At 7 am on Sunday, a group of students hurried to the amphitheatre at the Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Gurgaon to attend a protest. Last week, they had read news reports that a road project by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) would cut through the 380-acre park and compromise the only “green lung” available in the city.
Standing against a backdrop of native trees such as dhau, salai, dhok and babool, they talked about what the green space meant to them: “No road is worth the lungs of this city”, said one, while another added, “I don’t remember what it was like to breathe clean air”.
The park had been set up in 2010 — after stone quarrying in the Aravallis was declared illegal by the Supreme Court — by ecologists, NGO iamgurgaon, and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram. The NHAI is in the process of acquiring land for construction of the 37-km Greater Southern Peripheral Road, a six-lane expressway between Gurgaon and Manesar. NHAI officials confirmed that as per the current plan, the road is likely to cut through some part of the park.
“Around 2 km of the road will pass through the park… An area of around 16 hectares will be used for the project. Land acquisition is currently in progress,” said NHAI project director Ashok Sharma.
The expressway will begin at Dhanchiri camp, on the Delhi-Gurgaon border, and end near the NSG campus in Manesar. It is expected to reduce travel time between Manesar and Delhi.
As speakers — both children and adults — came up to share statistics and stories, one learnt that the city forest has recorded 183 species of birds and 38
different types of butterflies. Environmentalists estimate that it is home to over 400 native Aravalli plant species, and native animal species including jungle cat, jackal, mongoose, and nilgai.
Protesting against the “ill-conceived infrastructure project”, volunteers stood with slogans and printed silhouettes of birds on a white cloth that read: ‘Save My Biodiversity Park’.
Artist Veer Munshi, who presented this installation, believes that the park presented a different imagination to Gurgaon.
Environmentalist Pradip Krishen said, “No other city park in the country has achieved this degree of sustainability, where nothing needs to be watered… The results will possibly show in 10 years, but what it has done is to knit together diverse people from all walks of life… ”
Vijay Dhasmana, curator of the park and consultant for ‘iamgurgaon’, said, “If the road comes, more than half the park is gone. Our request is that the Haryana CM, who had shown intent in saving the sacred groves of Mangar Bani, will ensure the road doesn’t come into the park.”
Environmental Analyst Chetan Agarwal said, “This is a forest restored with a lot of love and care… We should look at all possible options to preserve it.”