New Delhi: Once a stretch of barren land, scarred by indiscriminate mining, has today transformed itself into the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, one of the lushest green patches of Gurugram with over 1.2 lakh trees, attracting morning walkers, joggers, cyclists and bird watchers. This beautiful turnaround is the result of the hard work put in by 53-year-old Gurgaon resident Latika Thukral, who quit her job in 2009 to start ‘IAmGurgaon’ with her friends. Talking to NDTV about her journey, Latika said,
We started this movement because of our own selfish interest, we wanted our city to be clean and healthy. Gurgaon is located in the Aravalli ranges, which were once known as the lush and green site of the city before the hills were despoiled by extensive mining. We wanted to get the ‘green’ tag back and that’s when we started IAmGurgaon.
Latika with her friends took over the park in 2009 and since then they have been taking care of the land. Explaining what all has been done Latika added,
We have had the support of about 65+ corporates who have funded to make this happen and we have planted over 1.2 lakh trees in here. We would say we have a 95% survival rate and this is a great example of public-private partnership. Together, the citizens and the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon have helped to make this happen.
Today, with over 300 species of native plants, it is envisioned as a pristine habitat for birds and wild animals of the Northern Aravalli. Ebird.com, a globally accepted online database created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where bird sightings are reported and tracked across continents in real time, has recorded 182 species in the park making it one of the richest birding habitats in Delhi-NCR. Apart from birds, animals like neelgais, jackals, common palm civets, porcupines, hares, snakes, lizards and skunks are also thriving in the park.
The nurseries dedicated to native plants have also been created from scratch and native species have been collected from across the cities of Northern Aravallis like Udaipur, Jodhpur, Sariska, Dehradun.
Vijay Dhasmana, Curator, Aravalli Bio Diversity Park shares,
Unfortunately, Haryana is losing its forest rapidly, with this initiative, we wanted to bring the greenery back. Plants have to be selected carefully, as random plantation could have done more harm than good. To remedy this, what we did is that when we started the rejuvenation of the forest we looked around for native plant species of Aravalli. We got some 8-10 species, and we simply mixed these native species with other trees that are indigenous to Gurgaon.
Apart from a perfect example of reforestation, this park also is setting the bar high for water conservation, Mr Dhadmana explained, “Not even a single drop goes out of this park, so whatever rainfall comes into this park, goes into the ground. Even from the roadside, a provision is made to channelise the road water into the groundwater sink we have created. There is a rough estimate of about 20 lakh litres per acre kind of recharge in the area like this does. So imagine 380 acres!”
Apart from the Biodiverse Park, the city-based NGO has also taken up many projects within Gurugram in which they have revamped the garbage dumps into the smaller linear park with tracks for walking and cycling, which connects the city’s residential neighbourhoods.
IAmGurgaon is a volunteer-based service and is open to all, volunteers can join the initiative through their official website or their Facebook page.
Latika signs off by saying,
IAmGurgaon is by the citizen, for the citizen initiative that has taken up the responsibility to make Gurgaon a better place to live in. We, the empowered citizens, have the power in our hand to contribute to the betterment of the city. If we start doing our bit for the environment, this planet will surely be a better place to live in.
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