Visitors barred from taking bicycles inside Okhla sanctuary, birders cry foul
The forest department, however, said bicycles from outside were barred after several incidents of racing inside the sanctuary were reported.Updated: Aug 02, 2019, 00:37 IST
After a group of bird watchers were not allowed to pedal inside the Okhla bird sanctuary on Thursday morning, a city residents’ association has urged the forest department to reconsider their decision of barring bicycles in the sanctuary, a practice that was common earlier.
The forest department, however, said bicycles from outside were barred after several incidents of racing inside the sanctuary were reported.
A number of cyclists had been paying the occasional visit to the sanctuary to pedal on the 6km arched track, which they said was the best way to commute from the main entrance of the sanctuary to the first watchtower. However, the recent orders of the divisional forest department (DFO), Gautam Budh Nagar, bans all types of vehicles from plying inside the bird sanctuary, including bicycles. The new rule had been put up on boards installed at the gates of the bird sanctuary.
“This is bizarre as there is no such rule at Surajpur wetland or even the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. Okhla bird sanctuary had been one of the major spots that is frequented by cyclists. I myself had been visiting the sanctuary on bicycle once a month and I have a great time there. I and other cyclists who enjoyed visiting the sanctuary, don’t understand the reason why bicycles have been barred,” Rajiva Singh, president, Noida federation of apartments owners association (NOFAA), said.
“It has come to our notice that people are no more being allowed to cycle in Okhla bird sanctuary, these days... Cycling causes no noise pollution, so it cannot disturb any wildlife in the sanctuary during a ride also it is very convenient for cyclists to cover the 6km ( up and down ) stretch rather than walking . Sometimes for senior citizens, it is more convenient to ride a bicycle rather than walking to see the entire stretch of the sanctuary. Stopping cyclists is actually discouraging people and tourists from visiting this beautiful place.My request would be to kindly allow cyclists to take a ride in the sanctuary,” the letter by NOFFA, addressed to the DFO and the district magistrate, said.
Tarun Wadhwa, another Noida-based bird watcher, who often visited the sanctuary on bicycle pointed out that the forest department itself used to provide bicycles to visitors earlier, and that the decision to stop pedalling inside the sanctuary has come as a shocker to a number of visitors.
“Bicycles are the most eco-friendly and noise-free mode of travel. It is perfect to commute within the bird sanctuary. Even the forest department had a number of bicycles which they used to lend to visitors. I hope that forest department revises its decision,” Wadhwa said.
According to the divisional forest officer, the department is still providing bicycles to commute inside the sanctuary and only outside bicycles are banned, to prevent instances of racing that had happened a month ago.
“We are in the process of procuring 20 new ranger bicycles, which will replace the older ones at the sanctuary. We are also getting two golf carts for bird watchers. Earlier, even outside bicycles were allowed, but then it was found that several cyclists, who came with their racing bicycles, started racing inside the sanctuary which was creating a disturbance. So we had to ban them all,” PK Srivastava, DFO, Gautam Budh Nagar, said.
The cyclists have said that they support the forest department in banning all vehicles from the sanctuary to ensure a peaceful environment to birds and animals.