Restoring Delhi’s environment

In just 7 years, Delhi's Aravali Biodiversity Park has transformed a barren landscape into 20 distinct forest communities with 1,000 species of plants and, if you please, an orchid garden, a bat cave and a natural conservatory for butterflies.

Located right next to Jawaharlal Nehru University in south Delhi and accessible from the southern side of Vasant Vihar on Poorvi Marg and also from the Mehrauli-Mahipalpur road, is a veritable treasure trove for Delhiites — the Aravalli Biodiversity Park. Biodiversity parks are unique landscapes in urban centres; they are natural heritage sites that serve as repositories of vanishing gene pools of plants, animals and microbial life. They have educational and cultural value, besides their all-important role in environmental conservation, serving as sinks for carbon dioxide and other gas emissions, acting as dust traps, recharging ground water, and promoting cloud formation and local precipitation.

The Aravallis are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, having evolved about 1,500 million years ago. The projections of the Aravallis in and around Delhi are popularly known as the Delhi Ridge. Historically, the river Yamuna and the Delhi Ridge have been the two vital life supporting systems of Delhi, both of which have degraded over time and lost their resilience.

The Ridge once occupied about 15 per cent of Delhi's area, but much of it has been flattened because of increasing demand for urban space by the densely populated Delhi, and the increasingly urbanised townships of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida. Thanks to citizens' action resisting encroachment, 7,770 hectares (ha) or about 19,000 acres has been protected legally. This is scattered in four distinct forest patches, that is, the southern Ridge known as Asola Wildlife Sanctuary (15,320 acres); the south central Ridge (1,564 acres), the central Ridge behind Rashtrapati Bhavan (2,135 acres), and the northern Ridge next to Delhi University (215 acres), which is a favourite jaunt for students. This is a small part of the original area, but significant enough to make a difference to Delhi's environment. However, these once contiguous patches are still not immune from pressures or claims from other uses.

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