Gujarat to tell world its best conservation stories
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
Gujarat is all set to tell its successful stories of conservation to the whole world. Be it Asiatic lions of Gir, the wild ass of Little Rann of Kutch or the whale sharks from Saurashtra coast, the conservation stories made successful with people's participation will soon find place in some of the best national and international wildlife journals. The details of the state's six most successful conservation stories have been documented by additional principal chief conservator of forests, social forestry, HS Singh.
The exercise will be kicked off at the National Forest Congress to be held in Dehradun next month.
THE FIVE BEST STORIES:
AREA: Gir and periphery
In 1968 : 180
In 2010: 411
LIVE STOCK: Sambar, chital, blue bull, four-horned antelope, chinkara and wild boar
Early 1970's: 6,400
Conservation: Any talk about relocating Asiatic lions from Gir meets with a vehement protest from the local maldharis. Despite the wild cats preying on nearly 3,500 domestic animals in the forest, satellite areas and in villages, locals consider the lions to be a part of their family. Gir forest was declared as wildlife sanctuary in 1965 with Acore area being declared as a national park. Gradually, more lion habitats in adjoining regions were also declared as sanctuaries and ultimately Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 2007. Several ecological studies were also conducted to identify the problems and prepare a conservation project. This was followed by implementation of the Gir Lion Sanctuary Project in 1973 to resettle maldharis. The measures to reduce biotic pressure, protection and improvement of habitats implemented in 1970s and 1980s, also resulted in the concentration of prey and big predators being the highest among all the protected areas in the country.
AREA: Little Rann of Kutch
In 1969: 362
In 2008: 4,040
CONSERVATION: Once of the brink of extinction, the wild asses in Little of Rann Kutch have only seen their numbers increase in all these years, thanks to major conservation measures undertaken. The major part of the Little Rann of Kutch was declared as Wild Ass Sanctuary in 1973, which was expanded to an area of 4,954 sq km in 1978. The conservation measures began after it was declared a sanctuary. Wild asses responded well to the habitat protection and improvement works, including creation of water facilities. Their numbers increased consistently from 720 in 1976 to 2,070 in 1990, 3,860 in 2004 and 4,040 in 2008. In other words, the number of the Indian wild ass has increased by over five times since it's first counting after the notification of the sanctuary.
AREA: Saurashtra coast
Before 2001, about 200 whale sharks were killed every year
2008-09: 102 rescued.
2004-2010: 257 rescued.
Conservation: Treat whale sharks as your daughters, who have come to their father's house for delivery. This was the fervent appeal made to fishermen in Saurashtra when the conservation of whale sharks was taken up. They earned as much as Rs 100,000 for killing one whale shark as its meat and oils extracted from fins and liver is in great demand. The sea-water of Saurashtra is globally known as breeding site of whale sharks. The state banned its hunting in 2001 after it became the first fish to be listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Save the Whale Shark campaign became as a role model for conservation. Their efforts got a further impetus with renowned spiritual preacher Morari Bapu being roped in as an ambassador for the project. The state paid Rs 25,000 to fishermen for each rescue and till May 2011, a total of Rs 35 lakh have been paid to them as compensation amount.
AREA: Kutch, Jamnagar and South Gujarat.
1997: 397 sq km
2009: 1,046 sq km
Mangrove restoration and conservation started in 1983 with plantation of Avicennia marina on a small scale by the forest department. The plantation was scaled up later. Apart from meetings, activities on nature education were taken up to enlist support of the people. At present, Gujarat supports about one fifth of total mangrove cover in India. Apart from the department, other institutions like Gujarat Ecology Commission, and other industries also had an important contribution. People's support in restoration and protection of tidal forests continued over the period. At present, mangroves grow in the eleven coastal districts in Gujarat but a mostly in the Gulf of Kutch in Jamnagar and Kutch districts. At present, the extent of mangrove cover in Gujarat is the second highest in India after Sundarbans in West Bengal.
TREES OUTSIDE FOREST:
2003: 25.1 crore
2009: 26.9 crore
Conservation: The state government initiated social forestry as a people's programme in 1969-70. Social forestry divisions, first of their kind in the country, were established in the state. The World Bank expressed its readiness to fund social forestry activities. As a result, the cover of trees outside the forest of 8,390 sq km is 4.3 per cent of geographical area outside forest and the second highest in the country. In terms of density also, Gujarat stands second after Kerala, although major part of the state is in semi-arid and arid-zones. Canal irrigation and social forestry programmes completely changed the face of the landscape in Nadiad, Anand, Mehsana and Gandhinagar where trees were scarce in 1970s. Now they have a tree density of over 50 trees per hectare outside the forest. Anand has a tree density of 68 trees per hectare, against state's average of 16.1 trees per hectare. The programme will be replicated in districts irrigated by the Narmada canal. As a part of agro-forestry programmes under the Greening Gujarat Campaign, the state plans to have 35 core trees by 2022.
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