Shimla Arboretum to be Promoted as Western Himalayan Tourist Attraction

shimla: After taking great care to collect the varied, rare, endangered, threatened and economically important native plant species of the northwestern and western Himalayan region in one place, the forest department has drawn up plans to publicize the arboretum here as an important tourist attraction for nature lovers.

Advisory Committee members meeting, chaired by Mr. Rajiv Kumar (PCCF (WL), briefed on Arboretum activities

At a meeting of senior forest officers, Senior Chief Wildlife Conservator Rajiv Kumar stressed that while the arboretum would play a big role in protecting biodiversity, regulated tourist activities should be encouraged.

Funded by the Forestry Department, the Western Himalayan Temperate Arboretum (WHTA) project, Porters Hill, Shimla is implemented by the Himalayan Forest Research Institute (HFRI), Shimla.

Dr. Vaneet Jishtu detailing the progress made in setting up the arboretum

The HFRI scientist in charge of setting up the WHTA, Dr. Vaneet Jishtu, who was involved in the establishment of the arboretum from the very beginning, told the meeting that most botanic gardens and arboretums in the country were found in tropical and subtropical regions, but in northwestern India, especially in the temperate region of Himachal, there were practically none.

Appreciating the Forest Department’s new initiative, Dr Jishtu said there was a need to venture off the beaten track and collect all the native trees in the area in one place.

Nature Trail (Photo: Vaneet Jishtu)

More than 120 species of trees come from various parts of the western Himalayan region and have been planted in the arboretum in separate sections and blocks.

Sections for Gymnosperms, Acer, Rosaceae, Walnut, Rhododendron, Oak, etc. have been set up and a nursery for the propagation of germplasm of Lesser Known Tree Species (LKTS) has also been established.

The arboretum is supported by a Mist Chamber, Shade House, a Bambusetum, an exclusive Salix section and a conservatory of medicinal plants.

There is also an exclusive nursery to showcase the rare group of Ashtavarga medicinal plants harvested throughout Himachal Pradesh.

The arboretum records regular visits from scientists, teachers, foresters, farmers, students and even tourists. Most of them come from other parts of the state and the country which generally remain devoid of closer contact with the nature, natural resources and environment of the Himalayas.

Acer Block at the Arboretum (Photo: Vaneet Jishtu)

The arboretum has become an important tool for educating visitors to understand Himalayan nature without going to distant regions, and raising awareness of the importance of conserving the important plant resources of the temperate northwest Himalayas.

The Western Himalayan mountain ecosystem is an environmental hotspot in need of conservation, with establishment of genetic material urgently needed.

Botanical gardens and arboretums devote their resources to the study and conservation of plants, as well as to acquaint the public with the diversity of native plant species.

Chaired by Mr. Rajiv Kumar (Pr. Chief Conservator of Forests (WL)-cum-Chief Wildlife Warden, Himachal Pradesh), the WHTA Advisory Committee met on 2n/a The month of September was attended by senior officials from the HP State Forestry Department, Mr. Anil Kumar Thakur, APCCF and Mr. K. Thirumal, CCF.

Other participants included Dr Lal Singh, Director, Himalayan Research Group (HRG), Dr Dhiraj S Rawat, HoD, Department of Botany, HP University, Shimla, Dr Rakesh Kumar Singh, Scientist Incharge, GB Pant Institute, Mohal , Kullu , Dr Narinder Negi, Scientist, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), and Mr Hem Thakur, Director, Hail Himalaya, Shimla. Himalayan Forest Research was represented by Dr Sandeep Sharma, Director and Dr Vaneet Jishtu.

Keith P. Plain