archana srivastava
LUCKNOW, 28 JUNE: When J F Fisher, the Collector of Etawah in 1884, undertook the onerous task of creating a forest on 2,000 acres of land on the Etawah-Gwalior National Highway, he could have had no inkling that his feat would be replicated by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in 2013.
A century and a quarter after the Collector embarked on the work of planting trees in the Yamuna and Chambal ravines,  the Fisher Forest is all set for an impressive makeover. It is generally believed that the Fisher forest is largely responsible for saving Etawah from the erosive action of the river Yamuna.
The first phase of the plantation drive in this reserved forest area, which over the years has been reduced to ravines and some flat wasteland, begins this July. The hugeness of this project, encompassing an area of 1000 acres, makes it the biggest “green lung” of the state whose  conservation and eco-restoration has been undertaken by the present regime.
Principal secretary, forest, V N Garg said: “the Fisher forest project itself is divided in two parts though both have to be seen as a continuum ~ the lion safari which is spread over 400 acres and the eco restoration which covers 600 acres”.
The idea of a lion safari was first mooted in 2005 by Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav. He was then the chief minister of UP. He had envisaged a habitat for pure-bred Asiatic lions which would attract wildlife lovers and tourists from Agra, Delhi etc to his home district. The initial work on the project halted midway when the Bahujan Samaj Party came to power. With his son Akhilesh now taking over the reins of governance in UP, work on the lion safari is in full swing. The fencing work of the park has already begun while the construction of the breeding centres and veterinary hospital for the lions is currently underway.
However, it is the remaining 600 acres which will constitute the actual forest and where the plantation drive will commence in the next few days. This 600 acre will also double as a buffer zone for the lion safari. The eco-restoration of the area had begun a few months after the CM assumed office. This involved soil testing, adopting methods for moisture conservation and water recharging in addition to digging pits for the plants. A total of 1.5 lakh saplings will be planted in this area with the active involvement of the local populace. Given the ravined nature of the terrain, around 400 acre area which has a slope gradient of less than 30 per cent will have 625 saplings per hectare. Those with a gradient of more than 30 per cent, comprising roughly 200 acres,  will have water recharging facilities. Here also 625 saplings per hectare will be planted.