A significant majority of Indians are dependent on their natural environment. But they relate not only to plants and animals of immediate utility or nuisance value. Generally, people venerate and protect plants like Peepal or Banyan and animals like peafowl or Hanuman langur. The number of species to which people relate in religious or cultural contexts is relatively small. A vast majority of the species of plants and animals as known to people are species of practical significance of their lives and to save them is very crucial for the conservation of the biodiversity. The roots of the ongoing tragedy are the inverse relationship between economic and biological wealth. Universally, the more dependent and more knowledgeable a person is about biodiversity, the poorer he or she is. To cope with this what we are doing in the project village is to organise a chaupal baithak of villagers and members of Environment Action Committee to identify the plants of their significant livelihood and also to promote the conservation of those sacred plants.
In this quarter, we have seen the overwhelming participatory involvement of the villagers to the restoration of the badi and chhoti nadi and the rewards are worth. Only after the first shower in the month of June the pond has filled with water about one-forth of its capacity. With application of balanced physical and mobilising activities in the village we are certainly moving towards the extreme goal.
Deepening and widening of deteriorated traditional ponds
Earthwork, to increase water-holding capacity of the traditional bigger and smaller pond (badi & chhoti nadi), has been initiated under the project. The villagers have de-silt and deepen the pond, besides the preliminary and other accompanying works such as clearance of bushes, picking of surface, dressing etc. Embankment of the pond has also been strengthened. Replication of the effort has also happened with active participation of the villagers, supportive role of people’s representatives as well as government departments, and initiative of CUTS. Excavation and repairing of earthen embankment was done in such a manner so that the sustainability of the pond will not be harmed. Villagers took measurement of the chaukadi’s (excavated quadrant) by themselves in presence of project consultant. Villagers from two surrounding villages (Kripa ram ji ki khedi and Futwad) have also took part in the pond restoration process, as this will further enhance the replication process of the intervention made in the project village. Women have worked directly and also given guidance and monitored the ongoing work.
Celebrations of world environment day, Earth day and follow up of biodiversity day
Environment day: An environment rally and advocacy workshop was organised to celebrate the environment day on 5th June 2004. The celebration was took place with the active support of District NGO Forum, Chittorgarh. Villagers of Pemadia Khera (project village), children’s and citizen’s from all ethnic groups and members of District NGO Forum participated in the rally. Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Chittorgarh T.J. Kavitha has shown the green flag to the rally and expressed her views to the better community participation for environment conservation movement in every part of the district and nation can only preserve nature’s bounties and therefore our ethical rights.
Earth day: ‘Earth is the only planet, which has the living condition for the organisms. Though our current practices are against the survival of the Earth’. These were the issues, which has discussed in between the Tai villagers, a nearby village of the Pemadia Khera (project village). What a village community can do in this down scenario was the main point of deliberation. Local school teacher and village community has participated in this consultation and expressed their views for the problems they are facing and possible solutions that could be opt for attaining the goal of sustainable development, with the key word ‘think globally and act locally’. The main focus was to highlight the importance of Earth day in rural perspectives. In today’s condition when a political will for conserving natural resources is lacking, this is the people who have the every right to judiciously use and conserve our resources for the cause of saving Earth.
Follow up of Biodiversity day: Last year we celebrated biodiversity day on 22nd May with the august presence of Neelima Khetan, Chief Executive Seva Mandir, Udaipur with active participation of surrounding community at Pemadia Kheda. People have learned a lot about importance of biodiversity and their role to conserve the same because they are the only who have to face directly the negative impact of loss of biodiversity. People had taken oath to not disturb this intricate relationship between nature and human. They however succeeded on their commitment and this is reflected by their increasing involvement in the project activities. This year we celebrated biodiversity day with involvement of two other surrounding villages. People deliberately discussed the meaning, importance and their inherent role to conservation and protection of the biodiversity. They also discussed the cause of fast depletion of biodiversity, identified and categorised different plants and animal species which extinct, endangered and vulnerable in present context. They charted out a plan of action for conservation of biodiversity –
- Promotion of water conservation practices, as rain water harvesting
- Planting endangered and vulnerable plants as an individual as well as collaborative effort
- Revival of traditional values and ethnic bonds with nature God in the form of sacred groves (Oran), restoration of degraded ponds, worshipping nature etc
The outcome of the meeting was that conscious people of the village start recognising the wrong practices of the past and current, which impoverished the nature and they are now ready to replenish the same. Our next goal lies to provide the motivational and technical support to the villagers.
Organisation of two day capacity building workshop
A two-day capacity building workshop was organised on 16th and 17th April at Pemadia Kheda and the Centre premise respectively. Brijesh Tomar, Director, Action for Food Production (AFPRO), Udaipur had invited for the capacity building of the villagers. First day he met with the EAC members, villagers and gathered information of the project intervention. After gathering this information he told the meaning and necessity of the natural resources, biodiversity and water conservation to the villagers. He visited the village sites where project work has done by community participation. He suggested developing the village as a watershed area and identified different places where such structures could be constructed by locally available resources or by little financial assistance. Water was emerged as the main problem in the development of village. Villagers told the possible reasons for the water problem are increasing population, numbers of tube wells, wells, scant rain, ground water exploitation by near by factories etc.
Second day, 30 villagers with women come to the Centre for participation to the class room mode of the capacity building workshop, which has given answers to their problems regarding natural resources. Before that they started their journey early morning form different villages in the form of biodiversity conservation yatra, to reach the Centre. They have shared their experiences in some villages about biodiversity conservation practices during the yatra. In the classroom mode Mr. Tomar has provided thorough knowledge to how we reach from ancient time of good environment to the current state of degraded environment. After this he suggested different water conservation and agricultural practices which villagers can adopt for alter the process from bad to good environment. He told to use the less water intensive crops and water conservation practices such as ‘SALT’, which is developed by AFPRO and 5% model of farming. Overall, the workshop was very fruitful, as villagers were full with optimism.
Formation of District NGO Forum, Chittorgarh
To work in association with all districts NGOs for environment and other social concerns a Zila Swayam Sevee Sanstha Manch, Chittorgarh (District NGO Forum) has made by the intervention of the centre. Advocacy workshop, awareness rally was organised by the assistance of this forum to emphasize the importance of water. Centre is acting as secretariat of the forum and venue for the monthly meeting.
Awareness drive preceding gram sabha
It has been widely marked in the Rajasthan State that people’s participation in the gram sabhas has been continuously declining. This is primarily because of either or both of the reasons, viz., people’s needs/demands are not prioritised/looked into and lackadaisical attitude of the people’s representatives/PRI functionaries. With this as a background, awareness drive was organised on 20th May and 18th June 2004 in the village. It was preceded by several informal meetings held in that week. During this event, pamphlets and Gram Gadar, wall newspaper of the centre, containing information on panchayati raj, involvement of women as well as weaker section of the society, linking ward sabha with gram sabha, and convergence of efforts with wider community participation as well as proactive role, were circulated among project population. They were also given information about functions of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and hierarchy, its importance in providing autonomy to the villages, decentralisation and role in the development work. As an outcome of all these awareness drives people are now recognised the importance of the gram sabha and started participating voluntarily.
Traditional Practices and Indigenous Knowledge
Villagers advice on fencing and spreading grass seeds
From villager’s advice and approval by consultant, fencing of the Thuar (cacti) has erected and strengthened for the existing and new plantation sites. Thuar is itself a plant species and are not present in the common land of the village, therefore it is supplementing the thirst of enriching biodiversity. Fencing was augmented with planting other seeds, which can further support the same as Ratanjot, Kumatha and Prosopis. Karad and Hamatha grass species has planted through plantation site and outer side of the earthen embankment of both the ponds. Due to late germination, grass species planted during last season is start sprouting.
Villagers decided to repair the approach road
Villagers have used 378 trip of tractors with excavated soil of badi & chhoti nadi for repairing of approaching road to the village with the help of gram vikas kosh (village development fund) created by project intervention and assistance from local sarpanch and Block Development Officer (BDO). When local sarpanch and BDO was not hearing to the villagers then they approached to local Member of Parliament (MP) and sanctioned tractors for the work
Monitoring by villagers itself
People who had not involved themselves in the physical work have monitored the efficacy and given the right direction and pace to the ongoing restoration work of badi and chhoti nadi. This has ensured the effective implementation of the project activities.
Training on environmental law policy
Project staff has attended a national training programme on ‘Capacity building of NGOs on the use of environmental law policy for environmental protection and sustainable development’ was organised by M.C. Mehta Environmental Foundation, New Delhi at Eco Ashram, Rishikesh on 5th –8th June 2004. Various eminent personalities from different fields as judges, advocates, forest officials, professors etc has discussed pros and cons of practical aspects of enforcing environmental law for the protection of natural resources vis-a-vis biodiversity in a feasible manner
Virtual water content – A reality
Water is the by far the largest traded commodity in the world. The size of global trade in water could be 300 times the next largest commodity. India is the fifth largest exporter of water. Have you ever wondered how much water went into that cup of coffee or tea that we are sipping?
Before you guess, lets just say that ‘one cup’ is not the right answer. You also have to include the water that went into producing the coffee beans – virtual water. ‘Virtual water’ is relatively new term. Producing goods and services generally requires water. The water used in the production process of an agricultural or an industrial product is called the ‘virtual water’ contained in the product. Virtual water content of wheat is 1200 litres per kilo. In other words, 1200 litres of water is required to produce 1 Kg of wheat. Likewise, virtual water content of rice is 2700 litres of water and beef is even higher – almost 16,000 litres. On the other hand, maize has virtual water content of only 450 litres. Potatoes with virtual water content of 160 litres are the most water friendly amongst the major food groups.
One of the possible answers to our collective water problems may be to deliberately target products that have lower ‘virtual water content’. Thus, a water scare country can choose to import products that require a lot of water rather than producing them. (ET 20.07.2004)
People to people carbon trading
By selling 147 tons of verified carbon dioxide reductions directly to the World Bank in October 2003, a tribal hamlet in Andhra Pradesh’s Adilabad district may have shown the world a way out of the global deadlock over the Kyoto Protocol on environment protection. The World Bank has paid $ 645 (about Rs. 29,000) to the women’s Self-Help Group (SHG) in powerguda village to neutralise emissions caused by air travel and local transport undertaken by international participants for a conference in Washington D.C., the U.S.
The emission reduction was quantified thus: 4,500 Pongamia trees planted by them in 2002 would yield 51 tonnes of pongamia oil substituting for petroleum diesel over 10 years. The villagers were using Pongamia oil as a substitute for diesel to power their generators to produce electricity. Diesel engines run well on Pongamia oil and there is zero emission since all the carbon released is sequestered from the atmosphere itself.
Global warming poses threat to biodiversity:
An 18-year survey by NASA scientists of land surface, temperatures has found that, between 1991 and 1998, those cities, fields, forests, savannahs and deserts not covered by snow had steadily grown warmer. This warming is linked to a steady rise in levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And carbon dioxide building up because of the profligate burning of fossil fuel almost everywhere on the planet, but particularly in the richest nations. Furthermore, the warming will go on, with potentially calamitous consequences. Sir David King, chief scientific advisor of British Prime Minister, warned the Americans that global warming was a more serious threat than global terrorism.
The 10 warmest years ever-recorded have all occurred in the past 14. Researchers have checked back through indirect evidence – tree rings, coral growths, ice cores – and confirmed that the warmest decade of the past 1000 years was from 1990 to 1999. The warmest year of the millennium was 1998. There is a clear link between a warmer world and wilder weather. The international Red Cross and Red Crescent have analysed the past 33 years of natural disasters – 90 percent of which are weather related – and found that the number of these has increased three fold in the past three decades. (TH 05.04.2004)