With the help of the government, citizens, and the corporate sector, an NGO named ‘I am Gurgaon’ has managed to revive a forest on 350 acres of land — right in the middle of the city of Gurgaon.
It would seem improbable now, but once upon a time Gurgaon was just a small town adjacent to the national capital. Today, it has changed into a magnificent millennium city. This transformation has been rapid and awe-inspiring, serving as an example of how cities evolve rapidly in a feat to achieve the millennium status of development and modernity and while doing so, have to bid farewell to fresh air, open spaces and clean environment.
“The way the city has lost its greenery is worrisome. I have been living in Gurgaon for the past 20 years and am bothered at the way development has taken place,” says Latika Thukral, a resident.
It is this concern that drove her to establish ‘I am Gurgaon’ — an NGO started with the aim of improving the quality of living in Gurgaon through collaborative efforts.
The former Senior Vice President of Citi Bank, Latika founded I am Gurgaon nine years ago with architect Swanzal Kak Kapoor and Ambika Agarwal.
“We are a ‘by the citizen, for the citizen’ initiative that has taken up the responsibility to make Gurgaon a better place to live in. The empowered citizens can contribute to the betterment of the city. We simply provide a platform where people can connect with other inspired people and all of us work together to make a difference,” she says.
The NGO has managed to rejuvenate an entire forest in the city in the last nine years. Working hand-in-hand with the municipal corporation of Gurgaon, the NGO took up a mission to revive the Aravalli Biodiversity Park located in the Aravalli Range near Delhi border. Today, these 350 acres owned by the municipal corporation are home to thousands of trees of native variety and over 183 different species of birds. The area, which had become a mining and ‘malba’ dumping site in the past, has become one of the greenest spots in the city.
The NGO has also taken up an initiative titled ‘Million Trees Gurgaon’ and has vowed to plant 10,00,000 saplings across the city.
So far, the organisation has successfully planted about 1 lakh saplings, out of which 65,000 saplings have been planted at the Aravali Biodiversity Park.
The organisation actively maintains the park by organising planting drives, nature walks, cleaning drives, leaf composting as well as cultural events. The collaboration has worked well — while the NGO has given support in terms of maintenance, plantation, and organisation, the municipal corporation provided land and infrastructure like an amphitheatre, parking space, cycling tracks and walking trails.
“Aravalli Biodiversity Park has been a challenging project for us. Getting the municipal corporation on board and getting all the required permissions was really difficult. But it has been equally rewarding. We were very insistent on how we wanted to develop the park. We decided to plant only native species and created two large nurseries, Aranya and Vanaja in the year 2012. There we have over 250 native species of plants like Boswellia serrata (Salai), Sterculia urens (Kullu), Anogessius pendula (Dhau), Wrightia tinctoria (Khirni), and Commiphora wightii (Guggul). The park has also seen a growth in its bird population. With over 183 species of birds, it has become the favourite spot for local birders,” says Latika.
The core team of the NGO consists of 11 committee members, all of whom work voluntarily for the organisation. But every project is completed only with the support of the public — school children, senior citizens, and others.
“We have been actively working with Gurgaon civic bodies and resident welfare associations (RWAs) for the betterment of Gurgaon. We bring together citizens, RWAs, corporate organisations, schools, the state administration, and other stakeholders in a collaborative partnership to effect the transformation of Gurgaon into a true millennium city. We believe in long-term projects, which have a lasting impact,” says Latika.
To know more about I am Gurgaon, visit their official website by clicking here.