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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tiger Tourism



Scene in Ranthambhore when a tiger is sighted
Pic by Susan Sharma (2005)
On 24th July, 2012 The Supreme Court  banned tourism in the core areas of India’s tiger reserves till further orders, fuelling fears among tour operators and some conservationists that people would lose the chance to watch the animals in the wild, local economies would bleed and poaching would increase.

As the first step towards eco-tourism, the top court today said that all states must notify the core and buffer areas of Parks under them.

Conservationists estimate that up to 150,000 tourists visit the Ramthambore park each year, contributing to its business revenue of Rs 60 crore.  How much of this actually trickles down to the local community is the moot issue, though.  Voices of the people living around the Park tell otherwise. ( See our film "Living with the Park").

Tour operators around the Jim Corbett Park estimate that nearly half the 90-odd hotels outside the park would shut down and hundreds of safari operators and nature guides would lose jobs if the interim order becomes the final one.

“The debate on wildllife tourism has less to do with conservation and more and more to do with issues of equity,” said M.D. Madhusudan, a wildlife biologist and director of the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysore.

The archives of IndianWilldlifeclub contain many articles which are worth reading for those interested in a ringside view of tiger tourism.

Just write "tiger tourism" in our search button on top right hand side of http://www.Indianwildlifeclub.com and you will see  blogs, articles and chat transcripts devoted to the tiger. 




Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mangarbani Sacred Grove

5km to the side of Gurgaon -Faridabad four lane road, driving through a thick forest of Vilayati Kekar trees interpersed with construction sites, you enter Mangarbani village (wrongly spelt Manger at the direction board on the main road).



The Art and Craft Hotel raises a few eyebrows just before we enter the village.  Builders are already in possession of Dream plans to convert the ancient village of Mangarbani into a "Tourist Paradise", the Hotel is probably waiting for those Dreams to take wings.

 Entrance to Mangarbani

At this sleepy village of about 300 hamlets we ask our way to the Bani.  As we reach Bani, the three soldiers from Mangarbani village who started the fight to save Mangarbani against seemingly odd barriers,  greet us.  We, a few friends who learnt about Mangarbani through the film "The Lost Forest",  had decided to devote the Sunday Morning to see the forest for ourselves. 

"Heavenly'" " So cool'" "Longest tailed peacock" "Beautiful bird sounds"  remarks kept coming as we walked. The residents pitched in with their knowledge of the Bani.  The first and last rule of the Bani " Do not pluck or cut anything from the Bani.  If you graze your animals inside, you raise the wrath of  Gudanya Baba  whose Samadhi in a cave is worshipped by the villagers.

 Broken Kadamb branch-Remove it at your peril!

 Here is an excerpt from the magazine "Down To Earth"

---What sets the Bani apart from the surrounding vegetation is that 95 per cent of it comprises a slow growing tree called Dhau (Anogeissus pendula). The tree has a unique feature. If it is nibbled by cattle, it spreads out on the ground or over rocks like thick prostrate undergrowth. If left undisturbed, it grows into a middle-sized tree. The 13-meter-tall dhaus in Mangar Bani testify to the forest’s antiquity, points out Pradip Krishen, the author of Trees of Delhi. ......

Sacred grove of Dhau trees seen from temple top

We saw Desi papri trees, Vat  and Dhok trees , Seetaphal trees and Kadamb trees which were fruiting and Dhau, the endemic tree of the area which were sprouting all over after the rains.


 Fruit of Kadamb tree

Sweet fruit of Seeta Phal tree


Dhau sprouting through rocks


Take the Dhau outside Mangarbani and they refuse to grow.  The Dhau is believed to be one large organism in Managrbani which propagates through root grown saplings only.  Untouched by the British ( The British never discovered this village tucked away in the interior, according to locals) and the Forest Department, Vilayati Keekar is absent in the village.  No bougainvillas and no lantana bushes are seen anywhere.      The Forest has remained natural as it was 3000 years ago.  A Natural Museum worth presrving for the next generation!



Under the shade of ancient trees

Mangarbani, a serene forest


Besides the Bani being the Preserve of fauna and flora endemic to the Aravalis (probably the only patch in Rajasthan-Haryana-Delhi, where Aravalis have survived in their original glory), this unspoilt forest is most likely responsible for water recharging and safeguarding water veins underground.  Destroy this vegetation cover, build on it and we could end up blocking/destroying any number of water veins under those impenetrable rock-systems.  
Gurgaon and Faridabad have seen Surajkund, Badkhal and Dumdama lakes disappear within the last 25-30 years, once vegetation in Aravalis was destroyed and hilllsides dug up for minerals/stones for construction and/or levelled for putting up buildings. The ban by the Supreme Court on all mining cant restore those water bodies, they are gone for ever.
Will the Gurgaon-Faridabad-Delhi residents let the unspoilt Aravalis in and around Manger Bani disappear? They could be destroying the most important water-recharge System/Preserve that could have sustained the coming generations by providing much needed elixir of life 'WATER'
SAVE THE ARAVALIS THAT WE STILL HAVE------REHABILITATING THEM MAY BE BEYOND ALL OF US. AFTER ALL THESE MOUNTAINS TOOK MILLIONS OF YEARS TO BECOME OUR BENEFICIARIES------
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