“Banni Grasslands” -NGT Upholds Rights of Maldharis

What is the News?

The National Green Tribunal(NGT) has ordered all encroachments to be removed from Gujarat’s Banni grasslands within six months. Further, NGT directed a joint committee to prepare an action plan in a month.

The court also said the Maldharis will continue to hold the right to conserve the community forests in the Banni Grasslands area. These rights were granted to them as per the provisions in Section 3 of Forest Rights Act, 2006.

About Banni Grasslands:
  • Firstly, Banni Grassland is situated near the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. It is considered to be the largest Grassland in Asia.
  • Secondly, the grassland spreads over 2,618 kilometers and accounts for almost 45% of the pastures in Gujarat.
  • Thirdly, Formation: The word ‘Banni’ comes from the Hindi word ‘banai’, meaning made. The land here was formed from the sediments that were deposited by the Indus and other rivers over thousands of years.
  • Fourthly, Ecosystem: Two ecosystems, wetlands and grasslands are juxtaposed in Banni.
  • Fifthly, Vegetation: The vegetation in Banni is sparse and highly dependent on rainfall. It is dominated by low-growing forbs and graminoids, many of which are halophiles (salt-tolerant), as well as scattered tree cover and scrub. The grasslands were traditionally managed by a system of rotational grazing.
  • Sixthly, Flora and Fauna: The area is rich in flora and fauna with 192 species of plants, 262 species of birds, several species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
  • Seventhly, Reserve Forest: In 1955, the court notified the grassland will be a reserve forest. In, 2019, the NGT ordered to demarcate the boundaries of the Banni grassland and restricted non-forest activities.
  • Lastly, Significance: Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has identified this grassland reserve as one of the last remaining habitats of the cheetah in India. Also, a possible reintroduction site for the species.
About Maldhari Tribe:
  • Maldharis are a tribal herdsmen community in Gujarat, India. The literal meaning of Maldhari is a keeper (dhari) of the animal stock (mal).
  • The Maldharis have lived in the Gir National Park, in the Banni Grasslands Reserve area, for the past thousand years.
  • They have co-existed with the lions which the Gir National Park was created to preserve, for these thousand years.
  • Maldhari community breeds Banni Buffaloes, a species endemic to the region. The buffaloes are adaptive to Kutch’s hot weather condition.

Source: Down To Earth


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