The Uttarakhand Government has developed a forest patch named, Badrivan, en route the famous Badrinath temple in order to conserve plant species endemic to the area. The new forest patch also doubles as a serene pitstop for tourists, pilgrims, and local residents, who come to explore this ancient land covered in medicinal plants. By Angira Kar
Uttarakhand is located in one of the most hazard-prone areas in Asia and is susceptible to earthquakes. Natural factors such as heavy rainfall and weak geology along with anthropogenic causes, like uncontrolled deforestation, and unscientific land use, for example, shifting cultivation, contribute to the severity of soil erosion and landslides that often make headlines many times a year.
The restoration of the deforested areas around Badrinath temple has been a major cause of concern for the state government and local bodies. The previously tried and tested methods and demonstrations of the Garhwal Scouts Camp and Parmarth Lok have inspired local people and pilgrims to work towards the restoration of the region around the pilgrimage site that existed in the past. The Uttarakhand Forest Department, for this very purpose, has set up ‘Badrivan’ in the hope to further propagate knowledge about the Himalayan flora that has been worshipped since ancient times.
This forest patch has been developed in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to establish Badrinath as a mini smart city. His Badrinath masterplan has at its core the re-establishment of the historical, spiritual, and religious legacy of the Badrinath shrine. This shrine has been a major source of perennial attraction to the inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent, and the mythological, cultural, historical, and scientific evidence — all indicate towards the shrine being covered with dense vegetation from all sides.
However, it has been ripped off of this status as years of soil destruction, heavy rainfall and landslides have gone by, and hardly any form of natural forest can be seen here. Therefore, after decades of reforestation initiatives resulting in little to no success, the Badrivan programme looks like an affirmative step in the right direction.
This special sacred forest patch houses four different plant species associated with Lord Badri namely, Juniperus Macropoda (Badri Tree), Betula Utilis (Bhojpatra), Hippophae Salicifolia (Badriphal), and Origanum Vulgare (Badri Tulsi). According to Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Chief Conservator of Forests and in-charge of the research wing of the state forest department, which is spread over an area of one-acre, each of these plant species have mythological and spiritual importance attached to them (as reported in Hindustan Times).
In the advent of globalisation in recent decades, the importance of national treasures has been overshadowed, which has only elevated the need for individual citizens to realise the cruciality of conserving the country’s rich biodiversity and culture in order to make the life of future generations better and sustainable.