Today being World Environment Day, what better time to get in touch with a veteran Bollywood actress who's now turned into one of the biggest conservationist, and pick her brains about how she became a champion of the cause and where all she's implementing it. We're talking about Juhi Chawla who's gone from ruling our hearts on screen to igniting our conscience with her sincere efforts to ban plastic, protect the environment and leave the world a better place for future generations.
In an exclusive interview with Bollywood Life for World Environment Day, Juhi Chawla opened up on why she she became passionate about environmental conservation, saying, "I was totally ignorant of the environment and when I would hear the words environment and environmental conscious, I would wonder what they are talking about. I really must say that I've come from one end of the spectrum to the other, just in a few years. I've totally flopped. Particularly one conversation I had with my brother-in-law in Uganda woke me up. We have our factory over there. Looking at the factory and smoke going up in the air, I said, 'That smoke going up in the air is also a part of the pollution and we are causing it.' So, I'm sitting and talking to him over there because he works there and he told me something about plastic pollution. He asked me, 'Are you aware that there are islands of plastic in the sea?' And I was like, "What? Islands of plastic?' Then I thought that maybe it's just one of the little islands, like the island of Maldives somewhere. However, I got to know that these are islands of floating plastic and they are the size of Africa and there's one in every ocean in the world. And again I was like, 'What? It can't be true. I didn't hear this.'"
Continuing about how this was the turning point for her, the actress added, "That's what really changed me because until them I thought I was an educated person, I've travelled the world and I know everything there is to know. But when I heard this, I don't know, it just destroyed something inside me, I thought this is pathetic. What are we doing? What are we learning in school if we've not learned this? The most important things are not being told to children — about being respectful to nature. All we learn in school is how to use it, how to abuse it for our convenience and not looking beyond that. That's what really got me started and since then I've never looked back."
Speaking about how she's making her business avenues more environmentally conscious, Juhi revealed, "That is something we took up...when I got to know about plastic hazard, I got after them on every platform available to me because we all have area of influence. I have KKR (Kolkata Knight Rider, her IPL team, co-owned with longtime costar Shah Rukh Khan) or myself as a known face. So, I use every avenue we already have to make people aware. I started with KKR only and thank God they were open to me, Shah Rukh included, and they listened and agreed to do what I want. About three years ago, we got rid of all the plastic items in the stadium. And I'm talking about Eden Gardens (in Kolkata), which has 60,000 spectators on a good day."
Elaborating on the changes made and how SRK gets amused, but always goes along with her, she says, "All the cheer items were made of plastic back then, so we said, 'no,' they all have to go. The have to be eco-friendly. All our KKR flags, all other items that were synthetic...all gone. They're all made of cotton now. All the waste generated on match day is segregated. Unfortunately, the one thing we still can't get rid of is plastic bottles because glass is not allowed in a stadium. We still don't have an answer for that. There are some times when Shah Rukh and the others just go along with what I say, and there are other times when they tease me and say, 'There she comes, she'll start talking about trees again.' Sometimes Shah Rukh and the others just laugh at me, but they're the ones who do it, while I make all the noise."
It's good to know how people like Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan are doing their bit to preserve the environment.
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