SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Forest interlude

RESPECT NATURE: Along the Narmada

RESPECT NATURE: Along the Narmada  



KANCHI KOHLI

The forests of the Achanakmar Sanctuary give the visitor an opportunity to be one with Nature.

I'VE never been a wildlife enthusiast in the true sense, but have not been averse to exploring the wild either. So when a colleague suggested extending a business trip to Raigarh in Central India to explore the forests of Achanakmar sanctuary and Amarkantak, I agreed. After all it's not everyday that one gets an opportunity to explore good wildlife habitats and understand the issues that centre on it. The Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary (557.55 sq.km.) was constituted in 1975. Part of the Satpura mountains, this protected area is located in Bilaspur Forest Division of Chhatisgarh. The beautiful forests comprise a range of vegetation with towering sal trees and thick bamboo groves.The sanctuary is a great habitat for animals like the tiger, panther, bison, barking deer, spotted deer, wild bear and so on. In fact, the bison here is known to be larger than the one found in Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks. There is a diversity of birds too. Other animals found here include caracal (a large cat), jackal, jungle cat, and the giant squirrel and birds like the Golden Oriole.

Tiger corridor

The Kanha-Achanakmar corridor connects the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh with the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh.During the trip, I also explored Amarkantak plateau, which is the source of the Narmada. The mythological stories centred on the love and separation of the Narmada and the Son (one of the few male rivers in India and the principal southern tributary of the Ganga) were interesting. Stories were told of why the two rivers decided to take different paths, of the saints who were part of charting the Narmada's course. The short trek along the Narmada from Dudh Dhara to Kapil Dhara waterfalls, allowed us to connect with the river. As we approached Kapil Dhara, we were welcomed with a yellow spray. It took us a while to figure out that it was perhaps honey being sprayed from from the countless beehives near the waterfall. Only then did I remember the signboard warning tourists to careful of the bees.There was also a brief opportunity to visit the aesthetically constructed Sal Valley Resort at Keonchhi outside the Achanakmar Sanctuary boundary. Developed as a commercial endeavour, the resort, inaugurated in May 2006, aims to promote wildlife tourism and is the first of its kind in the area. The Forest Rest House at Lamni aglow with lanterns is rarely seen in an era of bright lights.Though we did not want to go into troublesome issues, certain things did come up. The perils of tourism can be seen quite clearly - be it the discarded shampoo sachets under the waterfall or the spread of plastics in Amarkantak town.

Heavy traffic

The weekend saw taxis with blaring music running through the state highway that cuts through the sanctuary. The highway is closed for heavy traffic from 6.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. This may have reduced the pressure but the rule needs to be completely enforced. The presence of heavy traffic was visible even after sundown. A more serious issue was information on illegal encroachments and poaching in the forests. Such pressures are not limited only to Achanakmar, but are detrimental nevertheless. If we are to respect nature and all the life it supports, we need to be conscious that we don't play around with it. This tryst with Achanakmar was yet another reinstatement of this fact.





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