Shiv Kumar Padha
The nature has been kind enough to the life on the planet by providing it with a canopy of ozone layer and veil of the forests for the sustenance of life on it. Like other factors, the jungles contribute a lot in deciding the environment of the planet, eliminating the possibilities of erosions and landslides, checking the fury of floods, increasing the water table underneath, enhancing the possibilities of rainfall and flora and fauna on the earth. With this reason the forests/jungles are called the lungs of the living organisms on earth, green gold of a country, shelter and Godown of food for the wild life. The existence of the wild animalsis in perilous state because the species which are occasionally seen here and there will totally become extinct in the times to come due to the mercilessly cutting of the forests for timber and fire wood resulting into gradual thinning of the forests.
There is a jungle near Basohli town which is on the top of the seven kilometers long ridge of the hill surrounding the old fort temple of Chanchlo Devi. The hill with a cap of thick forest is situated at a distance of 5 kilometers from the town Basohli. The forest, though small in size, is thick and abounds in varieties of trees, wild animals and birds which can be seen on the trees and on lone roads during morning and evening hours. A 7 kms. long black topped road creeps along curbs of the hill which ultimately terminates near the temple of Chanchlomata situated quite at the peak of the hill amidst the thick groove of trees. The foot of the hill is surrounded by lake water from three sides which serves the purpose of a moat.
At one time there was a thick and dense forest of the trees like Emblicaofficinalic (amla), billav, dalbergiasisoo ( sheesham ), Kachnar, Kainth (pyruspashia), Grewia Optiva ( Dhamman ), Cassia fistula (amaltas), cedrela tuna (tunu) ,Eugenia cuspidate (jamun), Bakain (draike), Murrayakoinigli (curry patta, Gandla), Terminalia (Arjun) Acacia catechu (khair), buck thorns, Celtisaustralis (khadak) and grooves of bamboo trees and other fodder yielding trees in abundance. The forest provided shelter and place for camouflaging to the wild animals living there. There was a time when leopards, wild goats, antelopes, pigs, porcupines, peacocks, fowls, parakeets and Quails were the main habitants of the forest. The whole jungle around the fort once used to echo with the cawing of peacocks and crowing of the fowls but it is shocking that in spite of big army of forest protection force, forest guards and other allied staff, the trees from the forest are being chopped mercilessly under the nose of the local authorities which is consequently affecting the wild life and the ecology of the area badly. The forest has become too thin to provide shelter even to the smallest animals living in it. The cattle from villages and of the nomads keep grazing unchecked in the forests which eat away the grass needed for sustaining the wild life.
Mata Chanchlo Devi shrine, in addition to the abode of goddess MaaSharda, is a beautiful tourist spot for local and those coming from outside the town. The location of the fort amidst the thick jungle, its height adds to its beauty and makes it one of the most charming, beautiful and worth visiting tourist spot in the Jammu region. From the view point provided at the fort enables the tourists have a bird’s eye view of the whole forest clad area below spreading up to dozens of miles in all directions. One can have full view of the 88 sq.kmt vast stretch of RanjeetSagar lake water at one glance. The steamers and the boats floating in the lake present a beautiful and charismatic view to the visitors. The night view of the reflection of the lights in the lake waters resembles with the view of Dal Lake as seen from the Shankeracharya temple in Srinagar. The tourist places like Dalhousie, Baklowcantt. Kakeer, Chamba and Bani Khet of Himachal pardesh and that of Banjal and Jaurian Mata shrine look extremely enchanting at night. The illuminated mountains appear as if the glow worms are hovering over them or the nature has studded them with jewels. One can enjoy and experience the cool breeze and humidity of the jungle even during the scorching heat of the summer.
Nature rears and nurtures the forests equally both for the human beings and animal world. Where on the one hand forests provide green cover to the earth, help contain the pollution and regulate the natural phenomena, while on the other, it provides food and shelter to the wild life in the natural setting. The species of wild life which we see today are at the brink of extinction. Therefore it becomes the moral duty of the Government and the agencies active in the field of wild life to save these species for future generation and also for maintaining the ecological balance by declaring the whole jungle an eco-sensitive area. Chanchlo Mata jungle is an idle place for establishing wild life sanctuary which will help save and protect the wild life in it and give boost to the forest/jungle tourism, adding a new chapter in the tourism history. It is pertinent to mention here that an enclosure of 1600 poles was enclosed in the jungle by the Social Forest Department but there are neither poles nor the barbed wire seen anywhere. It is learnt that lacs of rupees have been siphoned out from the state treasury in the name of periodical maintenance and renovation of the enclosure from time to time. It will therefore be in the interest of forest department to establish one wild life sanctuary in the said jungle and protect the few remaining wild animals from extinction by planting the saplings of shady, fodder giving and wild fruit trees. Also the local subordinate staff be directed not to mint money by selling the natural wealth for their petty benefits in future. Such wild life sanctuary will definitely add one more feather in the cap of Forest Department.