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Pune: The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, today inaugurated a unique Biodiversity Park & Reserve on the Pune campus of the Mahindra United World College of India (MUWCI). A special project initiated by the faculty and students of MUWCI, the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve covers approx. 170 acres and aims to enhance the existing species of flora and fauna in this section of the Western Ghats which is considered a global biodiversity hotspot by environmentalists across the world. The inauguration took place on the tenth anniversary of the college and to mark the occasion, Dr. Singh also planted a sapling on campus.
'The Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve is an oasis of peace and natural beauty in a world where green spaces are increasingly becoming a rarity. As the ominous shadow of global warming looms large over us, creative ventures such as this are the need of the hour. By taking the initiative to develop a project as marvellous and unique as Van Vihar, the students of MUWCI have demonstrated that the next generation is more than capable of preserving and protecting our fragile ecosystem for the benefit of generations to come,' said Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, at the inauguration.
'From the smallest of insects to the largest of animals, we are all part of the same web of life, a delicate network of interconnecting strands which depend on each other for survival. Projects such as Van Vihar showcase the interdependence of all life and make us acutely aware of the fact that in the larger scheme of things, man is but a small aspect. The diverse animal and plant life in the Western Ghats is under increasing threat and in dire need of conservation. The Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve is a small but positive step in helping to preserve this endangered area and making us more aware of the miracle of nature,' said Mr. Keshub Mahindra, Chairman of the Governing Council, The Mahindra United World College of India.
'We are very honoured to have the Prime Minister with us on such a special occasion. MUWCI was a cherished vision of my father, the late Mr. Harish Mahindra and I am extremely proud to see the accomplishments of the college over the past decade. My congratulations to the students and faculty for having made the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve a reality. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of MUWCI than by reaffirming our commitment to protect the environment,' said Mr. Anand Mahindra, Governor/Director, The Mahindra United World College of India.
'The unique feature of the United World College movement is the scholarship selection process which not only ensures that meritorious students are admitted, irrespective of their economic background but also results in a diverse student body consisting of a range of nationalities.
At MUWCI, learning continues far beyond the classroom, whether it is helping others or learning more about the world we live in. We strive to sensitize our students to issues such as global warming and its implications and encourage them to develop viable solutions to help combat the same. The students have played a major role in the development of Van Vihar and the I am sure that the experience they have gained in the process of setting up the Park & Reserve will hold them in good stead when they graduate from MUWCI and move out into the world,' said Dr. David Wilkinson, Principal, Mahindra United World College of India.
About the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve
The Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve received wholehearted support from the Governing Board of MUWCI. The project was launched in June 2006 with the aim of enhancing the rich biodiversity found in the Western Ghats, an area which is in urgent need of conservation.
The project covers approx. 170 acres and is divided into two parts. The first part covers about 75 acres and consists of a Biodiversity Park. It encompasses the built-up area of the college and includes diverse flora and walking trails with informative signage for the benefit of students, visitors, researchers, etc. The second part of the project covers about 95 acres and consists of a Conservation Reserve. This continuous piece of land is intentionally left untouched by human activities and provides the large corridors and private areas required for higher fauna to thrive. The Forest Department has agreed to add an additional 80 acres of forest land to this area to make it a larger reserve.
Purpose and Benefits
Van Vihar will lead to several benefits for the surrounding community. At the local level, the regeneration of a 250 acre forest on a hilltop with concerted efforts to restore streams and the soil, will lead to increased crop production in the fields located in the valley below. As the popular adage goes, ‘the health of the hills is the wealth of the valleys.’ The project will also result in employment opportunities for local residents.
From the educational point of view, it is hoped that Van Vihar will function as an invaluable research resource for colleges and research institutes in and around Pune. MUWCI is already in touch with several colleges for this purpose. Moreover, initiatives such as the production of Biogas from food waste, compost from green waste, the use of solar and wind energy and rain water harvesting projects amongst others, have a practical link with the academic programme of the college.
At the global level, besides being a small step towards tackling the adverse effects of global warming and helping to reduce our carbon imprint, Van Vihar serves as a good model for other educational institutes, corporates and NGOs to emulate.
At present, the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve has around 800 species of flora, including trees, climbers, grasses and shrubs. The fauna consists of 130 species of birds, 160 species of moths, 60 species of butterflies and 30 species of higher mammals.
Efforts made by the faculty and students of MUWCI since the launch of the project
Today, the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve is an eco haven consisting of gardens, trails and walkways, check dams, tanks and reservoirs, amongst other unique features:
Trails and Walkways
Check Dams, Tanks and Reservoirs
Additional Unique Features
About the Mahindra United World College of India
The Mahindra United World College of India, part of the United World College movement, was founded by the late Mr. Harish Mahindra in 1997. It is the Group’s endeavour to promote world-class education with an emphasis on the ideals of peace and understanding, central to the ethos of the United World Colleges. The school is global not only because of the International Baccalaureate degree, but also because of the true international culture in which the students study, live and learn. Each year’s batch of about 100 students accommodates about 65 to 70 from abroad. The faculty includes professors from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, South Africa, UK and USA. The teacher-student ratio is 1:9. This international mix facilitates global exposure and helps students transcend all artificial barriers based on race, religion, ethnicity, class, gender or nationality. There is a keen focus on all-round development and students are encouraged to think innovatively by involving themselves in socially and environmentally relevant issues. The students also contribute to the local neighbourhood through unique community service programmes.