35,000km cycling… to save nature

Twenty-two countries, 35,000 km, 27 months. The Sultanate is the 22nd stop for Dr Raj Phanden, who is on a cycling expedition with a mission to save nature.
The journey, which began from his home state of Haryana in India, saw him cycling through tough terrains, including deserts and mountains and a vast expanse of uninhabited areas in different countries.
A staunch green campaigner, Dr Raj says deforestation, plastic use, pollution and other human actions will harm nature and turn against us in the form of disasters.
“What we see around us is a result of hardwork of visionaries. It is our duty to hand the world to the next generation in a better shape or the time will question is,” he told the Observer at a gurudwara (prayer hall for the followers of Sikh religion) in Ghala.
The gurudwara is also his current place of stay. Wherever he goes on his bicycle, loaded with 40 kg of camping gear, clothes and other materials, he speaks to the local people, students and non-government organisations (NGOs) on ways to protect environment.
He visited the South-East Asia and Far-Eastern countries, including Japan and Hong Kong, but due to extreme weather conditions, he changed his travel plans and headed to the Middle East.
“Before coming to Oman, I visited Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, besides Brunei, Philippines, South Korea and Hong Kong.” In Oman, he visited Salalah, the country’s summer getaway, where he spent some time with his countrymen as well as Omani citizens. He planted saplings and then headed to capital Muscat, a distance he covered in seven days.
From Muscat, Dr Raj will set out on his next leg of tour to Armenia and Turkey via Dubai, followed by Iran.
He was all praise for the hospitality he has been accorded in Oman. “Omani people are highly hospitable. The local people came to me and shared their thoughts on protection of environment,” said Dr Raj.
“Reckless construction, pesticides and other human actions can be disastrous to the Earth. For example, if we don’t use plastic bottles every day, we are saving nature to a great extent,” he said.
“The most painful sight is the cutting of trees around the world.” “If we don’t protect the environment, how are we going to protect ourselves,” Dr Raj asks.