Sitting with a calm demeanour, amidst the rhythmic melody of chirping birds and steady burble of running water in his palatial home, Ashwani Khurana always gets excited when the issue of environment comes up for discussion. And, it’s quite natural. For someone who has planted more than 2.5 lakh trees in his lifetime, it’s the harmony of life with nature that accounts for all the happiness and excitement. But it is more than just a momentary exhilaration. This congruence with nature is something that has been nurtured and fostered by him over several decades and has gradually become his guiding philosophy of life in all its myriad spheres.
Khurana believes that planting trees has been his karma. His passion for planting trees began quite early in life. As a young man in early twenties, way back in 1980s, he had a life-changing experience of interacting with Nek Chand, the famous creator of Rock Garden in Chandigarh, which had a powerful influence on him. “It was an overwhelming experience and soon Nek Chand ji became my mentor and guide,” he shared ecstatically. In 1987, he took a vow to plant one lakh trees, which he eventually did during the next one decade and decided to commit his life to the harmony of humans and nature. “I lived by the self-guiding principle that greening, like charity, begins at home; but it shouldn’t end there. The easiest and yet most satisfying environmental initiative we all can take is planting more and more trees. Seeing trees grow has been immensely elating for me, as one would feel seeing their child grow. This bliss was inexplicable and I became an ardent nature lover,” he shared. The green natural surroundings of his home regularly host several resident and migratory birds. “We also get occasional visits by hornbills and partridges and it is said that if partridges visit any place it is the perfect ecosystem,” he chuckled.
His beautifully landscaped and eco-friendly home in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj has been a testing ground for several of his green experiments. Be it practising rain water harvesting, vermicomposting, organic agriculture, recycling of human and animal waste and much more, and the benefits are derived by the entire neighbourhood. “Earlier, a lot of people used to burn dry leaves, we asked them to send all the waste material to us. We have been organising ‘earth sense day’ in the neighbourhood collecting kitchen waste as well as e-waste from all the houses and re-using it. The e-waste is sent to an organisation for responsible disposable and recycling,” Khurana informed. All the waste generated in kitchen and all other kind of animal and human waste is used to make organic manure in his farm, which has a cow shed, poultry, and vermicomposting units.
Interestingly, Khurana, who was once known as the lottery king of India and was also the highest individual tax payer in 1989 in the whole country, feels his biggest asset has been the green oasis he has created in Delhi/NCR – Karma Lakelands, India’s greenest golf resort. Loving and caring the environment is a philosophy that he has nurtured and followed both in his personal and professional spheres and thus was born Karma Lakelands. “In 1989 land banking was done with deep passion to only grow lots and lots of trees and eventually it evolved as one of its kind eco-friendly luxury golf resort. What differentiates Karma Lakelands from others is its commitment towards eco-friendly practices,” he informed. From sewage treatment to plastic recycling, use of solar energy, bee keeping and organic farming, these have become the hallmark of responsible hospitality for him.
To promote sustainable living, rain water at Karma Lakelands is channelized and harvested for irrigation purposes. All kitchen-waste is sorted on site and recycled to feed farm animals or is used for making organic compost. All plastic-waste is sent for recycling. The compost that is used for soil enrichment, is a collection of leaves mixed with cow dung and sewage, as a result there are no flies or mosquitos. Karma Lakelands also has a dedicated Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) with a capacity to treat 500,000 liters of sewage daily. The sewage is piped from National Security Guards (NSG) campus next door and surrounding areas of the resort and the treated water which is also nutrient rich is used for irrigation and horticulture of the entire resort. “It’s not just our own waste, even waste generated by other nearby hotels and resorts is accepted by us and used for various purposes,” he informed.
And, what you get with these eco-initiatives is not just green surroundings but also fresh air, immense biodiversity and numerous varieties of birds dotting the landscape and skyline including sparrows, lapwing, pheasant, shikra, owl, pied wagtail, babbler, kingfisher, blue jay, lesser cormorant, mynah, green pigeon, koel, hoopoe and many more.
With a firm belief in the motto of responsible living for a sustainable future, Ashwani Khurana is creating a wonderful legacy, perhaps what Nek Chand did for Chandigarh, Khurana is on a mission to do the same for Delhi-NCR.