The National Capital Region of India which includes Delhi along with regions of neighbouring states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, is notorious for its alarming pollution levels.
Mangar Bani forest grove on the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway can be considered a miracle, the fact that it is located amidst the reckless development in this region.
Bani means forest and Mangar is the name of the community and therefore, the forest is owned by the local Gujjar community.
The sacred forest grove is protected by the local cult of ‘Gudariya Baba’, a local mystic who is believed to have vanished in a cave in Mangar Bani.
The local villagers believe that if the people subject the forest to any harm, they will face the wrath of nature.
The local vegetation comprises of Dhau trees that can survive in the harsh climatic conditions through millions of years of evolution and in fact there is no other forest in Haryana that has a tree cover of Dhau trees.
Sunil, the secretary of the Gram Vikas Samiti, a local development committee managed to get signatures from almost 450 villagers and stopped a tender that was issued for cutting the trees in the sacred forest.
These forests are located at the edge of the Aravalis, India’s oldest mountain range. They are considered to be the last stretch of unfragmanted habitat for wildlife in this area.
They boast of a rich flora and fauna. Recently, the Black Eagle that was earlier spotted a few decades ago, was seen at the Mangar Bani forests.
However, how long will this place, possibly the last stretch of virgin forests in and around Delhi, be able to stay away from human intervention?
Despite being against various acts like the Forest Conservation Act, Revenue Act etc the entire area of Manga Bani got privatized and villagers were forced to sell their share of the land.
The area was broken into 1acre plots by the Haryana revenue authority. The Draft Development planfor Mangar village that was passed in the year 2011 allows for real estate activities to take place inside this sacred forest.
At present, there is a stay on the Draft Development Plan but illegal mining still continues to take place in the adjacent Aravali hills that affects the ground water level of the region drastically.
Whether or not the forest is able to survive waits to be seen. However, if Mangar Bani is privatized and real estate development is allowed here, the entire ecosystem will die and with it, the tradition of conservation that has been kept alive for hundreds of years will die too.