Describing himself as a farmer by soul, chef by heart, brand engineer for living, and an accidental social entrepreneur, the founder of an organisation which claims to have implemented most successful reverse migration model of Uttarakhand is now on a 12,000 km expedition. On a cycle.
Roopesh Rai (46), who hails from Varanasi, is on a mission.
“I have embarked on a zero-carbon footprint solo-cycling of 120 village panchayats and 12,000 kms across seven states in search of youth icons from the bottom of the pyramid, who can be inspired and turned into future heroes of climate change advocacy. These Green Champs (Prakriti Prahri) will be our preferred partners for our nature-based livelihood and educational initiatives,” said Rai, the founder of Bakri Chhap, who arrived in the State on Friday evening.
Rai said he was deeply affected by the scenes of destruction after the cloudburst at Kedarnath in 2013 and walked away from his professional career in 2014 at leading hospitality and tourism organisations “to do something pro-planet, pro-people, and for profit”.
In the last eight years, Rai’s organisation Bakri Chhap has won different awards, including the World Responsible travel award, 2019 WTM London, Gold Winner of Indian Responsible Travel Award (2019) and the National Tourism Award for unique and most innovative tourism Initiative (2020).
Rai has, so far, covered 7,000 kms of rural India’s obscure paths on a bicycle in a little over six months and his expedition covers the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Why do it all by cycle?
“I believe that the wheels of a bicycle are symbolic of a circular economy. Thus, this mission – which I am undertaking this year – will be continued by our team members in subsequent years to serve as the Olympic Torch of climate-consciousness,” explains Rai.
“I am not a trained athlete, nor an adrenal rush seeker city slicker, but an eco-anxiety ridden, impulse driven middle-aged person with complex physical ailments.”
Rai’s cycling expedition has not been without several challenges.
“My incorrigible unpreparedness has put me into fix many times, ranging from heat stroke multiple times, insect bites causing fever, narrow escape from lightning strike, deadly highway truck drivers, living alone in a reserve forest empty guest house with no one in a 5-km radius, missing out on umpteen number of meals, dog attack, monkey attack, staying with a murder convict for a night and various spells of cycle breakdowns. The list goes on.”
Rai says the message at the core of his journey is that humans have put tomorrow at stake for the sake of today’s benefits.
“I am on a no-budget cycling expedition with the mission ‘change before climate change’. During this journey, I am educating a diverse set of rural people about pro-environmental practices, traditional agriculture, and water conservation.”
“Moreover, I aim to identify and support capable people in villages who can be the future resource for climate change action. By contributing to our organisation, you can help us combat climate change and create a better future for our planet.”
“Unless we assist the youth among such communities to spark change through nature-based business models, the concept of change is delusional. Our rural youth is the problem and solution as well.
“At the moment, we are concentrating on building a network of like-minded partners to augment our climate change advocacy through ‘natural and cultural heritage conservation’ based livelihood models,” says Rai.
Rai has appealed to the youth of Goa to conserve the legacy of Goa’s cultural and natural heritage.
“Coastal areas are looming with the biggest threat due to rising sea level. Aqua diversity is depleting at an alarming rate and so is the unique local culture of Goa,” said Rai.
“Save Goa for yourself, and a little bit for coming generations. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle (RRR) in the similar order when it comes to lifestyle choices. Hate plastic and feel fantastic. Charity begins at home. Think about nature based sustainable livelihood models. Plant trees and own them. Conserve the legacy of Goa’s cultural and natural heritage.”
On Saturday, Rai said he would meet Sanjiv Khandelwal of Sensible Earth who also runs the Mhaka Naka Plastic project in Salvador-do-Mundo.
He will also interact with the Assagao Farmers Association and will also be involved in tree plantation drives.
“I have been receiving a number of messages from people in Goa inviting me to participate in sustainability and plantation initiatives. I look forward to interact with people in rural parts of Goa, as well as friends who are into nature-based living and follow a low-carbon footprint lifestyle,” said Rai. He will be leaving Goa on Monday.
For more details of his expedition Rai can be followed on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/roopesh_rai/) or visit his website (https://bakrichhap.com).