Dachigam National Park is located 22 kilometers from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. It covers an area of 141 square kilometers. The name of the park literally stands for "ten villages" which could be in memory of the ten villages that were relocated for its formation.
The park has been a protected area since 1910, first under the care of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and later under the observation of the concerned government authorities. It was initially created to ensure clean drinking water supply for the city of Srinagar. It was finally upgraded and declared a National Park in the year 1981.
Topography of Dachigam National Park Dachigam National park is located among the high mountains of the mighty western Himalayas. The variation in altitude is vast, ranging from 5500 ft to 14000 ft above mean sea level. Due to this vast variation, the park is very clearly demarcated into an upper and lower region. The terrain ranges from gently sloping grasslands to sharp rocky outcrops and cliffs. Part of the park lies above the tree line and this area displays its own kind of natural beauty with bare rock mountains and crevices.
Flora at Dachigam National Park
The mountainsides below the tree line are heavily wooded. Most of this coniferous forest consists of broad leaf species. Interspersed between these are alpine pastures, meadows, waterfalls and scrub vegetation with deep gullies, locally known as Nars, running down the mountain face. Most of the grasslands and meadows, except in the harsh winters, are covered with brightly coloured flowers.
Located high among its interiors is the Marsar lake from which flows the Dagwan river. This river flows all the way down to, and past, the lower region where it runs along the only proper road in the park and is also famous for its fish population, the trout.
The wild trees of the park consist of Wild Cherry, Pear, Plum, Peach, Apple, Apricot, Walnut, Chestnut, Oak, Willow, Poplar, Chinar, Birch, Pine and Elm.
Fauna at Dachigam National Park
The main animal species that Dachigam is most famous for is the Hangul, or the Kashmir Stag.
Himalayan Gray Langur
Himalayan Black Bear
Himalayan Brown Bear
Tytler's Leaf Warbler
Red-billed Blue Magpie
The Hangul Deer or Kashmiri stag is an endangered species of red deer. The Hangul is one of the most famous animals of Jammu & Kashmir. It inhabits the thick forests of Jammu & Kashmir. In the past, Jammu & Kashmir had a large and vibrant population of Hangul Deer. But environmental pressures caused by hunting and loss of habitat from deforestation and dam projects has significantly curbed the wild population of Hangul Deer. Jammu & Kashmir does have one reserve and conservation area for Hangul Deer; the Dachigam National Park, also home to a diversity of wildlife.
Like other environmental problems in Jammu & Kashmir, the armed conflict of the last 8 years has also caused terrible pressures on the wild Hangul Deer population.
In Dachigam National Park, the Indian military and armed resistance groups have been slaughtering the rare Kashmir stag for provisions and food. In the first three years of military operations alone at least 400 Kashmiri stag have been reported to have been killed. The Hangul Deer is now only spotted in the northern regions and its population is reduced severely. The isolated Gurez Valley is known to still have a large Hangul Deer population in the wild, but a proposed dam project places this population under threat.
K.E.W.A. advocates that strict conservation measures be put in place in Jammu & Kashmir. Habitat protection, captive breeding, stiff penalties for poachers, and public education must be undertaken to save the Hangul Deer.