DDA plans to develop Sanjay Van as ecotourism hub
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is planning to develop Sanjay Van in south Delhi, the 783-acre green lung of the national capital, as an ecotourism destination with facilities for activities such as rock climbing, aerial trails (canopy tour or ziplines), forest safari, cycling, picnic and camping spots, among others. The landowning agency has invited expressions of interest (EOI) from companies interested in taking up the project.
Sanjay Van, which was carved out of the south-central Ridge near the iconic Qutub Minar in the 1970s, is maintained by the DDA. The green space can be accessed from Aruna Asaf Ali Road, Qutub Institutional Area and Aurobindo Marg and is a much favoured haunt of birders, cyclists and morning walkers.
DDA officials said the idea is to utilise the forest area for recreational purposes and environment awareness. Rajeev Kumar Tiwari, principal commissioner, DDA, said, “The idea is to create an economically self- sustainable system by making the best use of local resources and encouraging people interactions with nature. We have proposed a few activities such as aerial trails, cycling, forest safari etc., that we believe will play an important role in promoting ecotourism. Currently, only people from nearby areas visit the wooded space.”
Rock climbing, paragliding, aerial trails (canopy tours, ziplines, valley crossing, Burma bridge crossing), forest safari, leisure cycling, camping and picnic spots, star gazing, bird watching, guided nature tours, and flora and fauna observation trips are some of the activities proposed by the DDA.
The landowning agency said fairs and festivals, to sustain the local traditions, can also be organised in the forest space.
The project will be developed on a public-private partnership, and a private concessionaire will have to develop and operate the proposed facilities, said a DDA official.
The private concessionaire will be responsible for design, development, operation and maintenance of the entire area. “This is the first time we are exploring the possibility of maintaining the greens and promoting nature-based tourism and adventure activities in Delhi,” said the official.
Tiwari said the DDA has been working on the idea for the past year. “The project is in its nascent stages. We will finalise the activities that will be developed based on the suggestions or inputs we get from people and firms which are involved in such activities.”
DDA officials said they are not planning any major constructions in the area, since it is part of the Ridge, which is a reserved forest area where all non-forest activities are curtailed.
“Currently, we are in the planning stages. If any approvals are needed from the forest department or from the Ridge Management Board, we will apply for them,” said a senior DDA official, asking not to be named.
Officials said once the hub is in place, residents will be able to access Sanjay Van as usual, and the areas where new activities will come up will be marked “paid spots” and the rates will be decided by the concessionaire.
As per the EOI document, the project will “help in sensitising the community towards environmental awareness via knowledge dissemination, further enhancing the quality of forest through their engagement in the nature based tourism activities”.
The last date to submit EOI is October 21.
The DDA is currently reviving Sanjay Van’s five water bodies, spread over 10 acres, through bio-remediation measures, said the DDA official quoted above.
Environment experts, however, said they viewed DDA’s plans with caution.
Diwan Singh, a Delhi-based environmentalist, said, “Forest areas should be left untouched, as we don’t have a lot of genuine forest area left in the capital city. Nature trails are already there in Sanjay Van and anything beyond that would be an invasion of forest land.”
Environmentalist Suhas Borker, founder member of NGO Green Circle, Delhi, said, “The Ridge area has to be protected and not turned into an amusement park. The agency should first take measures to protect the biodiversity of the Ridge.”