On Friday, May 22, roughly 25 visitors joined the organization IamGurgaon for a walk in the Aravali Biodiversity Park. The park, which lies just off of MG road as one enters Gurgaon, is the organization’s first major initiative. Its founders and devoted volunteers have worked to restore the denuded mining landscape to its former glory as a diverse and thriving forest.
The walk was guided by naturalist Vijay Dhasmana, influential in the implementation of planting at the park and a proponent of native species. We were also joined by avid birder, Sourojit Ghosal, with binoculars and guidebook in hand. Between the competing naturalists, it was easy to see the interdependence of plants and animal life in the park, and how much care had gone into considering what plantings could help restore a biosphere that had been disrupted by human activities.
As Swanzal Kak Kapoor, one of the organization’s co-founders and walk organizers explained, the topography of the park has been largely unaltered. Its clean stone and porous concrete pathways, marked by ergonomic trash receptacles, trace the former paths of agriculturalists who would pass through this land with their livestock. Rather than rely on landscape architects, the park’s “landscaping” had evolved through a process of working with ecology specialists to determine which plants would thrive and sustain other species, including insects and animals.
Approaching the park by car, one could easily overlook what, from the metro line or rush of MG road, seems like a patch of arid, undeveloped land. However, at 5 am, just before dawn, the paths were already thriving with walkers, joggers, and children playing. Some had journeyed over half an hour to use the park, which despite its desert forest landscape, was significantly cooler than the city surrounding it.
After spotting over a dozen bird and many more plant species, and visiting the nursery devoted to plants of medical value, the group convened for nimboo paani and snacks to reflect on the progress and work ahead. Many of the volunteers had full time jobs, but would commit nearly 12 hour days in the planting season next month. As many of the participants of the walk were families with children, several people remarked that there are few outdoor public spaces in the area, let alone places to enjoy native plants and landscapes. With the next walk on June 6th, an early morning walk in the Aravali Biodiversity Park appears to be a refreshing way to enjoy the outdoors during one of the hottest times of year.