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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Turning the city green, a million trees at a time

In 2009, she, along with two other citizens, founded ‘I am Gurgaon’, which has, in collaboration with civic bodies and corporates, gone on to preserve the city’s nature and wilderness

gurgaon Updated: Mar 09, 2019 08:58 IST
Sonali Verma
Sonali Verma
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
Latika Thukral, the founder of I am Gurgaon, in Gurugram. She helped make the Biodiversity Park into what it is today.
Latika Thukral, the founder of I am Gurgaon, in Gurugram. She helped make the Biodiversity Park into what it is today.(Parveen Kumar / Hindustan Times)
         

When Latika Thukral, a resident of Gurugram for 23 years, took a long sabbatical from her job in a private bank, little did she known that she would be known for turning around one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks that also serve as its green lungs.Upon moving to the city with her family, Thukral became concerned with the way Gurugram was growing without any regulation. “The growth was haphazard with no checks on construction and pollution. I wanted to do something. But I had no idea how to,” she recalled, adding that when citizens come together, change is possible.

In 2009, she, along with two other citizens, founded ‘I am Gurgaon’, which has, in collaboration with civic bodies and corporates, gone on to preserve the city’s nature and wilderness. One of the organisation’s most important projects is the 600-acre Aravalli Biodiversity Park which was once barren land, but has now become a green public space and home to many species of birds and animals.

“Latika was walking the talk; especially during the initial years of I am Gurgaon. She would get her hands dirty and do all the work by herself,” said Darshan Singh, a long-time resident who assisted in her early projects. Thukral’s team is majorly led by women. “Women are just more driven about causes, I think,” she said.

Thukral added that at the time, she didn’t know much about environment conservation and restoration, and admitted she would have breakdowns when things went downhill. “When we started the initiative to plant a million trees in the city in 2011, we received a great deal of criticism. You can’t just plant trees and leave them. They need constant care,” she said, adding she took help from horticulturists to plant the trees at the park. “I was never an expert on environment. I learned as I worked,” she said.

A normal day for Thukral involves meeting people who have different ideas about environment conservation.

Sudhir Kapoor, secretary of the resident welfare association (RWA), DLF, said Thukral puts a lot of energy and thought into everything. “You’ll never hear a ‘no’ from her. Working with her in several projects, I’ve realised she listens to people and is very approachable. She’ll try to find one way or another to help,” he said.

Since the Biodiversity Park, Thukral and her team have cleaned and made green several areas in the city that used to be garbage dumps. The Wazirabad bundh, a stormwater drain that used to be a garbage dump, has been transformed into a five-kilometre-long linear park, thanks to their efforts. Thukral said the restoration was anything but easy. “The bundh was full of sewage disposed from surrounding colonies. We had to make sure it remained clean, so we fenced the area, which was met with resistance from local residents,” she recalled. The bundh is now host to indigenous trees, birds and insects. An art installation from waste material made by a local artist is on display there. “When I see people, mostly local workers, walk from the bundh to their workplaces, it makes me happy. Some green amid the dust and chaos is a delight for everyone,” Thukral said.

Her next project involves restoring the Badhshapur bundh. “That will be another example for residents. We plan to make it a park with everything made from recycled waste material,” she said, adding that she hopes residents can come and find solutions for waste there.

First Published: Mar 09, 2019 08:58 IST

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