Senior citizens were seen equally, if not more excited than their younger co-participants to hit the three separate well designed thematic trials, offered by the Ropar division Wildlife wing of the Punjab Department of Forests and Wildlife Conservation – 2.27 kms Sentience Path, 3 kms Serenity Track and 5 kms Nature Trail.
Photos By : Life In Chandigarh
The setting was perfect as enthusiasts, comprising small and large groups of individuals and a few voluntary organisations, began to pour in at the reporting point near the Siswan Dam (earthen) in Marji tehsil of SAS Nagar (Mohali) district. Right from registrations, which began early at 8:30 a.m., to distributing special occasion caps, packaged water and refreshments, to providing seasoned guides, everything appeared to be very professionally managed.
A short briefing from the friendly and highly indulgent host for the trek-a-thon, Monica Yadav, the Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) of Ropar division, the participants dispersed to their respective starting points and hit their respective trails with gusto.
Bairon Temple near the Siswan Dam
The trails starting with generally level, at places even broken metalled road, lined with information boards about the various fauna of the reserve, branched out into dirt tracks which took the participants over steep and gentle slopes of the meandering mud hills, sandy beds of largely dried up ‘choes’ (rivulets) and past large expanse of the reservoir with the water sparkling in the sun.
During the 3 kms Serenity Track opted by this LifeInChandigarh.com journalist, which proved far more gruelling than it appeared, some of the leading participants were witness to forest officials coming to the rescue of a sambar deer and its offspring which were making loud alarming calls after coming under attack by stray dogs at the shallow end of the reservoir. The dogs were eventually shooed away by the stick-wielding forest officials and the sambars escaped into the wild.
Participants of all the three thematic trails later converged at the Mirzapur forest guest house of the department for a well deserved tea and snacks. The writing was on the wall. Happy faces said it all!
Later talking to LifeInChandigarh.com, DFO (Wildlife), Ropar Division, Monica Yadav said considering the success of the trek-a-thon, more such events would be planned at the reserve occasionally to increase the public association with the ecosystem.
In line with the state government’s plan to develop the area into a major tourism hub, very much on the agenda are development of a facilitation centre, thematic nature walks, tented accommodation, a cafeteria, canopy walk (from one tree top canopy to another) and watch towers.
An independent society will also be constituted in due course to involve the local population in the management of the reserve in the future. Private land owners in the reserve are already being encouraged to set up and maintain their own water ponds for the growth and development of the diverse flora and fauna in addition to the existing reservoir.
She shared that the reserve is open for treks by enthusiasts and currently no permissions are required, but in future with the setting up of the society this may be made more organised and regulated with the possibility of a nominal fee being charged. Already visitors are frequenting the trails on weekends, she adds.
What Is A Community Reserve?
Punjab is credited with the first two community reserves to be notified in India. Responding to the emerging challenges of integrating local socio-economic needs and ecological integrity of important ecosystems, Community Reserves became the legal categories of Protected Areas in India in 2006 through an amendment in Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The Community Reserves, comprising community and panchayat lands, are aimed at serving the cause of inclusive conservation with efforts made by the government, through scientific management plans, to build the ownership of local communities and empower them for taking up an active role in the management of these areas.
About Siswan Community Reserve
- The Siswan Dam (earthen) was constructed in 1997 following which the water reservoir was built up.
- Spread over 13 sq kms (3200 acres), Siswan Community Reserve (SCR), located in Majri tehsil of SAS Nagar (Mohali) district, was notified as such in 2017 under Section 36 C of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972
- Mostly privately owned land and some government land
- One of the few forested patches in the area which is adjacent to state boundaries of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh
- Chandigarh-Baddi road cuts through the reserve and caution signs of wildlife crossings dot the road.
- 11 villages fall within 5 kms radius of the Reserve
- 17 kms from Chandigarh city and 29 kms from Mohali city
- According to a Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Management Plan for Siswan Community Reserve for 2020-21 to 2025-26, prepared after a rapid study in 2016, the undulating terrain, dense forest habitat along with patches of savannah grassland holds potential habitat for diverse mammalian fauna.
- The plan documents that SCR has nearly 116 species of birds, many of which are of rare distinction status.
- It says sambar deer was found to be the most frequently captured in camera traps installed at various vantage points in the reserve. Barking deer and wild pig were the other common mammalians. Also captured in the cameras from time to time are leopard, nilgai, Indian wild boar, golden jackal, Indian hare, Indian crested porcupine, Northern plains langur, jungle cat, civets, small Indian mongoose and Bengal fox.
- Historical significance: Traditional Siswan lay on an ancient trade route connecting HP and Punjab. Siswan also formed an important mandi (market) for all trades, making it a vibrant economic centre in earlier times.
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