Citizen Voice: Will Dehradun lose 12.5 hectares of Tarla Nagal Forest?

Tarla Nagar Forest located in Dehradun. Credits: Ashish Garg

Dehradun, the capital city of the Himalayan Uttarakhand, is said to be blessed with loads of greenery. Today, the city is experiencing increased urbanization along with the problem of soaring temperature and reduced green cover. The land mafia and real estate developers have been making the best use of the large patch of green lands located in and around the city.

A government project plans to raze off 12.5 hectares of Tarla Nagal Forest in Dehradun. The citizenry has been protesting against the project strongly. Ashish Garg, a Doonite and an environmental activist, shares about the citizen movement initiated against the project aimed at developing the Tarla Nagal Forest into a 70 cr City Park.

1. What is the importance of the Tarla Nagal Forest?     

Tarla Nagal is a 12.5 hectares of lush evergreen forest falling within the municipal boundaries of Dehradun. It is a serene and natural habitat to various species of trees, plants, shrubs, birds, butterflies, insects and other lifeforms.  It also has a stream called Nalapani ki Rao, a tributary of Rispana river which flows right through Tarla Nagal before finally merging into Rispana. This forest and the tea gardens are the only two tiny green patches left in Dehradun. They both act as lungs to clean polluted air of Dehradun generated from traffic congestion and other industrial activities. This forest has thousands of trees of Kair and Katha, having medicinal values.

Many renowned ornithologists and naturalists of Dehradun have been spotting and capturing the images of various animals and native birds in the forest area. It has all the features to qualify as a protected forest.

Inside Tarla Nagal Forest. Credits: Ashish Garg

2. Please tell us about the proposed project of the government concerning the Forest?

Mussorie Dehradun Development Authority (MDDA), Government of Uttarakhand has recently conceptualized a plan to develop Tarla Nagal Forest as a ‘City Park’ at a cost of Rs. 70 crores. As per the details,  this project can be termed as a non-eco-friendly activity as it primarily involves the construction of concrete structures, the formation of adventure sport zones, setting up of food courts, cafeterias and much more. It will directly result in the generation of large quantities of waste and causing disturbance to wildlife and biodiversity of the forest. 

The project by MDDA will unnecessarily enhance the human intervention harming the unique bounty of nature. 

Tarla Nagal is facing some other concerns too: 

  • Nalapani Ki Rao, a stream, flows from inside the forest, merging with the river Rispana. However, the stream recent got diverted from its original path and has destroyed many trees in its new path. It has also been noticed that illegal mining is rampant near the stream. Heavy machines are engaged in illegal mining activities.   
  • Open defecation is rampant inside the forest area. A lot of construction laborers are living inside the forest area as a result of which trees are being cut down by them to meet their fuel demands. Not only this some trees have also been found to be poisoned. Heaps of construction debris is getting formed in the forest. 
  • A parallel road construction project for connecting Dhoran Khas and Nagal road has also been initiated, resulting in lockage of the forest area. Animal corridors have been destroyed, waterways stand obstructed and the catchment basin of Rispana river has also been damaged. 
  • Due to heavy construction activities around the forest area, the life inside the forest is getting disturbed. 

Doon is clearly on the brink of losing Tarla Nagal Forest and also one of the city’s best bird watching hub and all of its healthy flora and fauna.

Google Map Image of Tarla Nagal Forest. Credits: Ashish Garg

3.  How did you come to know about the proposed project and what kind of strategy you adopted to engage with and highlight the issue?

Two years back we noticed this. The forest tag was changed or marked to ‘City Park’ in the Draft Master Plan of Dehradun prepared by MDDA. It further went ahead with the plan to transform the forest into a city park and issued an Expression of Interest and thereby finalizing a consultant to carry out the project. Then, the execution order was finally issued by the government. The issue was extensively reported by the local media. 

We then launched a petition campaign at change.org aimed at generating awareness amongst the Doonites. We started campaigning against the project proposed by MDDA and have been informing people about the wide-scale ramifications of this project on the biodiversity basket of the area.  We have also tried to engage key birders and naturalists in this campaign to save the forest in order to have a deeper understanding of the biodiversity.

4. How are different citizen groups campaign on the issue?

Aimed at generating awareness about the issue, we recently organized a Nature Walk for Citizen’s Solidarity in Tarla Nagal Forest on the morning of 14 July. We tried to witness and understand the issues of the green area. 

Many naturalists, environmentalists, birders, photographers, NGOs and eminent citizens were present. We all walked across the forest and tried to understand the issues persisting inside the forest area. At the end of the walk, a consensus was arrived amongst all the citizens to declare the forest as a protected or deemed forest and completely decline any kind of artificial activity to disturb its integrity. 

5.  What are you planning for next?

As concerned citizens of Dehradun, we are now planning to further expand our awareness campaigns. The more we generate the public support for the project, more effectively we will be able to oppose the unsustainable project introduced by the Government of Uttarakhand. We are working to back up the entire campaign with the help of facts, figures and scientific data. If required, we are also ready to resort to any legal means and submit the entire case before a judicial forum. 

6.  What can be a possible alternative to an eco-park at Tarla Nagal Forest according to the citizenry? 

The said park can be developed by MDDA on the recently cleared landfill area at Sahastradhara Road which is lying abandoned and is fit for development as a park. This would also benefit local residents living around this ground suffering from intermittent pollution caused by indiscriminate burning of waste and leachate. Pollution of the groundwater table is another concern in the region. 

Tarla Nagal Forest is natural biodiversity in itself and should remain untouched through any kind of development activities.

Nature Walk for Citizen’s Solidarity organized in Tarla Nagal Forest on the morning of 14 July.

7. Any message for the political decisions makers?  

We Doonites earnestly and sincerely request authorities to review this decision for protecting the unique biodiversity of the Tarla Nagal Forest in the larger interest of our city and future generation.  

This is more so in the light of upcoming grave threats of climate change. It is an established fact that forests are natural carbon sink for the absorption of greenhouse gases and hence interfering in a non-eco-friendly manner is not only undesirable but would cause a great human and ecological damage. Hence, it would be prudent to shun this unsustainable project by MDDA.

As suggested above, this project can be undertaken at old Waste dumping ground at Sahastradhara Road which can be developed as an Eco-park and Tarla Nagal Forest needs to be declared as a deemed forest or protected forest.

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Rishabh Shrivastava Author

Rishabh is the Founder Editor of TA.