The fate of Mangerbani

LOST RESERVE

The fate of Mangerbani

Delhi is known to be one of the ‘greenest’ cities in India. But these green patches are facing a huge threat by the so-called developers and builders who want to create their own spaces in terms of skyscrapers and malls.

To show people how important it is to prese­rve and conserve our green reserve for the sake of the eco-system, ‘Carrot Films’ dedicated a documentary on Mangerbani, a sacred forest just off the main Gurgaon-Faridabad highway and part of the Aravalli hills.

The 500 acre forest is not just a unique ecosystem home to several species of rare plants and animals but also sacred to its indigenous habitants – the Mangars – a Rajasthani tribe. However, due to its proximity with Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad as it lies on the borders of all three, it is facing threat from land sharks who want to give it a new face in terms of ‘developing’ it now, as published in Metrolife earlier.

But there is more. Ishani K Dutta, director of The Lost Forest who stumbled into the idea of making this film says, “While doing my research, I found out about the importance of this area in terms of maintaining ecological balance.

This is an important ground water recharge zone, and is also the catchment area for Dhauj lake which lies in its vicinity. It is extremely important that we protect such areas since Gurgaon, Faridabad and Delhi are largely dependent on ground water.

The fact that the villagers surrounding the Bani have preserved the forest for thousands of years without any sort of government support, also fascinated me. I didn’t need to think twice. I knew instantly that this forest needed to be saved, and since I know and understand films, I used this medium to tell the story.”

It would appear now that the documentary has made some babus of the government do a rethink on this issue. Tykee Malhotra, founder Sanskara Development Trust and India Chief of Wild Aid, shares that, “The Central government has directed the Haryana state government to prepare a geo-reference map which shows the forest area in Faridabad district.

Currently, the geo-reference map is prepared by the Haryana Forest Department. I have also interacted with the principle chief conservator of forest in Har­y­a­na to identify the deemed forest areas in the Faridabad district which includes Mangerbani.”

Mangarbani is considered a sacred grove by the local communities, largely comprising Gujjars. This small patch of forest is ‘consecrated in the memory of Gudariya Baba’ - a local holy man, and protected by the superstition that anyone who breaks a branch or grazes his goats here will suffer grievous harm’. According to Pradip Krishen, the well-known environmentalist and filmmaker, “One result of this sacred conservation strategy is that Mangarbani has become a little outdoor museum of what Delhi’s Ridge might have looked like without biotic pressure…. mainly in the presence of ‘dhau’”.

The Delhi Ridge supports other trees not found in the rest of Delhi like hingot, khair, kumttha, dhak, phulai and kareel. Two other species have now completely disappeared, and exist only in Mangarbani – kala siris (Albizia odoratissima) and the salai or frankincense tree (Boswellia serrata). Observations in Mangerbani have shown the existence of porcupines, hedgehogs, partridges, peafowl, wild hare, jackal, mongooses, various species of snakes and birds.

Environmentalists and other concerned individuals are now working overtime to preserve this sacred grove but its fate lies in uncertain hands

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