Besides wonders like the Albert Hall Museum, Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar, the city of Jaipur has a lot to offer. And, Kishan Bagh is definitely one of them. Located in the foothills of the Nahargarh Fort, the place introduces visitors to beautiful chromatic desert dunes surrounded by crystal clear water bodies and diverse plantations.
Kishan Bagh is known to be spread over 30 acres and falls very much within the city limits. The winds from the Thar desert in the far-west, pile up against the Nahargarh hills to create the existing dunes. Both locals and tourists flock the area to catch a glimpse of the marvellous but fast-vanishing habitat.
However, with the urban sprawl kicking in at Jaipur, Kishan Bagh has been bracketed on two sides by densely built bastis. The park’s wide, wind-swept vistas of waving grass and shrubs stood as contrast to its congested surroundings.
The rejuvenation of Kishan Bagh
In January 2016, well-known environmentalist Pradip Krishen was shown a barren tract of ‘marooned dunes’ in the north-east of Jaipur city by the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) and asked if he was willing to shape it into a public park.
Since the rejuvenation project seemed to be challenging both from a geographical and administrative standpoint, Krishen, who is known for working in difficult locations like the Rao Jodha Desert Park in Jodhpur, was vested with the responsibility of restoring the habitat.
“This was located in a part of the city that was unravelling and needed restoration. This park, located to the North-east of Jaipur, in Vidyadhar Nagar, had the Nahargarh hills and at the base of the hill, was the trapped sand dunes, almost reminding me of the Chambal ravines”, says Krishen, while talking about his experiences at Kishan Bagh at a panel discussion for Bangalore International Centre in August 2020.
Krishen wanted to retain its habitat as a natural desert landscape and allow it to continue to serve as a haven for wildlife and a delight for nature-lovers.
Krishen’s efforts and the much needed interventions
One of the things that is known to be unique to Kishan Bagh is its indigenous trees. And, Krishen held onto this. He explored the desert landscape of western Rajasthan which is locally called Roee and decided to bring it alive.
Krishen says, “The park offers a particular kind of landscape that looks more comfortable and natural, almost like a settled landscape or shrubland, filled with the local Seenio (preferred food of chinkara deer, becomes dry in summer and green when moisture returns to the air), Bui (has white cotton like growth) and Kheemp (grows in and around the sand dunes upto 7 to 10 feet) shrubs.”
His first impressions of Kishan Bagh left him excited as it reminded him of his earlier experiences. Building on his experiences in Jodhpur, where he worked on the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park on 70 hectares of rocky hillside, he was excited by the prospect of trying to restore a very different (sandy) desert landscape.
“When I first ventured within Kishan Bagh in January 2016, I wanted to try and recreate the aspects of Roee (a native shrubland or the traditional jungle from the Thar desert) here. The ‘central ambition’ of Kishan Bagh is to introduce the word Roee into the vocabulary that people use when they think or talk about the Thar desert”, says Krishen.
For the next four years till 2020, Krishen initiated and worked towards planting more than 100 species of trees and shrubs, the material for which was mostly procured from Western Rajasthan.
Krishen adds that deserts in India are regarded as wastelands. “The idea of desertification is a frightening spectre. These are shrublands that are far more worthwhile than just wastelands. This idea is to recreate the ‘obstruction dunes’ or the sandy desert (dunes) piled up at the base of the hill (obstruction). In addition to this, the then defunct cactus garden needed more interventions”, says Krishen.
A variety of rocks like sandstones, granite, stromatolites, quartzite and rhyolite were also used as part of the rejuvination. The boardwalk which runs through the park was refurbished with Jaisalmer stone.
The viewing deck at Kishan Bagh which gives a panoramic view of the entire area including the western slopes of Nahargarh Hills was retained as is. The natural water body within the park was reshaped to look like a desert oasis. This project has also laid out some plans to preserve ravines and prevent further damage.
With all these improvements, Kishan Bagh still remains to serve as habitat for a plethora of birds, insects and animals, including teetars, Indian rollers, mynas, bee eaters, peacocks, desert foxes and nilgai.
The future of Kishan Bagh - a popular tourist destination?
In addition to the ecological restoration of Kishan Bagh by Krishen, the efforts of architect Golak Khandual must be lauded. Khandual recreated the magic with local materials and forms - from the dry stone walls at the gate to the kheemp thatched roofs of the visitors’ centre and viewing deck.
Thus, these restoration efforts will definitely make Kishan Bagh worth a visit for the general public. This public park was scheduled to open for the citizens in December 2020, however, due to the second wave of COVID-19, this decision has been postponed as of now.
Well, Kishan Bagh is expected to provide a reflection of the harmonious relationship between cities and the countryside. Today, the place is considered ideal for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Jaipur and take a peaceful walk.
Edited by Roshni Shroff
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