Biological diversity or biodiversity is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend. It is the combination of life forms and their interactions with each other and with the rest of the environment that has made earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity provides a large number of goods and services that sustain our lives.The rich tapestry of life on our planet is the outcome of over 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history. It has been shaped by forces such as changes in the planets crust, ice ages, fire, and interaction among species. It is increasingly being altered by humans. We have reshaped our landscapes on an ever-larger and lasting scale.
Our personal health and, the health of our economy and human society, depends on the continuous supply of various ecological services that would be extremely costly or impossible to replace. These natural services are so varied as to almost infinite. The loss of biodiversity often reduces the productivity of ecosystems, there by shrinking nature’s basket of goods and services, from which we constantly draw. It destabilizes ecosystems, and weakens their ability to deal with natural disasters.
What we have experienced during implementation of our UNDP-GEF-SGP supported project on ‘land and water management leading towards biodiversity conservation’ is that any biodiversity conservation practices designed without participation of local people is useless as this will not produce any fruitful results in the long run and in the same time huge amount of public money will go in to drain which in otherwise are immense benefit to the cause of well being of the earth. People should be the policy makers of their villages from planning to execution stage if we are really serious to save the Gandhi’s dream of the village republic.
To build capacities of project target groups and develop favourable attitude among the project population as well as increase the involvement of the members of community based organisations (CBOs) exposure visit was organised. Exposure visit was took place to leading NGOs of the south Rajsthan as Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Bhilwara; Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF), Bhilwara; Indian Farm Forestry Development Cooperatives (IFFDC), Pratapgarh; Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti (JJVS), Udaipur; Ankur Sansthan, Jhadol and Jan Chetna Sansthan, Jhadol. People have learned from these organisations are conservation of the water resources, pasture land development, Joint Forest Management (JFM), watershed activities, construction of small check dams, conservation of medicinal plants, function of Self Help Groups (SHGs), commercial sustainable agriculture, artificial insemination of animals by community participation and with low cost technology. This has increased awareness, comprehension, skill and ensured involvement and participation of various stakeholders.
A contemplation campaign was organised in the village with the objective to focus on the impact of loss of biodiversity and degradation of land as well as water resources. During contemplation campaign a cultural programme, a television show and a camp was organised. The purpose of cultural programme was wider awareness generation and sensitisation of the project population for biodiversity conservation issues from live dramas played by local folklore’s and collection of people’s contribution for ‘Village Development Fund (Gram Vikas Kosh). People participated in a Kisan Mela organised by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Chittorgarh in a near by village Onkhaliya, where they installed a camp for dissemination of practices which promotes biodiversity conservation through paintings sketched by children’s and CUTS publications. The event was organised on 16th October celebrated as world food day. Farmers of the project area collected information about innovative techniques of the agriculture best suited to their needs in severe drought condition. Farmers participated in a quiz competition about right agriculture methods and women and children have participated in Rangoli, painting and essay writing competitions. The theme was for all competitions were environment conservation.
Training on ‘Water resources development’:
Mukesh Kumar Gupta from CUTS, Chittorgarh participated in the national training programme on ‘Water resources development’ at N M Sadguru Water and Development Foundation, Dahod, Gujrat. Among others, the training sessions focussed on, fundamental water resources concepts, surface water hydrology, planning and design of water harvesting structures, soil and watershed development programme, lift irrigation scheme, construction management of water resources project, artificial recharge and rain water harvesting system etc. project staff had also visited the field areas of the Sadguru Foundation for getting practical exposure.
Traditional Practices and Indigenous Knowledge
Sirwa’s request for promotion of water conservation: There are few people in the village who detects ground water in somewhat manner called sirwa’s (traditional local jankars). Village people take their services when they want to dig tubewell for irrigation purposes. Now he admitted that the groundwater is lowered down significantly in the village. The trend of tubewells started mainly for opium cultivation. Opium is the main cash crop of the region and requires a lot of water in regular intervals, impoverished the groundwater of the village. We took one village sirwa, Balu Singh to the exposure visit where he learned the practices of the ground water recharging. After returning to the village he urged all the people of the village to not follow the blind trend of digging continuous tubewells, in stead if we recharge our water bodies with construction of appropriate water harvesting structures with good vegetation, will ensure continue supply of ground water for all purposes. He also told villagers that this is economically more viable as this recharge aquifers continuously and ensure sustainability. In this way the old defunct tubewells will also set to start function properly.
Survey for construction of gully plugs:
After coming from exposure visit, people also wanted to adopt the same practices for their village. For this purpose they have surveyed all their village territory for replication of the appropriate watershed practices what they have seen during exposure visit. People wanted to restore the chhoti nadi in this season as half of the field located in this side. The main obstacle was to control the speed of rain water which goes to the chhoti nadi and then overflow because of low water holding capacity of the chhoti nadi due to silt formation resulting from soil erosion. To check the speed of the water gully plug is the best measure adopted in the region. Initially village people have identified six sites where gully plug will be build by them. The site was selected on the same criteria as banks should contain hard rocks and be narrow.
Representation has given for protection of the forest by outsiders:
One representation has given to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Chittorgarh by EAC members and project staff for checking the destruction of forest produce by outsiders for illegal commercial purposes. These practices add adversely to the already decreasing forest biodiversity as well as restricting the growth of surrounding livelihood. He advised us to participate in Joint Forest Management (JFM) activities supported by forest department to cope with this type of problems. Project staff and an EAC member has also given a presentation to the forest staff for their orientation training about ‘the importance of community participation’ for successful implementation of the project activities with few case studies.
Restoration work on chhoti nadi:
During last season, deepening and widening of the Badi nadi completed significantly under project activities. In this season people contemplated during chaupal baithaks and reached on a resolution that restoration of chhoti nadi should be done in this season. The rationale behind this is half of the fields located towards chhoti nadi side, so that they can also get benefit from the project intervention with increased participation. In this way they correlate themselves with project activities and this also suffices the equal benefit sharing of the common pool of resources.
CUTS report on ‘Water and Sanitation’:
“Water is the basis of life, but today availability as well as quality of water deteriorates. This crisis is anthropogenic, in which urgent action is necessary”. Report contains CUTS effort in awareness generation about water conservation, its advocacy and successes like public hiring in water policy, organisation of the workshop and cultural programmes, publication of the resource material, press notes, water contemplation campaign, showcasing of documentaries and video shows, discussions in chaupal baithaks and school talks. Report compiles all these efforts. Jal Biradari, a news letter of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi for promotion of community water harvesting, published about the report in its August – November 2003 issue’s regular column ‘Pustak Charcha’, and described as ‘this report will work as a beacon for other like-minded organisation’.
Biodiversity maps of India are ready:
India has come out with maps of its biodiversity-rich regions, one of the first countries to do so in the world. It was the fruit of a five-year project, jointly undertaken by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Space (DOS), which began in 1997. The survey covered 84,000 square kilometers (sq km), comprising 44 per cent of total forest cover of India. The regions mapped extensively are the Northeast region, Western Himalaya, Western Ghats and Andman and Nikobar Islands.
The advantage of this survey is the wealth of detail generated on local biodiversity spots, which could be used to plan more refinedly. The survey suggested that conservation planning has to take into account the entire local ecosystem. (DTE, 2004.01.31)
Forest is the source of clean water:
Big cities reliance on forests for their drinking water, reveals running pure, a study by the World Bank and the World Wide Fund for Nature. Around a third of the world’s top 105 cities (by population) obtain a significant amount of their drinking water from the catchment areas of fully or partly protected forests. If forests are to be maintained, their additional benefits (especially as a water resource) should be emphasised besides biodiversity conservation needs. “Protecting forests around water catchment areas is no longer a luxury but a necessity,” asserts David Cassells, a senior environment specialist for forest resources at the World Bank.
Well-managed natural forests regulate soil erosion, thus reducing sediment load. As a result, forests provide higher quality water with less sediment and fewer pollutants, compared to other catchment areas. The study suggests collecting fees from people and companies utilising drinking water to pay for managing the protected area. (DTE, 2003.10.15)
Groundwater information in Internet:
A Delhi based Non Government Organisation ‘Centre for Science and Environment’ (CSE) made a map of groundwater of Delhi in Internet. CSE took data from ‘Central Ground water Authority’, in which information about ideal rain water harvesting is given. One can find from this map a comprehensive information about geology and ground water of different portions of Delhi. The objective of this map is to popularise the rain water harvesting and what type of structures are useful to the specific conditions among common people.