Saturday, June 18, 2005

Stamped Impressions
Green venture

Reeta Sharma

Kikar Lodge in Ropar is spread over 1800 acres
Kikar Lodge in Ropar is spread over 1800 acres

Gobinder Singh Chopra comes across as the guy next door. His unassuming appearance, down-to-earth approach, simple conversation will not allow you to even remotely associate him with the biggest ever resort in Punjab. Without a trace of boastfulness or pride, he tells you about the first-of-its-kind resort in Ropar district.

  After doing civil engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, in 1970, Gobinder worked on a couple of projects for the next 10 years. These included Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Indoor Stadium, which was completed in just five months. On the basis of this achievement, Gobinder won the tender for building Shivalik View Hotel in Chandigarh . He then went to work in West Asia for the next seven years, where too he made a mark. His face livens up when he talks about the building of the University of Baghdad, one of his many works there.

On his return to India, Gobinder was impatient to implement certain ideas. He bought 1800 acres in the Shivalik foothills in Ropar. Since most of this land was covered under the forest area, neither could any tree be cut nor could the area be levelled.

Gobinder planned to make optimum use of the area, and thus came up the idea of Kikar Lodge. "Since water was required to begin any work, I opted for rainwater harvesting. I built seven major check dams besides 105 small ones. The results are rather heartening. The irrigation of nearly 800 acres of land has come under these check dams. The level of sub soil water has come up incredibly."

Besides rainwater harvesting, Gobinderís has installed 20 "water guns" in the forest area. These can throw water up to 80 metres. This has resulted in not only keeping the entire forest green but also saved it from the inevitable forest fires that occur each summer.

This engineer has planted roses on 25 acres by clearing the wild bushes, under the guidance of the Himalayan Bio Science Institute, Palampur. The crop of roses would be used in the perfume industry. He has also planted tulsi and stevia (natural sweetener), which he plans to use in some herbal projects.

Gobinder has built a state-of-the-art resort on two and a half acres, which will open to visitors in October. Right in the middle of the forest, this resort plans to offer a number of attractions: organic food, spa and ayurvedic oil massage facilities, trekking, water rafting, kayaking, angling, horse and camel safari, mountain biking, night safari, water sports, table tennis, swimming, yoga and meditation, archery, rock climbing and bird watching.

Besides growing a variety of vegetables, fruits, and food grains, Gobinder is also rearing 120 heads of cattle. The cattle are given feed that has been organically farmed. Hence, the milk derived is free of pesticides.

His fascination for forests also extends to preservation of animals. "Man must co-exist with animals on this earth. People have been poaching on our land as there are many entry points. I have now hired guards to prevent poaching of animals. In fact we are going to ensure that these animals live around us at a safe distance. We are already in the process of fencing certain areas, so that those who visit the resort can watch these animals," says Gobinder.

Gobinder finds that people who are working hard are also leading stressful lives. "Professionals, no doubt, are making good money but are unable to take care of themselves because of the demands of their profession. In my forest area, I want them to come and merge with the nature. I am trying my level best to preserve nature in its purest form. Our hectic lives do not allow us to enjoy the silent beauty of the night. We are going to ensure that vehicles do not enter the forest area. We will use horse-driven carts for travelling inside."