I recently attended a public meeting on the subject of Aravali and the Bandhwari landfill site. During the meeting, I saw a lady putting across her point rather forcefully and backed with a lot of facts and figures. It was clear from the way she was arguing with the officials present in the meeting that she was passionate about the environment. Her name was Vaishali Rana.
Vaishali Rana, a homemaker and a resident of Gwal Pahari, Gurgaon, originally belongs to Himachal Pradesh. She holds a Masters’s degree in Conservation & Heritage Management from DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research Management)/IP University. Earlier she was a Cabin Crew with Indian Airlines for 16 years till 2011. As of now, other than running her home, she works for the betterment of Gurugram and its environment.
The inspiration and beginning
Says Vaishali Rana, “I originally come from a state, Himachal Pradesh, which has a forest cover of more than 60 percent. That is where my inclination and love for the environment come from. When I realised that Haryana has the lowest forest cover in the country at 3.6%. I was shocked. There is almost zero respect for nature, forests, and water bodies in the people of Gurgaon in general, including the Government machinery of Haryana. This was alarming for me and propelled me into an activism mode. Although I don't like to be termed as an activist, I am more of a conservationist in spirit.”
In 2015 she started with efforts to save Li Nallah, in Gwal Pahari, Gurgaon, from a builder who was encroaching it and constructing a 28 multi-story residential building on it. The Li Nallah is a very important tributary of Kosht-Badshahpur Nallah which saves Gurgaon from flooding every monsoon.
Apart from being an environment conservationist, she passionately works for animals too. “On a daily basis I, with the help of a few volunteers have started an initiative last year during the lockdown, to feed about 100 abandoned stray cows on the roads of Gurgaon daily. We are successfully feeding them Chaara daily till today.”
Vaishali believes that saving nature is the only thing one can do to save the civilisation in future. She has worked for the de-concretisation and restoration of water sources such as Li-Kosht-Badshahpur Nullah at Gwal Pahari. In February 2019, about half a km of Nullah was freed from encroachments done by a builder and restored to its original state. “Today the Barsati Nallah is a big source of groundwater recharge and has two tiers of trees plantation on its floodplains. This was after fighting a case for 2 years at NGT, OA 184, filed in 2017,” says she.
Vaishali, is also working to optimise groundwater recharge and harvest rainwater to increase the depleting ground table of Gurgaon. Says she, “In March 2021 GMDA submitted a report, in response to my case OA 523 at NGT, which stated that 950 acres of non-urbanized areas of Gurgaon, that is basically Aravallis, will be used for artificial recharging by creating check dams inside Aravallis. In addition, we worked in reviving stormwater creeks, and also eight ponds will be created to harness maximum rainwater.” For the same case OA 523, MCG submitted a report that it will revive 26 ponds in the city out of which 4 are already restituted (two ponds in Sukhrali, Basai pond and Kadipur pond).”
Vaishali is a registered volunteer with the Wildlife department of Haryana and has taken up several Wildlife rescue issues. The surroundings of Gurugram have always been rich with flora and fauna. She has been working to preserve this richness. She says, “ After 2 years of aggressive follow-ups, in December 2020, much-needed wildlife signages were installed on all 3 highways cutting across eco-sensitive Aravallis. Over the years, these three highways have resulted in multiple wildlife deaths (including leopards) in road-kills due to high-speed moving traffic. Another positive was the installation of rumble strips in Feb 2021, to slow down traffic moving at high speed on the highways inside the Aravallis, to avoid Wildlife deaths. So I feel good if those happened on my follow-ups and regular reminders.”
Over the years Vaishali has written multiple reportages on the subjects related to environment protection. She participated and led water conservation initiatives and plantation drives to do her bit for the environment in her area.
On RTI and social media
Vaishali has used the RTI to get information and make the community and the authority aware of the ground realities. She says, “RTI is the best method to get authentic detailed information, which serves as a basis to take legal action against faulting Government agencies and individuals. There are only two noted environmentalists, in the whole of Gurgaon (amongst a population of about 20 lakhs), who have used this tool effectively to file multiple cases, to safeguard the Aravallis and its Water bodies, and they have been my mentors and guide, Vivek Kamboj and Col SS Oberoi.”
Vaishali’s future plan is to move back to the hills and open one of the biggest animal shelters or farms of northern India for the abandoned animals used and abused by human beings. She also plans to get Government policies rectified to make Himachal Pradesh a Zero Waste state and an even greener state.
She loves spending her leisure time exploring India on wheels, birding, visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. When asked about her message to the community, she says, “Wake up people and act. Global warming is for real and we are already late to arrest it!”