The proposal to develop jungle safari and trekking routes in Aravalis within Gurugram has been well received by wildlife and nature lovers and conservationists in the area. While hoping that the fragile ecosystem of the Aravalis will not be disrupted by its opening up to commercial tourism, wildlife experts believe that declaring the Aravalis a national park would ensure better protection of its forests and wildlife.
The safari proposal was brought up by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal and Union Minister for Environment, Forestry and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav during a meeting with officials from the Department of forests and tourism nearly a fortnight ago.
Mr. Lal said that the master plan for the project will soon be prepared and implemented in a time-bound and phased manner. Suggestions will be solicited from world-class experts and global tenders will be launched once the outline of the project is ready, he added.
A committee comprising the Deputy Commissioners of Gurugram and Nuh, the respective Panchayat Development Officers and heads of the Tourism and Forestry Departments would soon be formed to take the idea forward.
Visitors from Delhi and adjoining regions are expected to flock to the Aravalis for safari and trekking and experience nature in their backyards. The project should also create many job opportunities.
About 3,800 hectares (10,000 acres) in the Aravali mountain range of Gurugram and Nuh districts have been proposed for the jungle safari. The Aravalis are a cultural heritage and home to various species of birds, wildlife, butterflies, etc. According to a survey conducted by the Forest Department a few years ago, 180 species of birds, 15 species of mammals, reptiles, 29 species of aquatic animal species and 57 species of butterflies exist in the Aravalis.
Mr Yadav said battery-powered vehicles would be used for the safari and asked officials to identify parking spaces for tourist vehicles.
While wildlife lovers say the jungle safari project is a ‘good move’, they are also expressing hope that unnecessary infrastructure construction will be avoided and minimal disruption to wildlife will be caused. during the implementation of the project.
Jyoti Raghavan of the Aravali Bachao Citizens Movement demanded that Aravali areas in Gurugram, Faridabad and Nuh districts be declared a national park or wildlife sanctuary before opening them for commercial activities.
“Currently, there are no national parks in the Aravalis in Haryana. Declaring the Aravali forests as a national park or wildlife sanctuary would protect the critical leopard and wildlife corridor that extends from the sanctuary from Asola Wildlife in Delhi to Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan,” she explained.
Take preventive measures
Anuradha P. Dhawan, a member of a walking group, demanded that the entire Aravalis be declared a protected biosphere before any tourism projects are considered. “I have traveled to many forests across the country and seen the devastation being wrought there. There are illegal activities even in protected areas. Therefore, I call for strict enforcement of forest laws and punitive measures for flouting the rules,” she said.
Many others demanded that more areas, especially the stretch from Surajkund to Damdama Lake, should also be considered for the jungle safari in successive phases.
The current proposal for the jungle safari mainly includes the Aravalis stretch along Sohna Road towards Nuh past Bhondsi village.
A senior Forest Department official said the project was still in its infancy and could take three to four years to complete. The official said that for an area to be declared a sanctuary or a national park, the land must belong to the government, but the Aravalis mainly belong to the village panchayats.
However, Neelam Ahluwalia of the Aravalli Bachao citizens’ movement demanded that before moving forward with the jungle safari proposal, the government withdraw the 2019 amendment to the Punjab Land Preservation Act, the draft NCR 2041 plan.
It demands that all illegal encroachments be removed and illegal mining stopped to truly ensure the protection of the Aravalis, which cover only 2% of the area of Haryana, a state with the lowest forest cover in the world. country, water scarcity and abnormally high air pollution.