Amidst the horror filled reports and anecdotes making it to the news bulletin in 2020, a wonderful story of altruism emerges from Rajasthan, India. Complete lockdowns followed by nations might have brought down our productivity and economy but it gave nature a chance to heal from the torments it faced due to us humans. However, Aditya and Poonam Singh, a couple from Rajasthan lent the environment a helping hand in speeding up the process of bringing biodiversity back to life.
The couple moved to Sawai Madhopur, a city in Rajasthan near Ranthambore Tiger reserve, in 1998. It was his passionate love for nature that made Aditya quit his prestigious Civil services job, give up the comfortable city life of New Delhi and shift to Rajasthan. In fact, his wife, Poonam was the one who suggested they move since both of them fell in love with Ranthambore when they first visited the National Park. “My first sighting was a tigress with three cubs on a hill. It was magical. At the end of the trip, I just asked him if we can move to Ranthambore. He wanted it too and within months we moved” says an ecstatic Poonam Singh.
After moving, they started a tourist resort as a means of earning their daily bread. Gradually, Mr. Aditya started purchasing the barren agricultural fields around Ranthambore Tiger reserve (RTR), an area known as Bhadlav (now Bhadlao). These fields would often be visited by predators like tigers, had no access to good roads or electricity, and were not being used extensively for farming. Due to such dangerous circumstances Mr. Singh got fields at a cheap price from the owners who wanted to sell and move out.
Mr Singh left these plots of land for a long time to the mercy of nature and they soon grew into plush mini forests with two natural water holes. He also constructed a few artificial water holes for the animals visiting the area during summer heat. “I just bought this and did nothing to it except removing the invasive species. We allowed the land to recover and now after 20 years it has become a lush green patch of forest which is frequently visited by all kinds of animals, including tigers, leopards and wild boars, throughout the year,” says Singh.
These mini forests provide shelter and protection to those sub-adult tigers which are driven towards the edges of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Additionally, the couple is also working towards building a homestay for tourists which will be powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. Mr. Singh’s beautiful story of their 40 acres huge sanctuary was shared to the public by The World Economic Forum via twitter and his efforts were highly lauded by millions of people.
The once barren fields which are now lush green forest have seen tremendous growth in commercial value. Mr Singh is regularly approached by suiters for sales or joint development of this area however he has never entertained these proposals. He says.. “Money was never the consideration. It is just about my love for nature and wildlife” Such unselfish acts are indeed rare in today’s times. Aditya and Poonam Singh are indeed a prime example of late Mahatma Gandhi’s saying ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.