Decades ago, when Gurugram consisted of villages, it had some bunds which were constructed to control floodwater and help water management. But as it turned into a leading metropolis, and with villages being replaced by urban settlements, these bunds lost their purpose and turned into garbage dumps and hideouts for open defecation.
But one citizen initiative by ‘I am Gurgaon’ kicked off in 2015, backed by the Haryana Forest Department and a few corporates has managed to transform and restore a 5.2-km corridor stretching from Phase 1 Metro station to Sector 56.
These efforts, over the last three years, have resulted in the defunct bund being transformed into a linear park with tracks for walking and cycling, which connect the city’s residential neighbourhoods.
It is also universally accessible for people on wheelchairs, strollers with ramps, for walkers, crutches and has tactile tiles for the visually impaired.
The pavement is permeable and allows water to percolate into the ground just like the stormwater drain constructed alongside the bund to hold run-off water with porous sides and base. In addition, the park uses sustainable energy lighting solutions and has a host of native and indigenous tree species.
Latika Thukral of ‘I am Gurgaon’ in a Hindustan Times report writes how sewage disposal from surrounding villages and residential colonies had been polluting the bund for the last many years.
And the restoration was anything but easy.
“When the restoration of the drain started, it was frightening to see how much garbage has been dumped in the middle of the city, simply hidden by metal sheets. The place was stinking, pipes were all choked up, pigs were feasting, and every inch of the drain was filled with plastic. With help from the administration, our first step was to take out the plastic and toxic waste from the drain and send it to the designated landfill site,” she writes.
While cleaning the drain was a task they mastered, the challenge was to ensure it remained clean. And so, they fenced the areas to prevent large-scale dumping by residents. This was met with resistance as the locals were losing parking spaces to garbage.
But the green heroes stood their ground and continued their struggle for a year. Today, the drain channels are clean.
The trees, shrubs, herbs and grass are now attracting biodiverse life forms like birds, insects and other mammals.
And while they have ensured restoration is a maximum area, they have another two km of the bund left for cleaning and restoration. The next plan of action is to clear out the garbage in the remaining area and divert the sewage. The citizens are also trying alternatives to ensure clean water seeps into the ground and is used for irrigation.
“The restoration of neglected spaces helps in energising urban landscapes and creates a healthy environment for outdoor movement for city dwellers. We can now proudly say that the bund is no different from Highline Park in New York City, where a disused rail line was converted into a 2.33 km long aerial greenway for the city,” adds Latika.
In a Facebook post, ‘I am Gurgaon’ revealed how this project titled ‘Eco-Restoration of Wazirabad Bundh’ won an Outstanding Award by IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) for Resilience by Design. The award was bestowed upon VSPB Associates who are the architects for this project.
Isn’t it wonderful to see how residents, backed by the government managed to restore a dying city bund and transform it into something beautiful?
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)