A partially-broken signboard welcomes you to Berwala Bird Safari, started in Khol-Hi-Raitan Wildlife Sanctuary of Morni in 2004. As you get in, you will find two sheds constructed for photography and bird watching, besides as rain shelters, in dilapidated condition and two trails that meet at a watchtower – an ideal point from where one can observe the flora and fauna of Morni – covered in thick bushes.
Despite doing up the infrastructure and publicity at Berwala Bird Safari, situated down slope near a seasonal rivulet between Panchkula and Morni link road, forest officials have conceded that the project has failed to attract visitors.
In 2017, Panchkula wildlife department had cleaned up and redid the two trails – originally made in 2005 – at a cost of Rs 4 lakh. Two small sheds also came up for birders to set up their cameras.
The department also created three water bodies, including a shallow one, in order to attract sambhar, bluebulls, deer, monkeys and birds. Conservator of Forest, Wildlife, Panchkula, R L Rajwanshi, says apart from upgrading the infrastructure, they had advertised the Berwala Bird Safari in many newspapers and magazines inviting visitors.
“But, we have not received any encouraging response. Visitors were issued permits from my office in August 2017. But till now, I have not received more than two requests. One was from a government official for a nature walk organised for people living in a shelter home. Another permission was issued to a Chandigarh resident. In fact, we contacted birders also to do bird census in the safari, but did not receive any response. Indeed, the sheds are in dilapidated condition and the recently reconstructed kutcha trails have vanished in bushes. It is simple: If people do not visit these places, the infrastructure automatically deteriorates. We just have forest guards who regularly visit the bird park,” said Rajwanshi.
Birds that can be seen in the area include Himalayan bulbul, black bulbul, red-billed blue magpie, yellow-billed blue magpie, griffon vulture, wall creeper, black redstart female and prinia birds. Lt Gen Baljit Singh (Rtd) of Sector 16, Chandigarh, who was behind the construction of Berwala Bird Safari, says inviting schools and colleges, allowing the students to stay in daylong camps, distributing literature about the features of the particular site and organising nature walks are some ways to promote birding.
“I remember, in the beginning, we started this process and camps were organised for school students in the safari. In today’s time people understand nature love only as hooting, playing loud music and making noise in the forest area, which is wrong,” rues Lt Gen Singh (Rtd).