Living theatre, futuristic site
A living showcase of man's symbiotic connection with Nature, the Eden Project in England evokes eco-awareness with clarity.
PHOTO: KISHORE IYENGAR
NERVE CENTRE: The giant Biomes or greenhouses are at the heart of the Eden Project.
ON a typical Cornish summer day, that alternated between sweeping rain and sunshine contrasts, I drove onto the edge of Bodelva's massive crater, formerly a china clay quarry abandoned to decrepit dismissal until under a decade ago. Today, standing on the edge of an amazingly transformed, globally acclaimed natural wonderland of eco-compatible existence, it was easy to see how the Eden Project is literally, Paradise rediscovered.
A few minutes drive through charming country roads from St. Austell in Cornwall, leads you to this ambitious, yet dramatically created, concept. It is a living theatre of our existence on earth that connects plants, people and places in a seamless link to sustain and exist harmoniously. It vividly demonstrates, through its many interesting living elements, that regeneration is possible, aiming to reconnect people with their environment and with each other. Simply put, The Eden Project aims to "promote the understanding and responsible management of the vital relationship between people, plants and resources leading to sustainable future for all". This basic, yet essential, goal is demonstrated with ample conviction as you walk through the massive, futuristic site.
Three giant Biomes or greenhouses the world's largest are the focus of the Eden Project. Walk into each one of them, one after the other, and you'll discover that each Biome is unique with its own geographical theme, micro-climate and plants from every corner of the world. It's a live, simulated environment typical to three zones of the living earth that we are familiar with. Creator Tim Smit, who relentlessly grappled with his vision and lent form to the nuances of his passion in bringing alive the essence of eco-synergetic living, envisages each Biome to be a model of what we should be heading for in the future. The 240-metre long, 110-m wide and 50-m high "Humid Tropics" Biome, the largest conservatory in the world, contains 1,000 plant species housing the natural habitats from tropical islands, Malaysia, West Africa and Tropical South America. As I walked down the "jungle'" paths, it was thrilling to see tropical rain forests, rubber, cocoa, coffee, mango, fruit and spice plants juxtaposed with timber, rice, palm, banana and bamboo; all existing under careful, energy-efficient computer-temperature monitored conditions. Reuse, revive, recycle, redeem, reinvent, relive ... the words rhyme with an eco-chime.
The "Warm Temperate" Biome, another fascinating home to the ecology of the Mediterranean basin countries, South Africa and California, introduce you to alliums, cork, grapes and wines, peppers, citrus, olives, sunflowers and aromatic herbs.
And the "Outdoor" Biome offers you an insight into an entire temperate world including parts of Asia, the Americas and Europe and their plant species, some of them locally grown there, aided by Cornwall's mild climate. So much for what these huge enclosures protect and preserve and whose construction is even more path breaking.
Each Biome, or massive conservatory, is actually made up of a series of hexagons measuring nine metres across fixed to a galvanised tubular frame and glazed with a triple layer of Ethylene Tetra Fluoro-Ethylene (ETFE) co-polymer foil which is recyclable with a minimum lifespan of 30 years! And this finished, self-cleaning, anti-static and weather-resistant structure is itself maintenance free for 25 years.
But there's more to The Eden Project than meets the eye. Strategically positioned are examples of well retrieved, well saved and innovatively created endowments of nature that send a clear message live, synergise and blend with what you have in your natural environment, or you'll have none. Waste driftwood creations, wrought iron sculpture, recycled wood furniture, hemp and grass ceiling partitions and dividers, ash-sand-clay and mud textured facades all go to implore you to think that extra little to eco-harmonise and flourish.
Not so much a destination but as a place in the heart, the Eden Project reportedly attracts 1.8 million visitors including school children, special environmental study groups, academics and designers from across the world.
Settling down with a cup of herbal tea at the Eden Project's cafeteria, I was reminded of the vastly diverse natural attributes of India, that virtually encapsulate all the myriad environmental conditions, climates and ecological wonders from around the world, and its cultural wealth and traditions rooted in its multiform environments. With progressive thinking and imagination, sensible planning, collaborative implementation of concepts, aggressive awareness-arousing agendas, elucidative education and rapid mobilisation of its burgeoning millions, India could practically wipe out the repeated scourge of floods, famines, drought and deforestation and indeed emulate itself as the world's largest and most successful model of environmental co-existence ... a true living theatre of man's vital collaboration with nature.
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