SUCCESS STORY OF
SATINDER SINGH GULERIA IN A REMOTE VILLAGE IN
HIMACHAL PRADESH, INDIA HOW ECO- TOURISM AND COMMUNITY
PARTICIPATION PLAY IMPORTANT ROLE
BY ANIL MATHUR
This is a story of tradition, awareness, science, community participation, non governmental organizations, receptive administration and individual initiative combining to boost development, promote eco-tourism and conserve environment in a small village in the Himalayas in the Indian State of Himachal Pradesh.
It is also the story of how an enlightened, bright travel industry professional recognized, nurtured and promoted this venture, certain that only such efforts could make for healthy and sustainable growth of tourism, through preserving the heritage.
Yes, we are talking of Mr. Satinder Singh Guleria, who has set up the Institute for Environment Studies and the Science Awareness Trust, along with other dedicated people, who realized that action is better than just complaining. And all this in a place which most people, even in India, may not be able to identify on the map.
Mr. Guleria’s area of work is in Sanauran village in Kangra district of HP, where the Pong Dam and the Ramsar Wetland expanse have received the attention of the organization.
Mr. Guleria has been keen to develop eco-tourism in his flora and fauna-rich Gaggal area of Kangra. For this he wants that infrastructure be developed in a proper manner and interested tourists, both local and international, come and see Ramsar wetland area and the famed Pong Dam.
But he has not been silent. He and other fellow-thinkers set up the Science Awareness Trust in April 1999 for which land was given by Dr Prem Chandra. It was on December 12 2001 that the Dalai Lama inaugurated the main complex.
Mr. Rakesh Mathur, President, WelcomHeritage, an enlightened travel industry leader, has taken upon himself to see that the work of Mr. Guleria is recognized and he has proposed his name for PATA involvement and for an international Eco Tourism Guides programme.
Mr. McthE feels that for sustainable tourism, respect for heritage and environment is a must, and Mr. Guleria’s efforts are in that direction and thus need to be appreciated. Mr. Mathur has worked with leading hotel chains, both national and international, and realized that attention to heritage and environment was necessary.
Born on March 5, 1958, Mr. Guleria graduated in Commerce from Delhi and went on to do Law from Mumbai. Interestingly, he is a multimedia expert and often writes and speaks on eco-tourism and allied subjects close to his heart.
But most of all he takes pleasure in doing things and taking along the community, and officials, with him. He says modestly; ‘It was just a dream 16 years ago. We started all alone. It became a Carvan three years ago with hundreds of students from 108 villages. It would not have been possible, but for the active help and guidance from different agencies , our local students, villagers and particularly the women folk who provided food, labor, money and above all inspiration for this worthy dream of Guru to come true.’
He goes on to add ‘I invite you, too, if you
are a scientist, a doctor, a computer engineer, an environmentalist, or a
teacher/scholar, to provide us your expertise in your particular field. We
shall be ever ready to provide you an opportunity to contribute your
expertise/mite for the maximum benefit of the rural folk.’
He has been involved with bird banding of migratory birds and bird census at the International Ramsar Site, Pong Dam, in 2004, along with scientists from the famed Bombay Natural History Society. In recognition of his talents and interests, he was appointed as master trainer by the State Council for Science, Technology and
Environment to operate eco-clubs at school level and to train teachers in the schools in the Kangra district.
It is important and interesting to notvhat he has to say of his work—’Endurance and endeavours, the lifeline of eco-tourism activity, has always been a watchword since 1987, when for the first time I went to wetland Pong Dam with environmentalists Birender Sharma and Ajit Kumar. My father, Mr. P C Guleria, a renowned and active conservationist of the region himself, has been a beacon of silent faithful support and enlightenment in this slow and steady adventure.’ A measure of his success can be seen by the fact that over 1739 volunteers became part of the endeavor, which will, he is confident, finally become one of the major lifeline of Hirnachal Pradesh.
The SAT motto is --- ‘Save Environment, Save Life’, ‘Educate at grassroots Level’, ‘Eco Conservation’, and ‘Computer Application programmes for poor children from interior’.
The Industrial Training Centre, camps , mobile vans under the Asha—hope——programme have done a lot to improve the lot of the people, as have wthe computer classes. Most students had never seen a computer before. On the health front, there was some resistance from a few on issues like illicit liquor drinking and women issues but these were happily overcome.
Through camps in Bilaspur, Gathutar and other places thousands have been beief1ted. Cleaning of traditional water sources, like wells, plantation drives, health surveys and other activities Mr. Guleria and his expandihg team stays busy and happy. They have also built a small library and building, on laud donated by a well-wisher, Mr. Gurdhayan Singh. It took three months for 320 volunteers to do this. The building can house 11 people and the Institute for Environmental studies can look forward to more good work. With proper planning and execution, the area can attract eco tourists from all over, as adequate infrastructure is built.
The International Wetland Ramsar Site is spread over 400 sq kms and is home to over 220 species of migratory birds. La year, 147200 birds were counted, with bar headed geese topping the list, with 27,000.
I think we have to thank people like Mr. Guleria for doing good work, Mr. Mathur for bringing it out in the open, as it was he who told me about Mr. Guleria. And now the IIPT for letting the world know.