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Lost Forest of the Aravallis

June 4 2012, DHNS 19:44 IST
Off the Faridabad Gurgaon highway, there is this sacred grove, conserved since ages by the faith of the tribal communities living in and around it.

It is spread over 500 acres of land. A forest which runs in the blood of its people. A photo exhibition by Carrot Films is exhibiting the Mangerbani – the forest and its glory and brings to notice the fact that a green patch of forest exists so close to the concrete jungles of Delhi, Faridabad and Gurgaon. This forest has been worshipped and conserved for thousands of years by its dwellers and now has fallen prey to developers who only talk money.

Mangerbani, a forest that besides being the last hope for its unique flora and fauna, also serves as a crucial water-recharge zone for Delhi NCR.

The sacred grove used to have a community ownership. From 1970-1986, due to some unexplained reason, the entire forest got privatised. The villagers were persuaded into selling their share of land, which was then broken into re-sellable plots.

And then comes Haryana Government’s Draft Development Plan for Manger 2031. It allows real estate activities inside this green belt of the Aravallis, notwithstanding the directives of the Supreme Court and going against the rules laid by MoEF, GoI.

It seems this forest, a virgin and vast expanse of land, has caught the fancy of decision makers, developers and corporates alike. And these are people who won’t mind bending a few rules to shape their urban ambitions. This fragmentation would lead to the inevitable death of the Bani. If the Bani dies, the entire ecosystem will die, and with it a tradition of conservation that has been kept alive by people’s faith for thousands of years.

Despite all this, the fate of Mangerbani seems to be already sealed. It’s already a lost forest; a forest that isn’t there.

The pictures depict the entire story of this vast expanse of virgin forest in just a couple of pictures. The faith, sacredness and sanctity of the forest are highlighted in this unique exhibition.

One of the photographers Moumita Das, who is also an assistant director in Carrot, said, “I wanted to convey the story of the forest through my stills. A film is over in few minutes but a picture can be viewed and appreciated for as long as one wants, hence the idea of this exhibition.”

It’s almost unimaginable to have a forest, that too, a sacred grove so close to Delhi, and the rapidly developing Gurgaon and Faridabad. Mangarbani has the native flora and fauna of the Aravalli Hills, which still exist in the 21st century, an amazing fact.

This exhibition want to make people aware of the existence of a beautiful patch of green which seems to be out of another era altogether.

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