Man with a green touch

It seems anything that Gulam Ali Sajanlal touches, turns green. The well-known environmentalist, inventor and mechanical engineer has been in Dubai since 1976, working as service manager with Jashanmal, and his latest project has turned his tiny apartment balconies into oases.

By Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter)

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Published: Sat 19 Jul 2008, 2:19 AM

Last updated: Tue 14 Nov 2023, 11:16 AM

Oleandar plants bedeck the balcony sill while jasmine creeps up the wall and neem trees are trained in the arch of the roof.

Sajanlal's green thumb has been creating garden spaces, raising environmental awareness and developing eco-friendly inventions, for as long as he can remember.

His earliest memory of a garden is of a rock garden he created when he was about seven years old.

"In the evening I used to play soft music, the old Latin music, in the garden. We used to love it, and the plants, too. There was space for just four or five people but it had an excellent ambience," he reminisces.

In the various villas Sajanlal lived in Dubai from time to time, he created lush green gardens where previously there were sandy areas.

About one year ago, he moved to an apartment in Al Ghusais. "I was so depressed for the first six months," Sajanlal said. "I'm so fond of greenery and nature. I decided I must have a garden. I wanted to have a balcony garden."

The two balconies, one barely half a metre wide, required creative use of the space. Expanding on the balcony ledge with a shelf, Sajanlal recycled old pipes and potted plants along their length.

"When the roots grow from end to end, the plants grow so much quicker," Sajanlal points out. Interspersed between the pipes are more potted plants and the effect is mirrored along the other length of the balcony.

An arched effect of greenery creates a cool haven for Sajanlal's morning cup of tea which he takes soon after he rises at 4am.

While tending to his garden, he gathers the excess water from the air-conditioning units and waters the plants. The recycled water from the AC units is also used in fountains scattered across his home.

But the patter of fountain water comes from no ordinary source. Sajanlal has used old washing machine tubs to hold the water and created a spout from their base.

The clever use of water is second nature to Sajanlal and he encourages others to think similarly. "There is a water crisis in the UAE," he says. "An AC unit produces about two litres of water an hour. And it's chemical free and neutral. It's just the condensation that forms."

Sajanlal has spent many years raising environmental awareness and has won awards for his efforts in the field.

"You must start environmental awareness with the children," Sajanlal insists.

The first thing he encouraged UAE residents to do was create their own balcony garden.

"There must be 99 per cent of people living in apartments," he says.

"They like to have a garden and it will be a boon for them."

You needn't feel that the task is too tough, he says and adds that the AC units' pipes could easily be diverted to recycle water, while pipes and bits and pieces could be found at plumbing stores and other places.

He encourages people to visit his balcony gardens and take advantage of his experience.

Sajanlal can be contacted at and his web site is

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