Biodiversity and sustainability are terms that are not used in vacuum at UWC Mahindra College. Our beautiful campus is located on a 175-acre biodiversity reserve and conservation park overlooking the Mulshi and Kolvan valleys, of which 120 acres is kept for flora, fauna and diverse species and the built area covers approximately one-third of our campus and combines modern architectural design with locally sourced materials and sensitivity to its environmental impact.
From a single tree in 2000, staff, students and faculty have since planted over 100,000 trees on campus, making it a shady and green space to live and learn. In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the Van Vihar Biodiversity Reserve & Conservation Park, officially protecting the ecosystems on our campus.
UWC Mahindra College seeks a peaceful and sustainable future so we have designated our entire campus as a protected area within the greater Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. The Western Ghats (Sahyadri Hills) are a mountain range that run North-South along the western coast of India famed for both its rich wildlife and colourful history. Accepted in 2012 by UNESCO as a world heritage site, the forested mountain chain where our campus is located is recognized as one of the world’s eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity with ~1800 endemic species.
In 2006, UWC Mahindra College launched the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve officially protecting the ecosystems on our 175 acre campus. The Biodiversity Park covers approximately one-third of our campus including walking trails through reforested habitats, medicinal plant gardens, and landscaped green areas. The Conservation Reserve represents the majority of our campus area and is bordered by a Sacred Grove, Maharashtra Forest Land, agricultural fields, and a new residential development.
As one continuous piece of land, our campus management prevents unsustainable human activities, provides corridors for higher fauna, and an ever-growing core habitat for threatened species. Additionally, the Van Vihar Biodiversity Park & Reserve serves as a focus for reforestation and soil conservation efforts in the area. Tree planting campaigns, watershed restoration projects, and fire risk mitigation restore our ecosystems and provide employment opportunities for local residents. It is our hope that our efforts to tackle environmental degradation and reduce our carbon footprint may serve as a model for others in the Western Ghats and around the world.
The college administration has to take decisions on a daily basis where the needs of campus residents and staff have to be addressed within the larger context of sustainability and biodiversity conservation. The Head of Biodiversity & Sustainability thus plays a key role at the college, directing the college’s biodiversity conservation efforts on the one hand, and guiding the administration, staff and students in adopting sustainable systems and processes on the other, in areas of daily campus life, project implementation, and use of natural resources on campus.
About Lilian Marquez
At Pearson College, Lilian (PCUWC, Class of 1991) discovered forestry and her passion for the environment and rural development. She holds a forestry degree and has postgraduate studies in public policy.
Her path in environment and development has taken her to work for the United Nations Development Program and more recently with WWF, where she worked in Institutional Development for the Central America program. Now, Lilian teaches IB Environmental Systems and Societies and works with the management as the Head of Biodiversity at UWC Mahindra College.
Lilian devotes a significant amount of her free time to selecting new candidates for Pearson and the United World Colleges. She has participated actively in the National Committees of Guatemala and Costa Rica and is now selecting Belizean UWCers remotely via the Internet. Times have changed!
Born in Pune (India) in 1976, Ashwin was always drawn towards nature. He did his Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture at Pune, and then a Master’s in Horticulture at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Inspired by Rosie Koenig’s CSA farm in Florida, he started his journey into organic farming in 2003. During his stay in Catalunya (Spain), he cultivated vegetables on an abandoned olive orchard and supplied organic farm produce to about a dozen families in the town of Valls. Later on, Ashwin worked as a researcher at the Institute for Research and Technology in Agriculture (IRTA, Barcelona) where he evaluated different varieties of a local delicacy, the “calçot” onion, and researched ‘zero discharge’ cultivation systems for greenhouse tomatoes for preventing nitrate pollution along the Mediterranean coast, where tourism and agriculture often cross paths. Ashwin returned to India in 2007, and started the Gorus Organic Farming Association, a network that has brought together more than 100 farmers and 1500 urban consumers in Pune, and is possibly one of the first CSAs in India. Since June 2013, he works part-time at MUWCI as a consultant on Biodiversity & Sustainability, working closely with students and the college administration for developing sustainable practices in water, forestry, and solid waste resource management. Ashwin assists the Head of Biodiversity & Sustainability, mentors MUWCI students with their Extended Essays, guides their organic farming efforts, and facilitates a weekly farmer’s market on campus as part of the Triveni sustainability stream.