State formation proves a boon for Rajaji park

#1 Mar 18th, 2003, 15:18
Join Date:
Mar 2003
Dehra Dun (Uttarakhand)
  • rajugusain is offline
State formation proves a boon for Rajaji park
Raju Gusain
Dehra Dun
The Rajaji National Park here has received a new lease of life after the formation of Uttaranchal state, though the issue related to rehabilitation of Van Gujjars outside the park continues to persist. This follows a sharp decline in the number of tourists visiting this park after 1992-93.
Originally a wildlife sanctuary, it was declared a national park in 1983. It is named after the famous freedom fighter C.Rajgopalchari, popularly known as Rajaji. Spread over an area of 820.42 sq. Km, Rajaji remains open for the tourist from 15 November to 15 June and is famous for its elephant and tiger population.
During 1992-93 a record 10,484 wildlife enthusiasts visited, including 9167 Indian and 1318 foreigners. In 1998-99 the number got reduced to a total of 2636 and improved marginally in 1999-2000 to 3578.
Talking about one of the main reasons for the decline in tourist numbers, after 1993, Director of the Rajaji National Park, Sameer Sinha blamed it on an increase in human activities inside the protected area.
The Van Gujjars and some other tribes are living inside Rajaji and their rehabilitation to an alternative location is yet to pick up pace.
"Those visiting the park wanted to see wildlife not buffaloes that are found in abundance in the park" , adds Sameer Sinha.
He too admits that after the state came into being there was a new zeal among people to visit Uttaranchal and Rajaji also has benefited from it.
After the new hill state's formation in 9 November 2000, this national park started making a recovery. In 2001-02 the number of wildlife lovers visiting crossed the five thousand mark and in the last season it came close to nine thousand. Even in the ongoing season, park authorities are expecting a better response.
The Rajaji National Park is home to over 23 species of animals and 315 types of avifauna. According to the 1999 Wildlife Census of India, there are 28 tigers/ 4 tiger cubs, 177 panther/ 11 panther cubs and 445 elephants/ 144 elephants calves in residence here.
The park provides accommodation in its nine Rest Houses located at Beribara, Chilla, Ranipur, Kansrao, Kunnao, Motichur, Phandowala, Satyanarain and Asarodi. Previously, electricity was available at five Rest
Houses, leaving Beribara, Phandowala, Asarodi and Kansrao, but due to non payment of the electricity bill this year the facility is not available
"Visitors come here to have a jungle experience and I do not think that the non-availability of electricity matters a lot," defends the Director of the park.
The Park authorities have sought help from the State Tourism Department for support in infrastructure development to boost wildlife tourism at Rajaji National Park.
Tourist arrivals increasing at Rajaji
YEAR....................Indian .................Foreign
1997-98.................2633....... .............262
1998-99.................2337....... .............301
1999-00.................3196....... .............382
2000-01.................5246....... .............548
2001-02.................8164....... .............832
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Last edited by indiamike; Mar 18th, 2003 at 17:16..
#2 Mar 18th, 2003, 17:50
Join Date:
Sep 2001
Vienna, Austria
  • Midnite Toker is offline
Rajaji NP is a great place to visit. I've heard no other visitor talk about it, so this article is useful publicity. You can even get there on foot from Haridwar (about an hour), or by taxi from Rishikesh. I was there in 1996 and - in four days - saw Indian tourists, but no foreigners. Best memory was a family of wild elephants coming to the entrance gate of the Rest House in Chilla at nearly midnight. Just saw their dark silhouettes against the sky.

You're best having some transport within the park, as buses are not so frequent and don't reach all the little watchtowers and hides around the place.

A walk down to the placid Ganges (20 minutes from Chilla) is as great way to get the feel of the area. You can sit for hours watching birds and drinking the peace in.
#3 Mar 19th, 2003, 16:21
Join Date:
Aug 2001
Southampton UK
  • Alan D is offline

Van Gujjars

Hello Raju, it's good to have a real pro journalist on this site. During my recent stay in Uttaranchal the day always started with two newspapers from the local paper shop, the Times of India and the Hindustan Times. The English language press in India seems to be leading the way on ecological issues and especially the Hindustan Times. I am thinking of the recent report by Hermendra Chaturvedi (Hindustan Times Feb 15th) on the pollution of the Yamuna river at Agra and Deep Joshi's reports (Hindustan Times Feb 16th and 18th) from Nainital about the garbage problem there.

Your mention of the Van Gujjars reminds me of an incident that happened when we were coming down to the plains by bus from Dalhousie in about 1969. There were four other foreigners on the bus, young American males who were on some kind of scholarship. They had to choose some aspect of India, research it
and then write it up. As we came out of the mountains we saw large numbers of Gujjars on migration into the hills with their herds of water buffalo and cattle and all their possessions. One of the young Americans was so impressed that he grabbed his pack, asked the driver to stop, said goodbye to his friends and joined the Gujjars on their trek into the mountains. He had obviously found his subject for study. About a month later we met the other three young Americans in Dharamshala where they had an audience arranged with the Dalai Lama. Their friend had not turned up so presumeably he was still with the Gujjars.

I mention this because from what I have seen recently of Van Gujjars in Uttaranchal their settlements seem to be permanent. Have they stopped their centuries old migratory pattern in favour of a more settled lifestyle? I would guess the intense cultivation pattern on the Indian plains has now left them short of grazing land. What happens to the Van Gujjars if they are now pushed out of forest areas such as Rajaji NP and where else can they go? Have any studies been done on their actual ecological impact on the forest habitat? As a distinct cultural group of people ( Muslim and pastoral) it seems to me they have been exploited by the majority over the years in the one thing they produce - milk for the towns and villages. Rather than just moving the Gujjars out shouldn't the Forest Department be looking for positive solutions to this conflict of Interests?
#4 Mar 19th, 2003, 17:19
archits Future Member

Add the Business Standard and the Indian Express to your daily list.

cheers !
#5 Mar 19th, 2003, 18:30
Join Date:
Aug 2001
Southampton UK
  • Alan D is offline
Hi archits

I only mentioned the Times of India and the Hindustan Times because they were the only two newspapers that were generally available in Uttaranchal. In other places I would also buy the Indian Express, the Hindu or the Statesman.

As for the Business Standard, I haven't really investigated it. I think of it as similar to the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal - a mass of economic statistics, in which I have little interest.

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