GREEN­ING UP

Business Today - - IMPACT WOMEN - By SONAL KHETARPAL PHO­TO­GRAPH By REUBEN SINGH

ASABBATICAL FOR LATIKA THUKRAL (then se­nior vice pres­i­dent at Citibank) to spend more time with her two sons made her re­alise that she did not want to go back to her fast-paced cor­po­rate ca­reer. The time off also led her to re­flect on how Gur­gaon was a much greener and live­able place when the fam­ily moved there 22 years ago. But with the rapid growth of the ur­ban sprawl, liv­ing con­di­tions had de­te­ri­o­rated fast. Thukral felt an ur­gent need to help re­store the nat­u­ral ecosys­tem and soon she started in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple who thought like­wise. In 2008, she started Iamgur­gaon with Am­bika Agar­wal and ar­chi­tect friend, Swan­zal Kak Kapoor.

“We started with just one fo­cus

– we need to leave a bet­ter place for our chil­dren,” re­calls Thukral. The trio vis­ited the of­fice of the Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Gur­gaon sev­eral times with sug­ges­tions of cre­at­ing many more green spa­ces. In-be­tween those dis­cus­sions the big idea came, and they de­cided to re­vive the stripped and bar­ren Aravalli Bio­di­ver­sity Park by plant­ing a mil­lion trees. The ur­ban for­est span­ning 380 acres is now home to 1.1 lakh saplings with a 95 per cent sur­vival rate, she says. More than 65 com­pa­nies had funded the project.

The nine-peo­ple team is cur­rently work­ing on the eco-restora­tion of Wazirabad Bundh, a 5.2-km stretch of storm wa­ter reser­voirs. Due to rapid urbanisation, the wa­ter­ways and the em­bank­ments were used as dump­ing

WHY SHE MAT­TERS In­stead of rou­tine plan­ta­tion, her NGO has un­der­taken big ecorestora­tion projects to com­bat ur­ban deca­dence

ground, but all that started to change. The Amer­i­can Ex­press funded the first phase of restora­tion work – the first 1.5 kilo­me­tre of the bundh. “It took us a month or two to clean the sewer and 200 truck­loads of plas­tic were taken out. The gov­ern­ment also pitched in to help with its dis­posal,” says Thukral. The em­bank­ments along that one-kilo­me­tre stretch have been con­verted into an ur­ban for­est and got a fur­ther facelift with the lay­ing of pave­ments and cy­cling, walk­ing and jog­ging tracks. Other spon­sors are NTT Data, Fidelity, Indigo and AT&T. When fin­ished, the project is ex­pected to re­plen­ish the city’s ground­wa­ter level.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion also en­ables stu­dents and in­sti­tu­tions to par­tic­i­pate in clean­ing and plant­ing drives, na­ture walks and leaf com­post­ing so that it be­comes a cit­i­zens’ move­ment and ev­ery­one can take part. “This is our legacy for the city,” says Thukral.

LATIKA THUKRAL C o - f o u n d e r, Iamgur­gaon

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