of Batti Bandh in their founders’ day conference, Bank of Rajasthan switched off lights in branches across the country. A group of NRIs staying in the Netherlands, who emailed TOI, too showed their support by switching off all electrical appliances there.
It was also an opportunity to bond and to show support for the cause in various ways. In housing societies like the Raheja Hillside Society in Powai and Ashoka Building at Napean Sea Road people gathered to play a round of antakshri while members of student organisations showed their solidarity in the form of a human chain in Ghatkopar. Around 100 rickshaw drivers along with dhol players also held a peace rally at Kalamboli, Panvel and Navi Mumbai. Students of St Xavier’s College formed the Batti Bandh logo while the Bombay Catholic Sabha held a street procession from Sahar to the airport to show their support for the cause.
City-based rock bands performed on the Marine Drive and Carter Road promenades. Al Gore’s documentary film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on global warming was screened at the Bandra amphitheatre at Land’s End and members of Ideal Drama and Entertainment Academy enacted a Hindi play to woo street audiences. Hard Rock Cafe in Lower Parel also hosted a candle-lit unplugged performance by rock band The Other People.
But there were several who didn’t unplug. "We did not know it was a voluntary movement. We thought the power would be cut off at the specified time," said the manager of a coffee outlet. Resident of Santa Cruz (E) Shubhda More went around the neighbourhood asking people to switch off their lights. "But most said, ‘how does it matter?" "It’s such a great cause, I expected much more," added Suhail Rajpal, who was at Marine Drive.
"On an average, the city consumes 550 MW of power on a Saturday between 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm. Even if only 10% of electricity consumption is reduced, 55 MW is conserved which is equivalent to 37.8 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide not being emitted in the air. This in turn means 73,000 cars being taken off the road. The exact figures will reach us tomorrow, but we are positive about the response being more than 10%" said founder-member of Mumbai Unplug: Batti Bandh Keith Menon.