Kalesar Forest
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Kalesar Forest, 150 km from Chandigarh, is a Sal forest in Shivalik Hills, a name given to the foot-hills of the Himalayas. The range runs parallel with the Himalayan system from Haridwar on the Ganges to the banks of the Beas, with a length of 200m. and an average width of 10m. The elevation varies from 2000 to 3500 ft. Geologically speaking the Shivaliks belong to the tertiary deposits of the outer Himalayas, and are chiefly composed of low sandstone and conglomerate hills, the solidified and upheaved detritus of the great range in their rear The intermediate valley lying between the outer hills and the Mussoorie.

Kalesar is an excellent area to visit for birders and those interested in wildlife. It has a 100-year-old colonial dak bungalow. The forest rest house located at a picturesque point commands a sweeping view of the Yamuna river. Surrounded with multi-layered gardens, and as typical of the ‘Raj’ bungalow architecture, there are high-ceiling rooms, exquisite parquet flooring and teak paneling along walls. A fireplace with a mantelpiece above and antique furniture completes the period setting.

In the distant hills stand silhouetted against the first pinkish-blue light. A dirt road diverts from the highway where a faded billboard announces entry into the reserve forest mainly consisting of Sal trees. The ride is very bumpy. Also present - the sindoor tree — A small-sized tree, it has dainty flowers, which turn into pods to produce the vermilion sindoor that adorns the tresses of married women.

Dense forest. Besides the tall, leafy sal trees that constitute the age-old forest belt of the Doon valley, there are also other trees like Semul, Amaltas and Bahera. Climbers snake up the tree stems, and the forest floor is littered with fallen leaves and foliage plants. Sculptural anthills dot the landscape. There is a watering hole created by the Forest Department to quench the thirst of wild animals. A number of pebbled dry rivulets, which come alive during the monsoon season. A vast stretch of forest clearing is in sight. It’s not a natural clearing but a man-made one; and what is called in forestry parlance a ‘fire line.’ which help in the intricate task of containing forest fires, which once if they start off, even by a carelessly thrown bidi, can turn into a raging forest inferno.

Jungle machaan; a high observation tower with a dangerous-looking service ladder. From top the effort is rewarded by a sweeping panorama of the 11000 acres of the great sal forest; criss-crossed by fire lines and meandering rivulets. About 20km away on the Chuharpur road, is the Chaudhari Devi Lal Herbal Nature Park, a prestigious, innovative project of the Haryana Forest Department. The park, spread over 50 acres with 61,000 shrubs of herbs and 6100 medicinal tree plants.

Kalesar has 53% dense forest, 38% open forest, 9% scrub. Total forest cover is about 71%. Lack of funds have hindered conservation effort in Kalesar forest. Spread over an area of 11,570 acres, Kalesar reserve forest is the only one of its kind in Haryana. It is home to a wide range of wild flora and fauna, including a male tiger, 16 male and female leopards, 19 panthers, three elephants and other animals.

Situated on both sides of Yamunanagar-Paonta Sahib Road in Yamunanagar district, it was designated a national park through a government notification in December 2003. However, it is alleged, absence of sufficient funds from the Centre is proving to be a hindrance in wildlife conservation in the national park. As per the wildlife census, undertaken in May 2004 after a gap of four years in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun, one can find wild boars, sambhars, hares, Red Junglefowl, porcupine, monkeys, chitals etc whereas Khair, Sal, Shisham, sain, jhingan, chhal are the trees found in the forest. It is probably the only forest in Haryana with a natural ‘sal’ tree belt.

As for the steps taken to ensure protection of wildlife and environment, the forest staff have been given weapons by the state government to tackle the menace posed by poachers. The state had also set up two special environmental courts in Kurukshetra and Faridabad to deal with crimes related to poaching and illicit felling of trees from the area. Eight watering holes have been dug up across the forest area to ensure that the wildlife does not stray into human habitats on its fringes in search of drinking water. Earthen dams have also been constructed to conserve rainwater for future use of wildlife. There are plans to build a fence around the the area in the near future.

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