November 07, 2023 – Illegal encroachments on forest land with the parking of tourist taxis near the Bhutnath Temple gate in the Gohri Range of Rajaji Tiger Reserve have raised concerns over the administration’s lackluster efforts to curb these violations.
The Tourist Taxi Owners Association has rented land from the Swargashram Trust near the Bhutnath Temple gate for parking their vehicles, but even after having their own parking space, the association’s 40 to 50 vehicles are frequently parked on the forest land in Bhagkhala. The presence of these vehicles has led to the proliferation of unauthorized vendors, including pushcarts and stalls, in the area. As evening approaches, the continuous noise of wildlife, including elephants, persists due to the presence of vehicles on the forest land.
Recently, the High Court issued orders to the Forest Department, Municipal Corporation, and District Administration to clear encroachments from its land. Local residents have alleged that the park administration has demolished only an ashram near the Bhutnath Temple in the name of removing encroachments.
Rajaji Tiger Reserve is a protected area where any kind of commercial activity is prohibited. It is surprising that the municipal employees of Swargashram Zone have been occupying park land and collecting eco-taxes from tourists for several years. On the route where the municipality has erected barriers for collecting the fee, the voices of park administration officials and employees can be heard daily, but they all remain tight-lipped about this matter.
Efforts are underway to remove encroachments from the park land, and a campaign to clear these encroachments will be launched soon, as confirmed by Madan Singh Rawat, the Gohri Range officer.