Conservation of the Ecosystem and Watershed development, by Sunehra Kal Kalyanpura Jalgrahan Vikas Samiti in Kalyanpur Village, Rajasthan
The Kalyanpura village in Bhilwara district, falls under the Semi-Arid region of the northwestern state of Rajasthan in India. The Kalyanpura watershed lies within the Mej river catchment and comprises 16 revenue villages and 7 hamlets, spread across an area of 5,171 hectares, out of which 1,141 hectares have been designated as common pasture lands. There are approximately 1,473 households and communities, which are predominantly agro-pastoralists. Through the integrated of watershed management initiatives, the previously degraded lands have been reclaimed and there is an increase in agricultural productivity. Strengthening community-based conservation of natural resources has resulted in enhanced biodiversity, protection of threatened species and improvement in ecosystem services.
Need for the Initiative
Prior to the initiative in 2007, a mere 27 % of the area was under cultivation and the rest was mainly used for livestock grazing and fuel wood collection. Only 5 water bodies existed which were insufficient to meet the irrigation or domestic needs. Recurrent drought resulting in crop loss was very common. The vegetation was completely barren with less than 10% tree cover. The communities used to cut the root stocks to meet their fuel wood requirements. The density of several sacred groves had declined severely. The topsoil was almost completely lost, with soil erosion at the rate of 11.1 tons/hectare/year. The population of endemic flora and fauna also declined.
Impact of this good practice-
In 2007, ITC Limited, one of India's foremost private sector companies, together with the Government of Rajasthan and the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) initiated the restoration of degraded lands of Kalyanpura via watershed development. The state government provided financial assistance and FES provided the technical support in implementation of the project. The Sunehra Kal Kalyanpura Jalgrahan Vikas Samiti was set up as an umbrella body comprising representatives from 17 pastureland development committees from each village, in the year 2007. All households of the villages were members of the village level committee, who nominated their elected representative in the federation. The Samiti formulates regulations for the protection of the ecosystem and develops conservation action plans, in consonance with the 5 Gram Panchayats and with technical support from FES. The focus of the Samiti's activities is mainly on watershed development alongside initiatives such as propagating efficient use of water, marketing of agriculture produces, crop diversification, protection from illicit felling, lopping, and pollarding of trees and revival of pastures through establishing a rotational guarding (Ora) system. The Samiti ensured that all encroachments were removed, and a rotational grazing system was implemented. They have developed a ‘cut-and-carry’ system for the pastoralists, as opposed to extraction of the flora from their roots while grazing from pastures. Households without livestock are also provided a share of fodder which they can sell to community members with livestock. In-situ soil and moisture conservation works were undertaken and a total of 77 water harvesting structures have been created under the project, as a result of which water storage capacity improved from 0.73 million cubic meters to 1.96 million cubic meters. Average rate of soil erosion has been reduced to 4.4 tons/hectare/ year. The average Nitrogen content in the soil increased by 50 per cent and the organic carbon increased by 34per cent. The organic matter was calculated as 4.77 tons/ha. The carbon sequestration by the pastures was calculated as 1,341.64 Tonnes in the year 2014. Approximately 185,000 native tree species have been planted, resulting in a significant increase in the canopy cover in the pasture lands. Over a period of five years, tree density per hectare has increased from 105 trees/ha to 480 trees/ha with a 29% increase in species diversity, recording 74 varieties. As a result, 17 pastures, across 1,141 hectares, have been conserved. These plantations act as carbon sink, prevent soil erosion, regulate the ambient temperature and provide aesthetic beauty along with providing a safe habitat to flora and fauna. The sightings of bird species, including vultures and migratory waterfowls increased double fold. Additionally, 13 butterfly species and 14 species of mammal, including Nilgai, Jackal, Striped Hyena and Collared Hedgehog were spotted in and around the villages. Increased water availability has led to expansion in net sown area by 878 hectares, and input costs have reduced due to improved water availability and irrigation facilities. Women in SHGs were given cattle loans and artificial insemination of cattle was undertaken. This led to better milk productivity and the establishment of dairy cooperatives in the village, which supply 8,000 litres of milk every day to the Bhilwara Dairy. The average household income increased by 43 per cent. Readily available firewood and installation of several bio-gas plants has reduced expenditure on cooking fuel. Owing to the success of this conservation model, it has been replicated in over 44,000 hectares in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh by ITC Limited.
Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards
The Sunehra Kal Kalyanpura Jalgrahan Vikas Samiti, received special mention in the India Biodiversity Awards under the category-management in 2014.