A glimpse of Rajaji Raghati Biosphere, Uttarakhand
A glimpse of Rajaji Raghati Biosphere, Uttarakhandrajaji.biosphere/Instagram

Rewilding The Barren: All About The Rajaji Raghati Biosphere

Located near Haridwar, the biosphere will be the first private forest near Rajaji Tiger Reserve, established to revive the native plants and create a space for a harmonised co-existence between nature and humans

Stretching across the Rajaji Tiger Reserve lies the Rajaji Raghati Biosphere (RRB), a 35-acre private forest initiative led by ecologist Vijay Dhasmana and environmentalist Jai Dhar Gupta. The primary objective is to restore the natural habitat, promoting co-existence with the environment.

Dhasmana, renowned for restoring the Aravalli landscapes, emphasises active rewilding efforts in this endeavour. The focus of this agricultural land extends beyond combating climate change to establish a harmonious model of cohabitation. Their objectives encompass forest cultivation, protection, restoration of indigenous flora, ecological succession monitoring, climate research, and the establishment of carbon sinks. Furthermore, the initiative aims to create a native forest and a limited number of sustainable residences, exemplifying a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature.

In the initial phase of rewilding the land, selected shrubs, trees, grasses and climbers have been planted to establish a desired forest community on the largely barren terrain. “We would also encourage rootstocks of native vegetation to establish, especially at the edges of the property," said Dhasmana, "once the plantation is established, we must be mindful of the tropical interaction and manage competition-colonisation trade-offs." Speaking further about the exotic invasives, he iterated that they will be weeded out from the land allowing "the late succession of native species of trees, shrubs, and grasses to establish themselves." Dhasmana explained that the "final result will be a mosaic of forest communities within the land with self-establishment and self-nurturing ability, as found in the adjoining forest patch of Rajaji Tiger Reserve.”

On an exclusive visit to this ecologically sensitive site, which will take another two years to come into final shape, we spoke with Gupta, who took us through the expansive land, familiarised us with the core and buffer areas and shared insights on their vision for this green initiative.

Excerpts from the interview:

Vijay Dhasmana at a nursery in Jim Corbett National Park
Vijay Dhasmana at a nursery in Jim Corbett National Park

Please tell us about the objectives of this initiative.


Our primary objective is to create a harmonious co-existence with nature by rewilding 35 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. We aim to establish a thriving ecosystem and a sustainable community focusing on native vegetation and biodiversity.


What specific plant species are you planning to introduce as part of your rewilding efforts, and how do you envision these additions contributing to the restoration of biodiversity in the area?


In our rewilding efforts, we aim to introduce a variety of tree species, such as Shorea robusta, Terminalia alata, Anogeissus latifolia, Adina cordifolia, and many others. We also plan to introduce shrub species, including Woodfordia fruticosa, Flacourtia indica, Helicteres isora, and several others. Climbers like Acacia pennata, Caesalpinia bonduc, and Hiptage benghalensis are also part of our planting strategy. Moreover, we will introduce essential grass species such as Themeda arundinacea, Apluda mutica, Cympopogon flexuosus, and others to enhance the ecosystem. These diverse plantings are crucial for restoring and enhancing biodiversity in our rewilding project.


How do you plan to make it traveller-friendly?


It will not be your regular tourist hotspot, and we will ensure that the sanctity of a biosphere reserve is preserved. However, we intend to design this into a space where like-minded and environmentally sensitive people will be offered a mix of nature therapy and conscious living. We aim to introduce community assets such as a groundwater swimming pool, communal fireplace, Machan, and yoga arena wherein visitors can bond and relax. Moreover, we will also give them a first-hand experience of how plants are grown and introduce them to various garden crops, different species of trees, shrubs and wild grasses. The experience will have something for everyone.

Man-made lake at the private forest
Man-made lake at the private forestrajaji.biosphere/Instagram

Could you explain your rewilding strategy for this project?


The land we're working with has been under cultivation for decades, leading to poor soil quality and limited biodiversity. Our approach involves active reforestation by strategically planting native trees, shrubs, and climbers to mimic the surrounding forest ecosystems. We will initially focus on early succession species, allowing pioneers to establish themselves naturally while managing the competition and colonisation trade-offs. Besides, we will actively manage invasive species to create a mosaic of forest communities that can self-establish and thrive.

Environmentalist Jaidhar Gupta
Environmentalist Jaidhar GuptaJaidhar Gupta

How does the project plan to address the challenges posed by the surrounding landscape and existing agricultural practices?


The project site is bordered by the Rajaji Tiger Reserve and the Raghati River, providing a unique opportunity to leverage natural resources and existing biodiversity. By carefully selecting native vegetation and managing the transition from agricultural land to forest, we aim to overcome the challenges of poor soil quality and establish a diverse and sustainable ecosystem. Our focus on rewilding and ecological restoration will help mitigate the impacts of intensive agriculture and promote the regeneration of natural habitats.

A glimpse of RRB
A glimpse of RRBrajaji.biosphere/Instagram

What key outcomes do you hope to achieve through this project?


Our ultimate goal is to create a thriving biosphere that supports a diverse range of plant and animal species while providing a sustainable living environment for a small privileged human population. By restoring native vegetation and promoting ecological balance, we aim to contribute to biodiversity conservation and protecting critical habitats within the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. We hope to inspire other communities to embrace similar rewilding initiatives and adopt sustainable practices to benefit both people and the planet.

The Information

Address: Khasra 316, Baddiwala, Buggawala, Uttarakhand 247662

Getting There: The biosphere is about a 4-hour drive away from Delhi. After reaching the main village, it will take you another 10 minutes to reach the private forest. Please note that cars cannot move beyond the village because of its narrow lanes, so inform your hosts beforehand to arrange a more convenient transportation.

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