Photo: Prakhar Pandey
The Millennium City does its best to live up to its reputation of providing excellent career opportunities and a modern lifestyle. Over the past 25 years the City has seen rapid ‘development’, in its bid to meet the aspirations of a swelling population. New businesses have come up, though largely around the burgeoning IT sector. The lucre of a ‘quality life’ drew more and more people to the City. However, finally, the mismatch between the needs of an expanding, aspirational population and City’s infrastructure has become a matter of grave concern. In fact power and water supply seem to have worsened. Inadequate sewage and drainage systems, and their impact on pollution, have been of no less concern. Now, taking a cue from Delhi and the recent ‘aggression’ shown by of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), there are jittery conversations on the quality of the air and public health. Unbridled construction activities, with still little check on builders, seem to have only impeded the setting up of common civic and social infrastructure. It has clearly been to the detriment of green spaces within the City. However, amidst this chaos survive some select human endeavours. A few conscientious housing societies are toiling to improve the quality of life of their residents. Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan seems to have galvanised some citizens to do something about the environment in their neighbourhood..
The White House Society, situated near Samaspur Village, follows the Modi government’s desire to evolve a cleaner and healthier India. The Society, completed in 2010, houses 168 living accommodations, making it home for about 1,000 inhabitants. The Society had provided a hall for Yoga and other activities. It focuses on residents’ security as well, with the use of over 22 CCTVs. This not only helps the residents keep a strong vigil on possible disturbances from outsiders, but also deters residents from littering the compound. The RWA President and the residents are extremely conscious about the waste emanating from the households and, to ensure that the residents make use of dustbins, these have been abundantly installed all across - thus keeping the premises clean and free of any foul air. What catches the eye is the abundance of green within the Society’s four walls. There are three beautifully kept gardens, besides a mini-forest of over 300 trees - like mango, jaamun and burberry. Bird-baths have been set up in different places, encouraging them to come down for a cool drink in the dry hot afternoons of North India. Certain types of birds, which had disappeared from the rest of Gurgaon, have landed here. You can see a flood of sparrows busy building their nests in the maze of trees lined around the Society. “It is wonderful to again hear and watch the sparrows chirping around the trees in the wee hours of the morning,” says Singh. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is serious business at the White House Society. The RWA President, Anoop Singh, believes that planting trees, saving water and keeping the society clean are the basic responsibilities of every human being. The White House has clearly set an example on how keep a living environment and its surrounding areas clean and green. After retiring from the Indian Air Force, Singh now has time aplenty ‘to make the Society the best in Gurgaon’. Importantly, virtually all the residents have joined hands. Many young kids are equally active and have willingly taken up the task of planting trees and maintaining them. There is a park for children, though everybody can walk and play there. The Society members have also set up a water harvesting facility, which ensures there is no water shortage even in the hottest summer months. Singh however rues the apathy of politicians, who do not appear to be sensitive to the environmental needs in the area and the City. “Whatever improvements you see today are due to the dedication of our residents, who are conscious of their responsibility and are determined to keep the area clean and relatively pollution free," says Singh. Though there are private ‘safai karmacharis’ to collect the garbage, the residents put the household waste in environment-friendly containers, so that there is no littering even on days when the that the karmacharis are absent. “We even provide black poly bags to the residents. Further, though we don’t charge a big amount for maintenance, we have built a sizeable corpus of around Rs 18 lakhs, which we will invest in environment protection measures based on our priorities. We are also planning to install solar power,” concludes Singh. Hopefully others will soon feel similarly encouraged and the City’s future will be cleaner and brighter….that’s what ‘smart’ should also mean.