The story of one man and a tiny village that just built Maharashtra’s first conservation reserve

How Bishwarup Raha got Mahindra employees, activists, schoolkids, forest officials, tribals and even the IAF to work towards restoring Borgad’s lost beauty.

By Neha Somani

It is hard to find local communities in India striving to preserve nature in their surroundings. It is much harder to find villagers, urban folk and private companies joining hands to work towards a common cause of restoring nature’s lost beauty. Fortunately, a tiny village outside Nashik city in Maharashtra stands as an eloquent testimony to the virtues of paying back to the environment that we thrive in.

In the wake of rising concerns for the little left of forests and nature in all, the Nature Conservation Society of Nashik (NCSN) and the man behind its vision – Bishwarup Raha – took up the task of reviving the forest on the outskirts of Nashik, which is considered the wine capital of India. Kudos to their conservation initiative, the state government declared Borgad in east Nashik forest division as the first ‘conservation reserve’ in Maharashtra, which interestingly is only the third conservation reserve in the country.

Borgad Biswarup Raha-00

It would not be an overstatement if we say that Borgad is a gem in the crown of Nashik today. However, not so long ago, travellers who visited Borgad, located about 28 km from the city near Tungaldara village in Dindori tehsil, could not help but notice the empty barrenness of the hill that surrounded the village. Very few could realise that it was once covered with a dense forest, boasting a wide variety of flora and fauna. The forest was wiped out by overexploitation both by villagers, who chopped the trees for firewood, and by loggers who chopped them to sell the wood as timber.

The hill gained its past glory thanks to a conservation initiative undertaken by the Nature Conservation Society of Nashik in partnership with Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), which has its industrial plant in Nashik. The reforestation drive, called Project Hariyali, brought together M&M employees, nature activists, schoolchildren, forest officials, tribals and even the Indian Air Force to work towards a common cause of restoring nature’s lost beauty.

Beginning 2007, various tree species such as neem, mango, sitaphal, amla, jatropha and badam were brought from nurseries of the forest department and tribals living at the foot of the hill were roped in to plant the saplings. They were joined by schoolchildren from Nashik and M&M employees as well. It took nearly 20 months to complete the tree-planting exercise. While M&M bankrolled the whole project, NSCN led by Bishwarup Raha supervised its execution and ensured people participation. Today, the green-capped hill-tops of Borgad speak for themselves.

Borgad Biswarup Raha-06

Project Hariyali has helped in restoring the forest’s biodiversity, promoting environmental awareness among the locals and creating a botanical garden for school children. M&M leased 400 acres of land on the Borgad hill from the Forest Department for the programme for five years. The project’s aim was to plant 50,000 saplings on the hill.

In 2007, the Maharashtra state government issued a notification to declare Borgad as a conservation reserve, which translated into a number of ecological benefits. Owing to its favourable ecological conditions, Borgad, in Nashik territorial circle, has become a niche for rich biodiversity. The proposal to declare Borgad as a conservation reserve was pushed forward by Bishwarup Raha. After site visit and consultations with the villagers, B. Majumdar, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Maharashtra, recommended the government to declare the 349.277 hectare area as the conservation reserve.

Today, Borgad Conservation Reserve has become a great place for many exotic bird species to nestle in. This April, NCSN counted 12 pairs of Eurasian Black Bird (turdus merula) which arrived at Borgad to breed. Apart from them, Red whiskered bulbul (pycnonotus jocosus), Red vented bulbul (pycnonotus cafer), Jungle Babbler (turdus strita), Iora (aegithina tiphia), Little brown dove (streptopelia senegnalensis), Eurasian Collared Dove (streptopelia decaocto decaocto), Spotted Dove (streptopelia chinensis suratensis), Orange-headed Thrush (zoothera scitrina), Black Headed Cuckoo Shrike and different varieties of Quails as well as Painted Partridge are breeding well. Long Billed Vultures are also regularly observed flying over the reserve.

Thus, the lost glory of Borgad was returned to whom and where it belonged – to the very laps of Mother Nature. Borgad is not the only feather in NCSN’s cap. There are a numerous other environmental projects and issues that the NCSN has taken up and Raha has been instrumental in ringing in the change in every corner. Or to put it rightly, every peak and valley of the quaint and quiet city of Nashik.

As the President of Nature Conservation Society of Nashik, Bishwarup Raha is actively involved on the environmental front, leading activities that contribute to the betterment of the nature around us. Be it tree plantation drive, mountain trekking, bird watching or cycling expeditions, Raha leads such awareness activities with fellow nature loves and school children charming and motivating them with his infectious energy. Raha has stood as a mighty oak against various environmental issues that scream attention.

Neha Somani is a writer at, an online cultural magazine that intends to collect interesting experiences and unique information on niche subjects such as Art & Culture, Nostalgia, Eco-ideas, Offbeat Travel, Volunteering, etc. 


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