Delhi could soon add a new spot on its tourism circuit with the state forest department planning to introduce ecotourism in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.
Activities such as night camping, nature walks, bird watching, butterfly watching, tree identification and rock climbing will be a part of the package, sources in the department said.
“Plans are afoot. We have held preliminary talks with the Wildlife Institute of India to check out the feasibility. They have agreed in principle. It would take some time before we could launch ecotourism as this is still in a nascent stage,” a senior official of the forest department said.
The 4,700-acre sanctuary on the borders of Delhi and Haryana is home to a wide range of animals such as nilgai, spotted deer, black buck, porcupine, monkeys, jackals, several species of birds and butterflies among others.
“According to a rough estimate, there could be around 250 species of trees, 200 species of birds, 10 species of mammals, 10 species of reptiles, eight species of amphibians and 90 species of butterflies,” said an official.
Forest guards claim leopard pug marks have also been spotted here on more than one occasion.
“Once we introduce ecotourism we would like to link it to the tourism circuit of Delhi to attract tourists coming to Delhi. It would also serve as a weekend getaway for Delhiites,” the official said.
Forest officials are, however, against introducing boating facilities in the Neeli Jheel, a large and deep water body inside the sanctuary. They say that the water body is too deep and accidents have happened in the past.
At present, the Bombay Natural History Museum operates a conservation and education centre in one end of the sanctuary. The centre organises some activities such as nature walks, bird watching and butterfly watching. However, there is no provision for camping.
The centre received around 16,000 visitors in 2016 comprising mostly students from schools and colleges. A large part of the sanctuary, however, remains out of bound for tourists as one needs to take permission from the state forest department to enter it.
“We would like to introduce facilities that could be a part of ecotourism, including camping facilities at night. Locals could be involved too,” said the forest official.
Hindustan Times had reported about the growing monkey population and how simians are posing a problem in the adjacent localities when they come out in search of food. More than 19,000 monkeys have been released in the sanctuary since 2007.
When asked how the forest department is planning to contain this problem when ecotourism takes off, a senior official said: “Visitors come to the sanctuary regularly. They have never complained. The plan is in its early stage. We would find some solution if we get complaints from visitors”