In December 2011, I visited Mussoorie during Christmas Holidays. Since Dehradun was the stopover I thought of taking a quick trip to Sahastradhara en route to Mussoorie. I was overjoyed. Using all possible and known adjectives, I kept telling my wife about the beauty of this place– thousands of rivulets, hundreds of cascading streams, innumerable torrents and channels coming out of sulphur rocks uphill. After all I was traveling to Sahastradhara after twenty years and the memories of the wonderful time spent with my family were still afresh – taking plunge into the water, wading through the strong currents, and collecting pebbles—which has now become my hobby—from the river bed. Since it was early morning and there was no traffic, within twenty minutes we arrived at Sahastradhara from Dehradun Railway Station.
But what I saw was unbelievable. It was not the same place I had left twenty years back. It was totally different. It was changed. There was no trace of the thousands of rivulets and hundreds of torrents. All streams were gone! Now there stood several hotels and rickety restaurants. Plastics, plastics, and plastics everywhere – on the building roofs, in the river, up on the hill, and on the roadside. I think we know how to use plastics, but forget to learn how to dispose them off properly. There was nothing left but the man’s greed. A fun park was seen where used to be a small water fall. I couldn’t stand there and left the place within five minutes. I know the act was a perfect example of escapism.
This March, during Holi celebrations, I stayed in a Gujjar Hut in the buffer zone of Rajaji National Park. The Hut was right beside the ever flowing, gorgeous Ganges. And it was merely 400 meters from the entrance gate to the core area of Chilla Range of this Park. The stay was an experience. Whole night I could hear fitful trumpets and nocturnal calls coming out from the jungle. But the morning was not as pleasant as it should had been. The noise of loudspeakers playing early morning religious songs in Haridwar could easily be heard in the middle of this jungle. It was so loud that it subdued the jungle calls. We all know that noise in natural areas is found to be associated with the change in natural activity patterns of animals. It brings phenomenal change in their mating behaviour. I was wondering how animals which are on the verge of extinction would survive in this hostile environment. But worse was yet to come.
Several groups of drunken youth in cars and SUVs playing loud music throng to the forest. Here spotted deers are often seen crossing over the roads in search of food and pasture. But their four wheel monsters seemed to be crossing every limit—speed and noise. Their orgy near the barrage on the Ganges where herds of elephants are often seen continued until the police arrived in the evening. However, they had already done what cannot be undone by any means.
We not only need to save our endangered animals from poachers but also to protect our forests and wildlife from ignorant tourists who knowingly and unknowingly do more harm to the habitat than anyone else. Some areas should be left alone—for the population, both the Man and the Animal, that originally inhabit the place. What’s your take on this?