New Delhi: Proximity to a serene jungle has made Farooq Ahmed’s job to sell property in Jagatpur village, near Wazirabad in north Delhi, a lot easier, with the area turning into an attractive proposition for prospective buyers. Ahmed, a property dealer, says that ever since Yamuna Biodiversity Park has come up near the area, both the water levels and water quality have improved, besides the cleaner air due to the greens.

“A lot has changed for people like us in these colonies, who were mostly neglected both in terms of government services as well as quality of life,” said Ahmed, adding, “Since the biodiversity park became functional, prices of property have gone up even as there is a slump in most parts of the city. Buyers say they want a house near the park and new housing blocks have come up.”
The park is surrounded by Jagatpur and Wazirabad villages on the one side and some newer settlements such as Baba Colony and Sangam Vihar.

The hand pumps in the village, that used to run dry in summer, have enough water these days, said locals. “Residents had to dig borewells 25-30 feet deep, as the water supply from the water utility has been erratic. Now water could be tapped easily at around 10 feet,” said Amod Mishra, a businessman, who has been living in Sangam Vihar for over the past 15 years.

Also, water that earlier used to be salty and would spoil clothes in two or three washes, has become far better, said Mishra.

Also, Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) and the Gauriya (Passer domesticus) could now be spotted in balconies. Both had disappeared due to rising construction work in the area.
“The entire water purification system is dependent on biodiversity. With the coming up of such parks, the problem of water supply and quality has been solved in these colonies. Besides the air is better and the microclimate has changed, with the dense tree canopy acting as a buffer against extreme heat,” said C R Babu, professor emeritus at the Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Ecosystems at Delhi University.

In the relatively greener Vasant Vihar in south Delhi, adjoining the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, the levels of air pollution have come down, said morning walkers. The park has a 3km walking path, which is full of joggers every day.

“The air is fresher in comparison to other areas. Even when pollution levels peak during the winter, people stop going to the other urban parks but they continue to go to the biodiversity park where one always gets a fresh breath of air,” said, Vijay Prakash Mital, 85, who retired from the government’s science and technology department and is a regular at the park.

Also, there is a slight difference in temperature in the area in comparison to other places. “My mobile weather app shows the temperature a notch lesser when I am here. This is because of the dense tree cover. We are lucky to be living so close to a forest,” said Suresh Goel, president of All India Confederation of RWAs.

For Goel sighting a peacock and other birds, which he had not seen in years in the neighbourhood, was an added benefit. “Last year during the monsoon, we saw a peacock in our colony park for the first time in over a decade. Also, other colorful birds and parrots, which were not to be seen for many years, have now started coming back to our houses,” he said.

Also, the issue of open defecation in the barren open land where the park has come up have been resolved, said locals.

The park is surrounded by two slum clusters including Kusumpur Pahari and Bhanwar Singh Camp, who would use the vacant land for defecation.

“Earlier the place was used for defecation as well as for cattle grazing. Also, gambling and other such activities were prevalent. At least 75% of the local menace has been done away with. Also, we have put signages cautioning people against feeding animals,” said M Shah Hussain, scientist in-charge at the Aravalli Biodiversity Park.