Wednesday, January 1, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Nature reserve project non-starter
Govt fails to exploit medicinal plants
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, December 31
The ambitious Rs 3-crore Guru Gobind Singh Nature Reserve (GGSNR), inaugurated with fanfare during the tercentenary celebration of the birth of the Khalsa Panth, remains a non-starter even as the government has found that the Shivalik region has more than 500 species of medicinal plants. However, the plants are suffering due to deforestation as people are not aware about their significance.

In the first phase, the Worldwide Fund for Nature-India had found the existence of at least 80 species of herbs including rare medicinal plants. Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Kesgarh Sahib, said a team of Hamdard University which visited the Shivalik foothills recently had identified more herbal plants in the region.

The proposed site of GGSNR is 3 km from Anandpur Sahib on the Naina Devi road in Himachal Pradesh. It is surrounded by a number of villages, with Jajjar forming the major part of the north-eastern boundary and Bachauli and Lamlehri on the north-west.

However, the proposed land has no perennial source of water. Its dependence on rains has resulted in dry deciduous vegetation only. Barking deer, porcupines, mongoose, wild hare, rodents and occasional sambars form the mammalian fauna. This forest patch provides many avifaunal species an ideal shelter.

The decision to assign 289 acres of forest land on the outskirts of this historical town for the conservation project to commemorate the Khalsa tercentenary celebrations in April 1999 was undertaken by the Government of Punjab in mid-1998. Initially, it was proposed to set up an open air zoo or a lion safari. Eventually, this idea was given up in favour of a nature reserve at the instance of WWF — India.

The state government felt that the proposed site was a typical Shivalik dry deciduous habitat, surrounded by green pastures of village fields and agricultural land.

This site, with minor habitat manipulations, was chosen not only to protect the typical Shivalik flora and fauna but also propagate them.

The state government had also proposed to build three check dams along the slope with an idea of creating a large water body to end the water crisis in the area.

However, some individuals, including the Jathedar of Kesgarh Sahib, have been making efforts to propagate the ‘herbal culture’. Prof Manjit Singh took the TNS team to an area near Kesgarh Sahib where he has successfully grown rare herbs.

(To be concluded)


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