We are an argumentative nation, aptly quoted by an eminent personality, ready to debate a whole range of subjects at the drop of a hat. Some have made it their livelihood by taking this art to another level, every night the nation comes to know about where it is headed to through nerve jangling discussions by a panel comprising of intellectuals who seem to know it all. A verdict is given and the fate of the nation is sealed. But do these self appointed upholders of our democracy discuss everything essential for us as a nation or only those subjects which catch people’s fancy make it to the table. The latter seems to be true. There is a report called the India State of Forest which was released early in 2015 noting that India’s forest cover has gone up. Albeit the rise is marginal but it is a crucial feat at present when climate control is an agenda which is bringing the developed and the developing world to negotiations. The recently held summit in Paris also has given greater emphasis on afforestation as a key to our endeavor in making our world a better place for the coming generations. These subjects may perhaps never afford primetime and will always be limited to documentaries but people need to be exposed to ecosystem of our forests, concern for natural ecosystems must become part of the national consciousness .Popular media may never do it but the new brand of eco-tourism can help bring the urban eyes face to face with what they don’t see and realise in their routine.
My native state Chhattisgarh ranks amongst the top most states when it comes to percentage area covered under forests, 41% against a national figure of 21%.In terms of area under forests it is the third largest state in the country. Thus it is reasonable that as part of the recent push to increase tourism in the state the natural reserve at Barnawapara is finding a prominent place, where we had an opportunity to go recently. Barnawapara is at a distance of around 120 km from Raipur, a drive of around 3 hours. Therefore not so surprisingly it has become a popular getaway for people in Raipur. We had taken a detour to Sirpur, otherwise you drive up to Pithora on the Great Eastern Road (NH 6 ) and take a left turn which will take you to this forest reserve. Our stop at Sirpur was brief (Read: Templesof Sirpur) and after we had a glimpse of the recent excavations in this upcoming destination we got going for Bar (local lingo for Barnawapara).The single lane tar road soon gave way to a kutcha road, we were now in the forest territory beyond the jurisdiction of our public works department. On the way were some small villages, with small farms adjoining them. This is where human existence gets intertwined with the jungle and its ecosystem. Tall teak trees appeared on both sides after a while. I spotted a guy holding his cell phone and waving it, he was searching for the cellular network. Our mobile phones had blissfully lost the network and it was only the locals here who knew where to look for it. We reached Bar village in about half an hour from Sirpur. We were to stay at Paryatak Gram, an eco resort run by the government.
|Paryatak Gram – A self susatained eco resort run by the state’s forest dept. It uses solar power.|
The resort is a self sustained initiative by state’s forest department, also commendable was the fact that it was powered by solar energy. Large solar panels were installed in the premises to trap sun’s energy .It powered everything from lights to geysers and was a live experience of how solar energy can be an answer in our quest to provide power in the interior most parts of our country. However to do that there has to be a sincere endeavor to make solar energy popular as well as cheaper. Meanwhile we enjoyed some tea and snacks in the lawn facing our “Machan”.The mobile phones had stopped buzzing, so there was absolutely nothing to distract us, a throwback to pre-cellular area when people did have attentive conversations sitting together, this detour from a loaded digital highway we are used to was like being in a world long lost. Suddenly You realize that how technology ,meant to be an enabler to begin with, has got us thoroughly within its clutches. The calming silence of the forest, green surroundings and fresh air were a perfect stimuli for the mind to forget about the pace of daily routine. Since there were no choices enjoying this soothing pause was the only thing to do.
|Machans of Paryatak Gram|
Going on a jungle safari is a main attraction of the stay here .The safari takes curious visitors on a pre decided route, in the hope of spotting the wild animals which take shelter within this reserve. By late evening our jeep was also ready for safari, the sun had started setting by the time we had started. It was quite a thrill to be out there in the jungle, in the dark with slight winter chill. We spotted a herd of deers , a gang of Bisons and some rabbits . But the stars of the show, the leopards which live in this reserve eluded us. Nevertheless a drive of almost an hour in the heart of the dense forest was well worth in itself. The next day we visited Pakhsi Vihar, a spot where the birds can be spotted if you come at the right time .In mid of nowhere the place looked surreal , a perfect spot for a sunrise or sunset. We spent some time there clicking some photos and simply admiring the view .
|A main attraction here is to go out on a safari|
|Pakshi Vihar – A surreal spot which attacts a variety of birds, you need to time your visit perfectly to catch them .|
|Solar RO – This was an RO which used solar power, the villagers an draw water from it using their cards.|
|A visit to far flung villages will have so many images like these, a realistaion that life is a whole lot different there.|
It was great to be amongst the the green forest after a long time and it is time we understand the role they play in our existence.