Sultanpur Success Story

Sultanpur Success Story

This is a true story of how political goodwill and bureaucratic activism could save a lake which is
home to millions of migratory birds. Yes. We talk about the Sultanpur National Park which is a
classic example of environmental rejuvenation, thanks to the joint efforts of all Governmental
agencies concerned. At least this is what Green Circle team of Bird enthusiasts felt during its last
visit to the Sultanpur National park.

Otherwise an insignificant rural locale, Sultanpur enjoys its repute due to the presence of the
millions of migratory birds from far off countries during winter. One can reach the Bird sanctuary
in about an hour from Delhi Dhaula Kuan area. On reaching Gurgaon, one has to take the
Farukhnagar road. You can experience a pleasure ride if you travel by your own car as the
approach road is of good quality. One will breathe fresh air and have a cool look at the mustard
fields on both sides of the road. Though the park is open from September to April, February is
perhaps the best season for a trip to this park. The green mustard crops bearing yellow blooms
are a feast for eyes. Bird viewing could start from Basai crossing the Gurgaon- Rohtak railway
line. A keen watcher will come across a black drongo or a blue jay on the road. Now you need not
wait at level crossings. A good flyover saves you a lot of travel time. The sanctuary is situated on
the state highway, just 12 km from Gurgaon border. Conspicuous sign-boards at strategic points
save time from using your GPS.

Reaching the park, you are fondly welcome by Haryana tourism/ forest department with brisk
signboards inviting you to the birds’ paradise. If you visit on a week end, perhaps, a huge crowd,
at least during Feb-March will shatter your dream from silent viewing of birds. But then, it is the
reality and you have to live with that. Entrance fee is just Rs 5 per head which is too little for the
benefits that you could expect to gain after 3 hours of stroll. Carrying Camera costs you another
Rs 50 and a meagre parking charge. The wardens at the gate do not allow you to carry any food.
One will wonder as to how to manage 3 to 4 hours without refreshments. But sooner than later
we realise that the strictness has meaning. People who managed to whisk away some munchies
and nibbles, never mind dropping the plastic covers in the lake. We never failed to notice a few
plastic wrappers and empty mineral water bottles floating in the lake amidst migratory ducks,
which sometimes made us to wrongly identify them as an unknown bird species. Of course, it is
not that easy for the wardens to browse through all your belongings or nab the violators. After all
people also need to develop some consciousness. Barring this, hardly could anyone pinpoint
anything that might cause an eyesore. 

Entering the sanctuary, you can go right or left. But it is better that you take the bund that goes
towards your left- hand side. This would lead you towards the centre of the lake after about 30
minutes stroll, given that you would wait and watch in between to look for a number of water
birds en-route. You cannot miss the large egrets, pond herons, purple herons or a colony of
spotbills and Gadwalls. Walking ahead, red-wattled lapwings and a few kingfishers cannot
escape your watchful eyes. A regular bird-watcher will also not miss the tree pie, alexandrine
parakeet or a Magpie robin. Some plovers, dabchicks and coots are common sight. Cormorants,
little or large, can be seen perching. If you are a keen watcher, you cannot miss a night heron.
Suddenly, you will hear a loud sound of flapping of wings and there goes a herd of migratory
ducks above your head, trying to relocate themselves as if they hate the tourist visitors. Reaching
the centre of the lake, you will have the great honour of viewing innumerable species of migratory
ducks and storks. Black necked storks sit in pairs at the top of the Acacia trees to feed the young
ones. By February, the painted storks have grown their young ones to bigger size, and truly ready
to take off by March end. When we visited the park in Oct and Nov last year, we spotted a
number of painted storks, busy building their nests. Now in February, the eggs have hatched and
young ones were standing tall. When you gaze at the placid waters, you will not miss the
Shovellers, Wegions, Common Pochards, Pintails, Gadwalls, Common Teals and coots. The
amazing sight of Spoonbills is indeed an engrossing moment. The list is endless, if you have love
for bird watching, a pair of binoculars and a reference book. In just about 3 hours, any
birdwatcher could enlist at least 25 species of birds. However as per the sanctuary records, it is
found that more than 200 bird species were registered here. In a sprawling park campus of 44.5
hectares, one need to walk for about 3 hours to come one full round around the lake. But most of
the visitors just cut short their stroll after walking for half an hour. Watch towers (machans ) are
constructed in strategic locations to have a panaoromic view of the lake. But barbed wires were
tied on the steps of a watch tower to prevent anyone to climb up. While we were wondering the
logic, a curious team of youngsters were heard laughing loudly from the top of the tower.
How come these birds come here year after year is an interesting story to share with. Going back
in the history, we find that in 15th century, Rajput Chauhan Sultan Singh was the ruler of the
Sultanpur. From that time, it appears that Sultanpur was a fertile ground for salt extraction. It is
amazing to learn that once the salt requirement of Delhi was met from the supply of Sultanpur.
About 40 deep wells were dug to extract the salt. Perhaps due to the fluoride contents in the
ground water, the salt business was flourishing till 20th century beginning. We also hear that the
rail track passing through Sultanpur to Faruknagar was once used to transport the salt sacks to
Delhi. During British raj, the tax levied on salt was too high to sustain the business and the
vendors have wound up their salt trade in due course. Having abandoned by the people, the low
lying areas in Sultanpur started clogging in with drained water from neighbourhood. Small ponds
started appearing, which culminated in a lake. The migratory birds could expect a tasty meal
thanks to the bio diversity content of the water in the lake. During 50s, One Mr Peter Jackson, a
bird enthusiast who visited the area found that the place is suitable for a Bird sanctuary. He took
up the matter with Central Govt. Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi directed the Haryana Govt to
take necessary steps. In 1972, the lake was declared as Bird Sanctuary and in 1989, it was
upgraded as National park. True to its status, the park is rich in its bio-diversity contents, besides
the local and migratory birds. A few blackbucks and Nilgais (both anti-lopes) are also seen in this
park. A number of indigenous trees ranging from Acacia to Neem trees can be seen. Rich in micro
organisms, the lake provides sumptuous meal for the birds. The park is fenced on all sides to
prevent intruders and hunters to enter. The bund had been widened and laden with bricks to
enable the walkers to have a comfortable trek. Many bore-wells have been dug to ensure
perennial water supply.
In fact our team had visited years back and once we were walking in the dried lake to look for
any bird population. On many occasions, we returned disappointed. The mushrooming of farm
houses and construction of multi storied buildings are grave concerns. Timely decision to bring
Yamuna water to recharge the ground water, digging of bore wells, tree-planting and fencing
contributed to revival of this park. A visit to the Park will not be complete without a glance at
Salim Ali museum and a photo picture educational house constructed inside the park. One can
see Dr Salim Ali’s cap, reference books and some belongings also. Years back, we also saw a
binocular belonging to Dr Salim Ali. Now the same is missing. Further the Haryana tourism has
constructed a rest house with rooms available on rent. Restaurants and children’s parks are
available for family picnics. The Haryana Government’s efforts to maintain this park are laudable.
One wonders as to whether the status quo will be maintained. Caution, the Gurgaon city is slowly
inching towards the park with lots of construction activities going on in vicinity. If situation
continues, this will pose a formidable threat to Bird Life.

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