Chandigarh has 3245 hectares under forest and most of it is hilly. The forest areas are mostly around Sukhna Lake, Sukhna Choe and Patiala ki Rao. Near village Kansal on the outskirts of Chandigarh towards the hills is a reserve forest, entry to which is restricted. One has to obtain an entry pass to see it. A large area of natural forest is preserved intact and one can have a real feel of a forest. Inside this forest is located a rest house which is surrounded by beautiful grassy lawns and flower beds.
At a short distance from Kansal forest is located another reserve forest known as Nepli. Nepli is a bit more wild than Kansal. On two sides it is surrounded by small hills and the whole area is covered by thick forest which is full of wild life. There is a small rest house amidst green and flowery lawns.
A walk in these forest areas can be very rewarding as one may come across large variety of wild animals - antelopes, neelgais, hyena, jackals and hares. The Deputy Conservator of Forest Chandigarh issues permits for entry to these forests.
There are excellent places for trekking in the hills near Chandigarh. Most of these routes are in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. Some of the prominent trekking routes are :
Nature has endowed Chandigarh with beautiful surroundings : Shivalik Hills as backdrop, seasonal rivulets of Sukhna Choe and Patiala ki Rao on the sides and a fertile soil. The city planners from the very beginning were conscious of the fact that the City needed to be provided with a green cover on its periphery. It was considered essential to sterlize a 16 km belt around the boundaries of the city under the Punjab New Capital (Periphery) Control Act 1952.
A Landscape Advisory Committee was constituted in 1953 under the chairmanship of Dr. M S Randhawa, then Development Commissioner Punjab for guiding tree plantation in Chandigarh. Le Corbusier was a member of this Committee. A huge nursery was established in Sector 23 in an area of 25 acres. Various species of trees, their shapes and foliage, and the colour of flowers were studied in detail. Trees were planted in single, double and multiple rows - symmetrical and asymmetrical- depending on the location, type and orientation of the road in relation to the sun. An effort was made to retain old indigenous trees and weave them into the newly created parks. A large number of exotic plants from foreign countries were also planted in Chandigarh.
From the very beginning every attempt was made to retain the existing trees on the site intact. The mango grove near the High Court, the peepul tree on the lake promenade, the line of trees now seen in sector 22 on the old Ropar road are some instances of this heritage. In course of time, planned landscaping took over and with what effect!
There is green foliage all around Chandigarh, offset by a dash of amaltas and gulmohar. A pattern becomes evident to the more discerning. All roads running north-south are planted with canopy - forming trees, possibly to minimise the low rays of the sun. Walking and driving on the avenues has become much easier therefore. Roads running east-west have these 'vista' forming trees like the Kachnar and the Kusum. The road dividers have flowering bougainvillea, while the roundabouts are beautifully landscaped with evergreen shrubs and sculptures. The silver oaks on the road leading to the cultural complex, and the eucalyptus clusters in front of Tagore Theatre are distinctive. Within the Sectors, the shopping streets (V4s) have flowering trees of the same species.
Some of the important native trees retained are - Peepul, Mango, Kadamba, Champaka, Parijata, Vakula, Jamun, Kikkar and Neem. The prominent flowering trees are - Amaltas, Semul, Kachnar, Gulmohar, Pink Cassias and Lagerstroemia and Teckoma agentia.
Chandigarh is the only city in India where there are two legislations for the protection and preservation of trees. The Tree Preservation Order was issued in 1952 under which no tree can be felled without the permission of the Finance Secretary. Indian Forest Act 1989 protects the reserved forests. During the initial years there was emphasis on planting ornamental trees but later more and more native trees were also planted. At present the ratio between the ornamental and native trees is 60:40.
The Mango Belt is located along the Purv Marg of the city, separating the Industrial Area from the residential areas. It runs north east to south west, starting from the Transport Area roundabout to Sector 47, covering about 4 Kms. On both sides of the road 12 rows of mango of different varieties of dusheri, langra and chausa have been planted. This belt constitutes a complete tree buffer to protect the residential areas from the pollutants emanating from the factories and also from the heavy traffic moving along the Purv Marg. About 5000 mango trees are planted here..