Modern day India is abuzz with start-ups. If you happen to live in a city like Gurgaon like myself, you cannot but take notice of the entrepreneurial spirit that makes the city liveable despite all its challenges. It is indeed inspiring to find entrepreneurs trying to fix the problems that the common man on the street faces with innovative solutions. However, a unique start-up is taking shape far away from the urban madness of Gurgaon. It is not a normal start-up and has been incubated at an elevation of around 2,000 metres above sea level. Sounds interesting! Let me share the story of Jabarkhet Nature Reserve, a privately owned and operated nature reserve in Uttarakhand.
On our last trip to Landour, we came across a poster of the nature reserve in our resort. Friendly inquiries revealed nuggets that sounded quite surreal. The forested area of Jabarkhet has passed many a hands since it was known as Rockville and owned by Dr. Wright. Moving forward, it was sold to Lala Parma Nand and Lala Ram Prasad Jain in 1929. The property has since stayed with the family and in 1970 was broken into three parts consisting of 300 acres each. It came to be known as Jabarkhet Estate I, II and III. The owner of Estate I, Mr. J.P. Jain was an ardent lover of nature and attempted to utilize the natural resources without depleting the forest. His love for the forest has inspired the birth of a beautiful project which aims to preserve the bio-diversity of the area and share it with others.
The promoters of the project, Vipul Jain (son of Mr. J.P. Jain), and Sejal Worah, a well-known conservationist in India are attempting a model that has precedents in other parts of the world (South Africa for example) but is unique in the context of India. Happy to be corrected of course!
The Jabarkhet model has refrained from operating as an NGO and soliciting donations. Instead, the nature reserve is attempting to achieve sustainability by generating revenue through individual and institutional memberships, one-time visitor entry fees, product merchandising and fees linked to facilitating school field trips and research activities. Community involvement is high as the guards and naturalists have been hired from the neighbouring villages. The money generated from the above mentioned activities is used to pay the employees and maintain the nature trails and the artificial waterholes.
When you visit Jabarkhet reserve today, nature at its pristine best extends a warm welcome. However, when you hear the stories of its turnaround from a place which was characterized by overgrazing resulting in a complete decimation of the ground vegetation and weeds taking over, declining wildlife population, increasing pile of garbage left by visitors, the efforts seem nothing but herculean.
Image source: Official site, Jabarkhet Nature Reserve
The restoration efforts started in 2013 saw the removal of 400kgs of trash. More than three tons of the weed Eupatorium had to be uprooted manually to allow the recovery of vegetation that are native to the area. Three new waterholes were developed to ensure access to water to the resident and migrant wildlife population. The involvement of the local community in the project helped the reserve negate the ill effects of over grazing and cutting of trees.
Image source: Official site, Jabarkhet Nature Reserve
And how has Mother Nature responded! Today, when you visit Jabarkhet you would be greeted by the sight of the spectacular Kaleej pheasant. If you are lucky, you would look up and see a glimpse of the Himalayan Griffon and the Lammergier vultures. Wildlife, though not easily spotted is represented by the leopard, barking deer, goral, yellow throated marten, leopard cat, langur, black bear, porcupine, wild boar and the sambar. Many of these animals are making a comeback to this area and the camera traps provide you a glimpse of what is around you.
While we visited the reserve in December which is more or less the barren period, we got a glimpse of what’s to come in spring. The beautiful “paper plant” bush with its exotic white and pink flowers assured us that our next visit would be more rewarding than walking through the fallen pine and deodar cones. We were told that Jabarkhet experiences the emergence of violets and gentians from February to April. Moving on to early summer (May-June), the forests are awash with the bright yellow flowers of the barberry bushes dotted with wild roses. They are supplemented by the daisies and clover which take over the meadows. The monsoons bring about the “peacock” flower that covers the hill sides and upper meadows. The list goes on and on!
The nature reserve has created eight walking trails excellently sign-posted all the way. We took the “Ridge Trail” and went up to Bear Hill Top via the Flag Hill Top. The entire trail allowed us to soak into the forest but what waited us when we hit the top most point was nothing sort of mesmerizing. I will let the pictures tell you the story.
If you are fan of start-ups and enjoy exploring and supporting innovative ideas, you would love the entrepreneurial spirit of Jabarkhet Nature Reserve. You would probably be able to connect instantly if you love nature and prefer walking rather than driving. Irrespective of the lens that you prefer, please do spread the word about this beautiful place and the initiative. And next time when you travel to Dehradun / Mussoorie / Landour, hop on to the Jabarkhet experience.
Click here to read more about the reserve. And here are the images…