Unlike earlier posts, usually written following many a memorable stay, or exploratory foray, in the Chambal region of Uttar Pradesh, this one here, is to share why I return time and again to a destination long associated with marauders and dacoits. Primarily because of two reasons: Anu Dhillon and Ram Pratap Singh, co-founders of the Chambal Conservation Foundation. They have worked long, hard and tirelessly since 1999, in order to indelibly place this terra incognito on the eco-tourism map. Their dogged determination has brought them countless accolades for responsible tourism, topped recently by the SATTE-INTACH Heritage Award 2012 for “Unexplored Heritage Sites”.
Ram Pratap Singh, an engineer from IIT Roorkee and Anu Dhillon Singh, an environmental professional from London University, set up the Chambal Conservation Foundation in 1999. The couple returned to their ancestral farms in the Chambal Valley to promote sustainable development initiatives that would help preserve the unique character and heritage of this neglected, unknown area. Home to diverse un-explored historical, cultural and natural attractions, the Chambal Valley is a microcosm of the rural Indian heartland. Ram Pratap & Anu have worked tirelessly to protect and promote this heritage and have built up a tremendous body of work over the 12 years that they have been living and working in the Chambal Valley. They are particularly proud of having placed Chambal and Bateshwar on the International Tourism map and instilling a sense of ownership and pride amongst the local community.
The Foundation works with numerous Government Departments, International Organizations and NGOs to address issues of concern and build consensus for sustainable development. A heritage committee has been set-up with active participation from local bodies, administration and conservation experts to manage the historic site of Bateshwar in the Chambal Valley. Both Anu and Ram Pratap hope that the inclusion of Chambal & Bateshwar in tourist itineraries combined with a responsible tourism approach, will go a long way in guaranteeing continued protection, preservation and sustainable development of Chambal.
Way to go, Team Chambal! More power to you all…