MCG to takeover maintenance of Aravalli Biodiversity Park
The Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) will take over maintenance of the Aravalli Biodiversity Park from a city-based non-governmental organisation, IAmGurgaon, on December 15. Officials confirmed that the park will continue to be maintained as a green space under the care of a new concessionaire, who is yet to be selected.
The non-governmental organisation (NGO), IAmGurgaon, which has helmed the park’s restoration from an abandoned mining site to an urban forest since 2012, is currently in talks with the MCG’s horticulture department to ensure a smooth handover.
IAmGurgaon’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the MCG, first signed in 2012 to facilitate the park’s restoration, was extended for a period of eight years in 2014. “Our agreement with the NGO lapsed in March this year. However, due to constraints imposed by the coronavirus lockdown, we requested IAmGurgaon to continue maintaining the park in the interim. Going forward, we have decided to appoint a new concessionaire to maintain the site using corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds. We are still finalising this,” said Vinay Pratap Singh, commissioner, MCG.
In a letter to IAmGurgaon on November 19 (a copy of which is with Hindustan Times), Singh wrote, “It is a matter of great pride for Municipal Corporation, Gurugram, that it has been able to restore an ecologically degraded land into a beautiful city forest in collaboration with IAmGurgaon. We truly appreciate the efforts and hard work put in by your organisation.”
The letter also informs IAmGurgaon to continue maintaining the park until December 15, after which the MCG would take over as the primary custodian.
Singh’s communique comes on the heels of prolonged discussions between IAmGurgaon and the MCG about the park’s upkeep. “We are not entirely certain why the MCG is choosing to discontinue our agreement. In our discussions with them, it had been proposed that another corporate sponsor come on board as the primary caretaker and that we would continue to work with them as a secondary caretaker. However, we felt this was not in the best interest of the park and our vision for it,” said Swanzal Kak Kapoor, co-founder, IAmGurgaon.
When asked about the MCG’s reasons for discontinuing its agreement with IAmGurgaon, Singh said, “The park is now a mature forest and plantation work has been completed. We would like to leverage the NGO’s experience toward other projects, such as restoration of bundhs and water bodies in the city.”
In September this year, IAmGurgaon released a report — Making of a City Forest — chronicling the 10-year journey of the ecological restoration of the Aravalli Biodiversity Park — highlighting the scientific importance of the park, which experts regard as a valuable repository of native Aravalli flora and fauna. The report also seeks that the park be declared as a biodiversity heritage site (BHS) under the ownership of the MCG.
Inaugurated by the then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in June 2010, the park has since revived over 380 acres of Aravalli vegetation near Nathupur village, which had been denuded after around four decades of mining that left the land barren and infested with invasive species. Since then, the park has come to foster multiple ecosystems, including dense woodlands, grasslands, rocky outcrops and water bodies.
However, with no formal legal protection for the site, IAmGurgaon’s report expresses concern over the park’s future. “The park still does not have legal sanctity. In our opinion, it has to be declared as a biodiversity heritage site under the Biological Diversity Act. By declaring the park a heritage site, we shall be able to add value to Gurugram’s heritage,” IAmGurgaon’s report states in its concluding chapter.
Singh did not comment on whether such a move is under consideration.
An MCG official privy to the matter, seeking anonymity, said, “The park will first be maintained by our horticulture division until a new concessionaire is appointed. There is no proposal to convert in into a biodiversity heritage site yet.”
While IAmGurgaon will cease to be the primary custodian of the park from December 15, representatives said they remain committed to protecting the space. “We will continue to facilitate education and research endeavours, and will keep monitoring the growth of the forest, which has been a labour of love for us,” said Kapoor.
In 2019, a proposal to create twin roads through the park — from Ambience Mall to Aya Nagar on Gurgaon-Mehrauli Road (NH 236) and another from Vasant Kunj to Aya Nagar on Gurgaon-Mehrauli road — had met with widespread disapproval from citizens and subsequently, shelved by the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA).
However, this proposal has since been retained in a draft of the city’s upcoming comprehensive mobility plan.
Speaking about the future of the project in December 2019, the then CEO of the GMDA, V Umashankar, had said, “Sooner or later, the demand for an alternative link between Gurugram and south Delhi will arise, as that is the only way to decongest traffic at Sirhaul. There is no other viable route.”
GMDA officials did not respond to queries.