Government plans three new biodiversity parks in Gurugram district
The district administration is currently preparing a detailed project report for three new biodiversity parks in Damdama, Kukrola and Kasan, under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan’s afforestation component. As part of this process, the deputy commissioner’s office, the district development and panchayat office, the forest department and a team of officials from the recently constituted GuruJal initiative are vetting revenue records of land in and around these villages.
Shubhi Kesarwani, programme manager, GuruJal, said, “The biodiversity parks will each be between 200 to 300 acres in size. We are cross-checking revenue records to arrive at their precise demarcations. We will also be developing a new water body in Kasan and reviving the Damdama lake as part of the project, which will be modelled on the Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Gurugram, with a focus on native varieties of plants.”
Amit Khatri, deputy commissioner, added that the total area earmarked for restoration in different parts of the district under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan amounts to about 1,500 acres. “We have identified as much panchayat land in various parts, with the conservation of water and forests being the main objective. However, we would also like to open up these areas for tourists, like in the Aravalli Biodiversity Park.” Kesarwani added that these locations have been chosen due to their strategic placement in the Aravalli foothills that need to be protected and revived. “These areas already have a drainage pattern that is suitable for forming lakes and sustaining biodiversity, provided we can improve the local environment,” she said.
Once prepared, the detailed project report will have to be approved by the state cabinet. Support of various local panchayats will also be required before this ambitious proposal can be implemented. However, to circumvent this hurdle, stakeholder departments have already begun reaching out to local panchayats to gain their support. “Fieldwork for community mobilisation is already underway. We are roping in the local panchayats as they will be the direct beneficiaries of the initiative and custodians of the forest,” said Kesarwani, who added that this proposal would further increase Gurugram’s forest cover, which currently stands at nine percent for the district (as opposed to about 3.75 percent for the state).
Vijay Dhasmana, an ecologist who helmed the restoration of Aravalli Biodiversity Park, said that it would not be possible to comment on these plans without first seeing the detailed project report. “If conservation is the administration’s aim, then that’s a good thing. Areas like Damdama and Kasan have some of the last traces of Aravalli wilderness in the region and need to be conserved.”
However, Dhasmana also said that the administration must look holistically at the nature of Aravalli forests, instead of stopping short at simply planting native trees. “For example, it’s easy to plant ‘native’ varieties such as neem or chudail paapdi, but that won’t really bring back the native forests. The authorities will need to commit to bringing back the ecology of, say, dhau forests or babool forests, which have been lost from the area. That was the idea behind Aravalli Biodiversity Park.”
Under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, which the GuruJal initiative is monitoring, plantation drives in Kasan, Kukrola and Damdama have already begun. Officials said that an estimated two and a half lakh trees will be planted on panchayat lands in the Aravalli foothills in the coming months, with every panchayat being made responsible for maintaining between 500 to 1,000 trees each.