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July 19, 2024
Entrepreneur Turned Activist Leads Efforts in Creating Private Forest Initial
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Entrepreneur Turned Activist Leads Efforts in Creating Private Forest Initial

Jun 8, 2024

New Delhi-based entrepreneur Jai Dhar Gupta has emerged as a prominent figure in the realm of environmental activism, transitioning from his roots in entrepreneurship to spearheading initiatives aimed at conservation and ecological restoration.

Gupta’s journey began about a decade ago when he was diagnosed with bronchial asthma, propelling him into the realm of clean air advocacy. Recognizing the pressing need for action to combat air pollution, Gupta became actively involved in spreading awareness and was instrumental in the implementation of the odd-even rule for vehicles as part of the Delhi Government’s air pollution think tank.

In recent years, Gupta has shifted his focus towards conservation efforts, particularly through his involvement in the Rajaji Raghati Biosphere (RRB) project. Teaming up with ecologist Vijay Dhasmana, known for his work in restoring the Aravalli landscapes, Gupta leads this 35-acre private forest initiative situated adjoining the Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand.

The RRB project aims to revive degraded land and protect it from threats such as poaching and mining. Gupta highlights the barren state of the land upon initiation, which had suffered from severe soil erosion due to previous practices of monoculture agro-forestry with non-native eucalyptus trees. Swift action was taken to remove these non-native species, contour the land for water retention and prevent erosion, laying the groundwork for restoration efforts.

Extensive surveys were conducted to identify native plant species, especially those rare or disappearing in the region. Gupta and his team established a seed bank and collaborated with biodiversity parks to cultivate saplings of indigenous trees such as haldu, rohini, and jamun, among others, which were then planted across the biosphere.

In 2023, the first phase of plantation commenced, introducing approximately 80 species. Looking ahead, Gupta plans to incorporate an additional 35 to 40 new species during the upcoming monsoon season. However, he acknowledges that the transformation into a thriving forest ecosystem is a gradual process, estimated to take another two to three years to resemble a natural habitat fully.

Gupta emphasizes the broader focus of the project, extending beyond combating climate change to establish a harmonious model of cohabitation with wildlife. Local communities, such as the Gujjars, play a crucial role in this endeavor, contributing their knowledge and skills to the initiative.

In addition to the RRB project, Gupta and Dhasmana are also working on a second biosphere atop the Western Ghats near Pune, Maharashtra. This endeavor presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities, given the distinct habitat, topography, and flora of the region.

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