Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary

Mahima Kohli
Historical BackgroundThere was uncertainty regarding the legal status of the region until 1986, when certain areas owned by the Gram Sabhas of villages Asola, Sahurpur and Maidan Garhi were notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary by the Delhi administration. The adjoining Bhatti village, from the early 1960s until as recently as 1990, was home to unregulated open-pit mining of building material that was transported to the city of Delhi to fuel its developmental aspirations. The mines were owned by local Gujjar landlords and controlled by a mafia of unlicensed contractors who made labourers manually excavate mineralised quartzite (badarpur) and stone under unsafe and inhumane conditions. The illegal mining was legalised in 1975 by the State administration by setting up checkposts and collecting octroi tax, while letting the same contractors continue operation.After decades of mindless neglect and exploitation, it was the unfortunate death of 7 mine workers in an accident in 1991 that pressured the government into putting a stop to the scourge. The mines were officially closed in April 1991 and the area was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary, although it took another decade to completely eradicate unauthorised mining operations from Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.Restoration of green cover in the areaAn Eco-Task Force was created by the Delhi government in 2000, which over the last ten years has successfully restored lush green forests in this former wasteland. The restorative operations of the ETF have since been extended to the Asola part of the Sanctuary as well, a fact I have pictures to prove.