Hello all, today I would be sharing my experience with ecotourism as a budding tool of Forest Department in Himachal Pradesh. The scintillating views of snow clad Himalayas, lush green Deodars and Spruce, shimmering rivers in their youth sashaying across gorges and deep valleys – that is what Himachal is known for and truly, living amidst all of this is a pleasure. As a forester, it becomes imperative to best conserve as well as showcase the hidden treasures of nature for the rejuvenation of people, who seek an escape from their busy and fast lives to heal in the lap of nature.
My tenure in Kullu Forest Division had been a great learning experience. Kullu, being home to places like Manali, Naggar, Rohtang Pass , Atal Tunnel, is a really buzzing Division – and the exposure for a first posting has been unparalleled. From meetings & field visits to forest treks, from tenting to film shooting permissions, from protocols to curbing illicit activities of tree felling and sand mining, from managing Externally Aided Projects like Japan’s JICA project and Germany’s GIZ to ensuring healthy plantations and nurseries with healthy stock and techniques, the Division gave a flavor of an array of activities we as foresters deal with. Some new firsts were also carried out in the last year – My Forest Guards volunteering for COVID Duties to reach out to people staying in remote places during lockdown, procurement of DRONE for curbing illicit activities as well as for monitoring of plantations, organizing a one of its kind WHATSAPP-based online competition for all age groups of children in Kullu District basis Forest Protection theme “Van Bachao Jeevan Bachao” etc. However, working on ecotourism and imbibing some youthful zing in the ongoing projects topped the list of works in terms of putting creativity to execution stage.
The Division had three running projects , one of them being a Government of India funded one, namely Beas Bihal Nature Park, Manali. The project’s objective was Eco-restoration and up gradation of degraded Forest Land into an eco-model (Nature Park). Among the listed deliverables of the project included qualitative improvement of degraded forest land, ecotourism development, water resource management, nature and biodiversity conservation, local employment generation, protection from Encroachment and decongestion of Manali area in an eco-friendly manner. All this while ensuring the natural aesthetic of the landscape and use of local material to avoid any over-the-top element in making.
It was quite a challenge converting a large area of 15 ha wasteland into something ecologically meaningful and aesthetically appealing and interactive for the coming times. However, a great team of field staff, constant creative inputs and exploration led to some fantastic field level working. The entire area was segregated into two sections – one for the general tourists with all activities pooled in and the other for the nature-seekers, to walk inside the forests and enjoy the serenity of nature.
From creating Lord of the Rings inspired themed Hobbit Garden to recreating Japanese garden corners, plentiful use of water bodies and River Beas in form of lakes, water channels and fountains, building an amphitheatre with a sky open view of Rohtang Pass as backdrop, a giant Himalayan Ibex-cum-ticket counter, interactive nature education models like Forest Types of Himachal Pradesh, Glacial Depictions and grooves of local species, depicting Himalayan food chain in 3D, ensuring flood protection measures and creating open spaces using natural boulders and river stones, we could come up with a lot of ideas that could successfully get implemented in a short span of 1.5 years. Some adventure sports activities including zip line and zorbing are also lined up for the youngsters. A major chunk of the park is now complete and will be opened shortly in the coming financial year. I look forward to the future times when citizens all over would be reaping the benefits of this space, leading to some real work satisfaction. Leaving you guys with some glimpses of the same 😊