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Temporary’ Use of Rajaji National Park for Kumbh Mela: Uttarakhand Forest Dept

By: Aanchal Sharma

On one hand, we hold campaigns to protect Tiger,  our National animal and on the other hand, we are willingly destroying their habitat for our own festivities.

Image Source: www.rajajitigerreserve.org.in

The Tiger population is as we know a subject of deep concern as their numbers are not drastically increasing. With many poachers spying around we will be no different from them.

Ecology : used and abused

Kumbh Mela which is celebrated once in 12 years is a Hindu festival where devotees come from distant lands for a  Dip in the Ganges in Haridwar. The number of people who usually come cross beyond 10 crores .this number may even go up.

For thousands of years, devotees and nature have walked hand in hand with each other. Both have managed to stay in close proximity without harming one another but today the scenario has changed. Due to over-commercialization, over-tourism, and overpopulation, ecology is being used and abused.

Rajaji National Park to be used for Kumbh Mela

At present, Uttarakhand forest department authorities have already started preparing for 2021 the year of Kumbh Snan or Kumbh Mela. They have transferred 778 hectares of forest land and Narendra Nagar forest area to the Kumbh Mela Samithi. This is the same forest land that has been reserved for our endangered Tigers.

The land is a tiger reserve and its use for non-forest purposes is in clear violation of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

The proposed area of the national park is said to remain with the Kumbh Mela Samiti for over a period of nine months, beginning from September 1, 2020, to May 31, 3021.

DJK Sharma, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Uttarakhand (APCCF) and nodal officer of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) wrote to state Principal Secretary (Forest), “The proposed venue for Kumbh Mela is surrounded by reserved forest area of the Rajaji National Park and Narendra Nagar Forest division. Kumbh is estimated to be visited by over 10 crore people and these forest areas have vacant fields available which could be used to construct camps, parking, police check posts and health camps for them.”

Since Kumbh Mela is an important festival as per the Hindu traditions, the Central government must consider temporary use of forest land for non-forest purpose [Kumbh Mela] as an exception and get it issued through FAC,” he added to the letter.

In particular, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) had issued an order permitting the temporary use of forest land – which is not a part of the protected area – without the prior approval of the central government which drew severe criticism from environmentalist on October 2019.

Reserve’s land to be used for 9 months

In January 2020, MoEF&CC added that “while permitting temporary use of forest land, it shall be ensured that such use of forest land is unavoidable for a public purpose and there is no alternate non-forest land available for the proposed temporary use”.

The time period for temporary use of forest land was fixed for a period not exceeding two weeks. However, in this case, the officials want to dilute the laws and extend the use of forest land which was priorly permitted till 2 weeks but now for 9 whole months.

The site will be used for the construction of health camps, parkings, making shafts, etc. It will be of no surprise if they even allow the Trees for chopping for parking lots.

Doing this will not only permanently vandalize the restricted forest areas but will also get tigers and other endangered species to become easy targets for poachers or other hunters.

Intruding forest area for complete 9 months clearly means that that portion will soon be under the city circumference. Reducing the already shrunken forest cover area.

The Kumbh Mela can still be performed as usual in its vicinity around Haridwar. As there are many Ashrams and lodges hotels and can accommodate a lot of people. Seeing the recent coronavirus scare. The Kumbh Mela should be held without the presence of humans.

Aanchal Sharma

Aanchal Sharma

Dentist, environmentalist, writer. Editor of a local online news portal, author of comic fictions

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