December 13, 2023 – In a groundbreaking move, the Delhi High Court has intervened to halt the State’s Forest Department’s plans for a walkathon and cyclotron in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. The court, citing concerns for both participants and the sanctuary’s inhabitants, deemed the events unsafe and issued an immediate stop order.
Justice Jasmeet Singh, leading the proceedings, expressed serious reservations about the lack of safety and security measures for the scheduled activities on December 9 and 10. He observed, “The potential risks associated with this event are significant, given the unknown locations of the animals, lack of isolation in their movement areas, and the absence of a comprehensive plan.”
Highlighting the need for well-planned safaris and sanctuary entries to strike a balance between eco-tourism and wildlife conservation, Justice Singh emphasized often overlooked aspects such as waste disposal and noise prevention related to mass events.
Despite the Forest Department’s anticipation of a hundred participants, the court found no documented evidence of adequate preparations. Criticizing the seemingly mechanical approval process, Justice Singh pointed out the lack of a thorough analysis regarding potential threats to both participants and the sanctuary’s diverse wildlife.
The court’s directive was issued during an ongoing hearing addressing the issue of illegal encroachments on reserved and notified forest land in the Aravalli hill range in village Asola. The Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, diminished to 32 square kilometers due to encroachment, boasts rich biodiversity, housing 250 bird species and 25 mammal species like leopards, striped hyenas, nilgai, golden jackals, and jungle cats.
Justice Singh also expressed deep concern over a recent leopard sighting in south Delhi’s Sainik Farms, believed to have originated from the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. The leopard allegedly attacked three individuals, raising apprehensions about the safety of residents and the wildlife cohabiting in the vicinity.
This court decision underscores a commitment to safeguarding wildlife habitats and advocating for responsible eco-tourism practices. It highlights the importance of striking a balance between human activities and the preservation of delicate ecosystems, ensuring the safety of both participants and the diverse fauna of the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.