Rajaji National Park.. on the edge..
In 1948, the first Indian Governor General of India was invited to a hunting expedition in this part of the country. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of this forest and the rich wildlife it was endowed with. He refused to hunt, and instantly proposed for the area to be protected for it’s wildlife and forests. Eventually this led to the formation of Rajaji Wildlife Sanctuary, named in honor of C Rajagopalachari fondly known as Rajaji.
In 1983 it got the status of a National Park. Chilla, Motichur, ranges of Dehradun, and some ranges around Lansdowne were merged in this park. The beauty of this park is the Holy river Ganges which cuts through the park right in the centre and goes about 25kms through this rich forest. With Shiwalik ranges on it’s northern side, this park is the westernmost part of the Terai Arc landscape. Famous for Tigers, Elephants, Leopards, about 48 species of mammals, over 300 species of birds, and butterflies, and reptiles, King Cobra and Goral (mountain goat) are some charismatic species found here.
This park perhaps has the most severe of challenges compared to any other national park in the country. No I am not talking about poaching, nor about habitat degradation, but the very location of this park is it’s biggest handicap. The bustling pilgrimage city of Haridwar, Rishikesh, and the capital city of Dehradun surround this park. National Highway 58 cuts through the delicate Chilla Motichur corridor, which is an important lifeline of this park. This highway is also the route for the most revered Hindu pilgrimage, “Char Dham Yatra”. The journey practically starts from the gate of the national park. Indian Army also uses this highway for lot of it’s supplies to the Mana border with China. If all this was not enough, then we do have an Indian railway line cutting through this corridor at Raiwala. In addition there is a Hydro water powerhouse, in the Chilla range itself. Then there is a barrage controlling the water entering Haridwar, am told that this barrage saved the city of Haridwar in the Kedarnath floods a couple of years back. The pollution generated by the industries in this entire area are not far behind. About 100 villages surrounding the park and extracting biomass from the forest for livelihood, out of habit, or tradition, are only clogging the arteries of Rajaji. I failed to think of one reason that does not exist here to ensure annihilation of this park.
The list of challenges is unending. I would also like to state here that if Rajaji National Park has survived today, it is purely due to hard work put in by the forest management and the endurance and adaptability of the flora and fauna of the park.
With ever growing human demands due to growing population in the area, will we be able to rescue Rajaji from urbanization? Will it be the first park to fall as prey to the ever growing hunger of human desires? Himalayan ask must say.
My last sighting in the park was a Leopard in the Ranipur range sitting on a wall facing Haridwar city, a pensive look on his face, asking a question, “will he and his future generations be able to withstand the onslaught in this area”? His look was not optimistic, and neither could I assure him on behalf of our race.
Destination : New Delhi - Chilla, Uttarakhand - Jim Corbett National Park - New Delhi - Ranthambore National Park - New Delhi