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Niranjan Hiranandani on their efforts at afforestation in Powai

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The green quotient of a residential project plays a very important role in influencing the buying decision of most home buyers in Mumbai. Buyers expect the surroundings to be soothing to the eye and uplifting to the heart. Usually, it is the developer or builder who gives the project its green cover, and the residents then continue to maintain and at times, ensure the further growth and development of the greenery.At Hiranandani, the environment is a top priority so we have taken steps to plant as well as look after over five lakh trees at Powai.

There are two aspects of greening any residential project – one is fresh plantation, the other is restoring barren areas. Powai has excellent examples of both. A forest was created in four years replacing a barren patch with the help of drip irrigation.
Ten years ago the 209-metre tall Powai hill, was completely deforested, a victim of extensive quarrying activities.

Left to the quarries there would have been no hill there today. The Hiranandani Group purchased the hill from quarry owners, shut down the quarries and took up a massive afforestation programme.
This is perhaps the largest environmental initiative by any private developer in India. We continue to plant at least 10,000 trees each year on the hills and maintain them till they can survive independently. Inside the complex, with every new building, gardens are also planned. The jogging track runs through the five-acre forest. Trees are transplanted in the new gardens along with other plants and shrubs. We use 40 percent of the land for the purpose of greenery and open spaces.
All roads in the area have avenue trees planted alongside. Efforts are being made to propagate indigenous species that are difficult to procure and require more care unlike the commonly available species.  Certain species in this category like the Red and Yellow Gulmohar, Rain Tree, Badam, Suru have been banned. For example, the Gulmohar is originally from Madagascar; the Rain tree is from Brazil and these trees do not attract native birds and suppress the natural flora and fauna.
We have instead opted to plant trees like Gliricidia, Sesbania, Mango, Jamun, Wad, Teak, Sheesham, Hirda Behada, Karwand and many others. Dendrecalamus Guganteus (Gian Bamboo), Neodipsis Decaryir (Triangle Palm), Guessia Spiritulana, Ixora Superba, (types of shrubs) Lodoicea Maldivica (Double Coconut), Pterocarpus Indicus (Burmese rose wood) and Nypa Fruticans (Water Palm).
Afforestation has helped in conserving soil and maintaining the ecological balance. Proof of this can be seen both in the greenery restored in the hills and the animal life found today, which include over twenty-five exotic species of birds, otherwise found in a natural forest only.
A survey found rare birds such as Roseringed Parakeet, Koel, Whitebreasted Kingfisher, Pied Myna, Jungle Babler and many other such unique birds in the afforested area and Hiranandani Gardens. The nursery at the complex tended to by a full time horticulturist has over 500 varieties of plants, trees, bamboos and shrubs, including over fifty varieties of palms, many of which are rare.
The result-lush green gardens, trees and forests with several rare flora and fauna that thrive in a green ambience that also ensures better rainfall in the township. We have also created podium gardens over the car parks between buildings. These gardens are maintained using recycled sewage water sourced from a sewage treatment plant at the complex that processes two million litres of sewage daily into water used for maintaining over forty acres of gardens at the Powai township. A similar plant at our Thane township treats about seven lakh litres of sewage every day which is then used for landscaping purposes.
The reason we were able to create all these and satisfy the needs of the public is innovation. It is possible to create beautiful, healthy, eco-friendly living space in a crowded city such as Mumbai. By thinking it possible we can make it possible. Criticising the present situation and worrying about the problem does not help. Solutions exist, we only need to focus on them and think positively.

This article appeared in Construction week http://constructionweekonline.in/article-5149-mumbais_urban_oasis/

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