1. What is the Aravali Biodiversity Park and what is it’s significance?
The Aravali Biodiversity park is spread over 400 acres of land. It is envisioned as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. It will celebrate the richness of the forests of the Northern Aravali. This park has been created by the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon along with iamgurgaon and HFDC .
The park is one of the best places to see young plants of native Aravali forests. It is a forest in the making, therefore a great opportunity for people to participate and learn about reviving nature. It is an innovative way of rehabilitating a scarred mining site. It is also a unique example of a civic project made possible through partnership between a municipal body and a citizens group.
2. What are the unique features of the park?
Unlike conventional landscaped parks,the Aravali Biodiversity Park is unique in that each aspect of its infrastucture has been developed with ecological sustainability as the primary focus – the revival of the forest.
In terms of facilities, it has a 3.5 kms walking and 4 kms cycling tracks that have been built along natural contours and existing paths. The walking tracks are of porous concrete to allow water percolation.Two developed seasonal wetlands and an amphitheatre for cultural activities are other features. The park has one of the most unique Parking lots that demonstrates water conservation.The stone gabion boundary wall was built using small stones sourced from within the site within a metal grid, that minimises impact on the terrain.
3. Why are you reviving the forests?
The Aravali Biodiversity Park is situated on the northern most part of Aravali. Haryana has a substantial part of the Aravali Range located within its boundaries. Unfortunately, the Aravalis have been exploited the most in Haryana. The forests of Aravali are very rich in floral diversity and highly ecosensitive.
The landscape of the Aravali Biodiversity Park is hilly, rocky with very little top soil. Native Aravali species are most suitable for this landscape which is semi-arid and mostly rocky. The significance of a forest in balancing environmental degradation within the context of a highly urbanised city like Gurgaon cannot be over-emphasised!
4. How did you decide which trees to plant at the biodiversity park?
We have a native plant expert and naturalist who is guiding us in our selection of native Aravali plant species best suited to the sub-habitats within the park.
5. What do you mean by Aravali plants and where have you sourced these from?
There about 200 species of plants (trees, shrubs, herbs and climbers) that are found in the forests of Northern Aravalis. Some of the spectacular ones are Boswellia serrata (Salai), Sterculia urens (Kullu), Mitragyna parvifolia (Kaim), Lannea coromendelica (Gurjan), Anogeissus pendula (Dhau), Diosypros cordifolia (Bistendu), Cordia garaf (Gundi), Albizzia odorotissima (Kala SIras) and Bauhinia racemosa (Jhinjheri).
We have created two large nurseries at the park dedicated to growing native Aravali plant species. We have a target of growing about 150-200 species of these native plants. Although the task may seem simple, but it is not easy to get the seeds of these species. We undertook a grand task of collecting seeds ourselves from forests of Central India, Aravali forests in Rajasthan, Shiwalik forests and forests of the Delhi region. In the last two years, this labour of love has enabled us to germinate over 100 species at the park.
6. How are you maintaining the plants planted by iamgurgaon?
Though, we are planting only native species, they do need attention for their initial years of growth. We have a dedicated team of maalis and supervisors who have been working tirelessly to ensure that our saplings survive. Periodic watering, manuring and mulching are a common practice.
Watering the plants has been one of the key aspects to ensuring plant survival. In the last two years, we have placed a network of water tanks throughout the park that are fed by tankers that supply treated sewage water to all planting zones.These are supplemented by a borewell fed water pipeline that ensures that the plants receive adequate watering.
7. What is the survival rate of plants at the park?
Based on our experience of the last two years, the survival rate of plants vary from area to area, the native species survive better than others with far less water. We have an average survival rate of 75 percent.This very low plant mortality can be directly attributed to our habitat-sensitive planting strategy. Every casualty is replanted during the subsequent monsoon season.
8. How many plants have been planted in the park in the last three years?
Over 40,000 saplings have been planted in the park in the last three years . The iamgurgaon team has planted 32,000 saplings in association with schools, corporates and citizens as part of our milliontreesgurgaon initiative. HFDC and Uthaan have also planted saplings. In 2013, we are looking to plant about 15,000 saplings with your help.
9. What is ‘vilaytee keekar’ and why is it not suitable for the forest and ecosystem here in the park?
The ‘Vilayatee Keekar’, Prosopis juliflora is one of most invasive exotic species in a large part of the world. Studies have shown that it has decimated native species whereever it was introduced. It secretes certain compounds from its leaves and roots that kill the native plant species seedlings. It is not a good habitat for large animals as well as birds.
‘Vilayatee Keekar’ was introduced in India by the British to green the Aravali hills.
10. What kind of wildlife can one can see in the park?
Mammals: Neelgai, jackal, Civet cats, mongoose, field rats, hares. Reptiles: monitor lizards, geckos, lizards, saw-scaled vipers, rat snakes, cobras. Many kinds of butterflies, damsels and dragonflies can also be spotted.
11. What are the challenges of the park?
Grazing at the park is one of the biggest challenges faced by us. Cattle and herds of goats are let loose on the park by the nearby villages. They nibble on almost all the species and retard their growth and result in many causalities. Maintenance of the park is another challenge. The park is not fully fenced and secured. Wherever it is fenced, there is a continuous threat of breaching. Vandalism is also rampant at the park. Breaking of the facilities and stealing of the resources is common.
12. What can I do for the park?
You could volunteer with us during the plantation season. You could be a monitor for the state of the plants, help us in promoting the idea. You could participate in various census in the park such as: bird counts, butterflies, insects, wildlife, plants diversity.
We would love to have your feedback. Please share your comments on the “I Am Gurgaon” Facebook page or on our website www.iamgurgaon.org
13. In case of emergency whom do I contact?
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In the case of medical emergency such as snake bite or any other emergency please contact the guards at the entrance gate. For minor scrapes and falls Neelkanth Hospital(0124-4700555) is around the corner in DLF Phase 3. Snake venom antidote is available at St Stephens’ hospital (09868399259).