Chambal safari lodge near Agra, India
How Chambal safari lodge near Agra, India makes a difference
This Lodge is the culmination of the dreams of Ram Pratap Singh and Anu Dhillon (an Engineer from IIT Roorkee and an Environment Scientist from London University, respectively), who chose to give up successful careers and along with their then newborn son to move back to their ancestral farms in 1999. Since then every effort has been made to initiate sustainable and self sustaining projects in the Chambal Valley, a largely unknown and hitherto neglected part of North India, despite being in such close proximity to the World famous Taj Mahal.
The couple work in close collaboration with the forest department and local communities to help strike a balance between ostensibly divergent needs. Village level eco-development schemes have been revived and peoples’ participation encouraged. They have been instrumental in placing the National Chambal Sanctuary onto the international birding and wildlife map, thus ensuring its continued protection. They have raised and highlighted issues of concern regarding the sanctuary and its surrounding areas, as well as helping seek solutions such as providing technical inputs for building check-dams in the ravines, setting up of check-posts and watch-towers, organising village level meetings, preparing extensive checklists of the bird, mammal and reptilian species, providing logistical and financial support to researchers, the Forest Department, WWF amongst others and actively participating in the protection and management of the Chambal Valley.
The team is committed to minimising the environmental impact of their lodge. They recycle organic waste through compost pits and inorganic wastes through traditional ‘kabari’ collection systems. Bath & kitchen water and rainwater runoff in ponds is re-used through the use of soak-pits. In 2008 a rain water harvesting project was started on 7 acres of land. Once complete, this project will tap all the Lodge rainwater overflow to create a large lake within the Chambal Safari Lodge grounds and also recharge groundwater reservoirs.
All visitors are provided with information for reducing water and power consumption. The bathrooms all have showers but ‘bucket baths’ are recommended, as they use only 20 litres of water compared with 100 litres required for an average shower. There is limited use of electrical equipment and power efficient products are used when necessary eg. water heaters. The electrical generators are used sparingly and solar back-up sources are being explored. The Lodge uses vegetables and grains grown organically in their own fields and also buy the organic produce of other local farmers.
Large numbers of indigenous trees and shrubs are planted every year to supplement the existing growth and to create a ‘nature reserve’ that is being progressively allowed to regenerate itself, untouched by human interference. The results of their efforts can be judged by the fact that the Lodge area now boasts of a checklist of over 198 species of birds, reptiles and mammals. Six acres of land has been dedicated to develop a Forest nursery to supply reforestation drives for the local villagers free of charge.
Eco-tourism by definition requires the involvement and benefit of local people and communities. The team members belong to the area and have been trained by the Singhs. They are a highly motivated, enthusiastic and friendly group of people and an integral part of the Chambal Safari Lodge family. Procurement of goods and services for the Lodge is done locally, as far as possible. Local craftsmen and technicians are employed in all restoration and extension work.
The office uses e-brochures, e-cards and CDs instead of printed brochures. Environment awareness camps are organised for schools and local communities. Every October they organise a wildlife week to create awareness and generate interest amongst school children. Close to 20,000 children participated in the 2005, 2006 and 2007 events, which included talks, essay and quiz competitions, and visits to protected areas near Agra, including the National Chambal Sanctuary.
Chambal safari lodge near Agra, India