Sustainable Living at Karma Lakelands in Delhi NCR: Lessons for Environment Lovers & Responsible Business Owners

Karma Lakelands has been developed around nature without cutting trees or destroying grassland areas. Its unique & sustainable eco-system will be shared in a series of articles as a case study. Learning from the Karma eco-system can be practiced in large spaces as well as small spaces.

In the beginning it was only junoon (passion)  

Ashwani Khurana, popularly known as the highest taxpayer in India, met Nek Chand, the famous Creator of the Rock Garden in Chandigarh in the late eighties and was inspired by him to grow trees & to  work for environmental issues. Ashwani took a pledge to grow 100,000 trees in 10 years. Although Ashwani had several challenges in his lottery business, yet he began to find spaces to grow trees. He would go to schools, institutions, organizations, resident welfare associations & municipal authorities to simply find spaces for planting and nurturing trees. Mobilization of children as well as adults resulted in planting thousands of trees but he was far away from his target.  In his search for more space for growing trees & to find a way to work for environmental issues, destiny took Ashwani on a very different path. 

Junoon was misunderstood as madness by many

Ashwani used to run a lottery business in Delhi and I remember having met his father who was quite concerned about Ashwani’s new found passion for trees and environmental issues. Ashwani’s inspiration was so intense that he had refused a big budget advertising campaign on the back  side of his lottery tickets from one of the largest cigarette brands in India as this would have gone against his anti-smoking policies. At that time his business was small and better cash inflows were welcome yet he declined the proposal outright. For his partners what was perceived as even worse was the fact that he decided to run public service campaigns for free on the back side of lottery tickets with a zero revenue model. The psychological pressure from partners began to mount but Ashwani did not buzz from his mission. 

This was the situation when his father wanted to meet me to understand how a business can gain from pursuing such idealistic goals.  He had heard that my public service campaigns were benefitting The Indian Express brand in several ways so he was curious. I shared with him how our advertising revenues had begun to grow significantly due to a shift in the perception of advertisers who had begun to see The Indian Express as a social crusader instead of just a political crusader. My advice to him was to have faith and patience. The results in terms of increased lottery ticket sales after a few months convinced him even more.

Once we commit providence moves too

Ashwani’s commitment and passion for environmental issues began to yield early results. The first sign was that due to his public service campaigns on the backside of lottery tickets, his company’s credibility and respect grew phenomenally. The lottery ticket sales jumped from 20 million per week to 50 million per day within 3 years. Wealth simply followed a good karma though these public service campaigns were never planned as a business strategy by Ashwani. The results on the revenue front surprised everyone including Ashwani himself. This changed the status of Ashwani from an honest tax payer to India’s highest tax payer at the age of 28 in 1989 – a distinction he and K & CO. carried for many years!

By this time, Ashwani had begun  to plant more trees in parks, the local police station, Delhi’s Tihar jail, schools & city compounds. By 1997 he realised that he still had to go a long way to meet his target of growing 100,000 trees in a decade. To meet his target Ashwani began to buy rural & suburban lands in Gurgaon for simply growing more trees.

Around this time Ashwani also added a new project in his karmic plans and that was to recycle waste. In Delhi, he started a one of its kind (in Northern India) City Solid Waste Recycling Unit, called Nature and Waste Management India Private Ltd. Besides reducing sanitation & health problems in Delhi, the unit was intended to convert one-tenth of its daily garbage into a bio-organic soil enricher marketed as CELRICH. The plant was to yield80 – 100 tonnes of CELRICH per day or approximately 24,000 tonnes of CELRICH a year. The cost of running, maintaining and sustaining the plant was partly met by the revenue collected from the sale of CELRICH, which proved to be an immensely popular soil enricher. The venture turned out to burn a big hole in his pockets, but as he says, “gave joy to his soul “.

Destiny transformed Ashwani into a full time environmental crusader

In 2000 Ashwani closed down the Lottery business to pursue a different life with total dedication to environment. The land parcels he was buying to grow trees by now had become approximately 300 Acres in the Delhi NCR and the Government of Haryana had begun to develop the entire area around his land into an ambitious industrial township. Ashwani’s land would have been acquired by the Government as his land was abutting & undeveloped to their understanding.

To save his trees and his dream of converting that land into an oasis of environmental friendliness, Ashwani rushed to get an approval for a Golf Resort on this land. Assured of the safety of his trees, Ashwani began to plant more trees. By now he has planted over 200,000 trees spread over 4 forests in addition to a sustainable Golf Course and several living units in lush green surroundings.

Karma Lakelands is now a popular destination for golfers, business leaders & environment lovers from all walks of life. Students & environment lovers are invited in groups for conducted tours to learn about environment protection and best practices which can be implanted in schools, offices, locality and even in small spaces available in their homes. Karma Lakelands is now a chosen destination for events, film shooting, learning trips, short and long time stays. Those who visit or stay at Karma Lakelands are briefed about the environment friendly facilities, rules and regulations. Since the guests are attracted due to its environment mainly, they appreciate and happily agree to follow the environment friendly culture at Karma Lakelands.     

Development of a sustainable living system

While developing the Karma Lakelands into a living system the architects were briefed to ensure that no trees were cut. A survey of all the trees was conducted and the entire architectural design was built around nature. Utmost care was taken to preserve grasslands  as many bird species lay their eggs in grass and it is also food for the Nilgais (Blue Deer) & Rabbits.  Instead of maximizing the built up areas which is so common due to commercial greed of most of the builders, nature has not only been preserved but nurtured  & enhanced by creating a sustainable system of recycling waste into manure and water.

Birds, Insects, Bees, Porcupine, Blue bulls( Neelgai)  including a small population of Jackals were left undisturbed in marked forest areas though they sometimes come out in common areas too. Some domestic animals were added but with a lot of caution to ensure that even these add to the environment and do not harm the ecosystem due to poor health or mismanaged waste. Sun’s energy is used through solar panels to ensure continuous supply of electricity while simultaneously creating a shaded parking space for visitors cars.. Recycling ensures preservation of ground water resources. Soil building & not just conservation has been taken up as a major project and instead of doing chemicals based farming, only organic farming is practiced. This also ensures a healthy growth of bees and insects and other living organisms which are critical for a healthy eco-system.  

This is just an introduction to Karma Lakelands. We will be sharing each part of the sustainable eco system for those who wish to practice it in large spaces or small spaces by covering one aspect at a time. These would include Soil Building, Role of Honey Bees, Insects, Invisible Living Organisms, Organic Food cultivation, Recycling of Waste, Zero Waste practices, Growing of Plants & Trees & Creating Conscious Communities to spread the message of environment conservation.

Photo by: Ashwani Khurana, Karma Lakelands

To be continued ….