Amrithmahal Kavals of Chitradurga Bhargavi S.Rao
Grasslands known as Kavals inChitradurga are rich in both floraland faunal biodiversity, they arehome to the last remainingBlackbucks , the great Indianbustard and the lesser Floricon.These grasslands for hundreds ofyears have held rural life togetherby providing meat, milk, wool,manure, herbal medicines, waterand a host of other eco systemservices through which ruralcommunities have lived withdignity and celebrated this lifethrough customs, beliefs andtraditions that have protectedthese Kavals since timeimmemorial.
Why are we losinggrasslands?India is home to a varietyof grasslands unique todifferent climaticregions. These grasslandssupport a variety of floraand fauna. Less than 1per cent of grasslandscome under theprotected area network,making it one of themost neglected andabused ecosystems inthe country.
Agriculture in India wasonce a beautiful symbioticrelationship with farmanimals. Animals providedmanure, supported farmlabour and agricultureresidues provided theanimal nutrition in additionto that provided by grazingpastures that were mostlygrasslands.
The Land Acquisition Act1894 helped acquirelarge tracts of land toincrease agriculture.Green revolution pushedthe acquisition of allkinds of land includingcommon grazing andgrasslandsto increasefood production.
Tractors replaced indigenousfarm animals and the need tomaintain pure breeds of cattleand grazing pastures were lost..Water shed programmescreated in grazing landsfurther distancedcommunities from usinggrazing lands.
The reducing greencover created panicand resulted inunmindful socialforestry programmesdeteriorating grazinglands wiping out theoriginal grass , herband shrub species.
Conflicts between wildlifeprotection and grazingcommunities furtherdistanced the communitiesfrom access to grazingpasturesThe introduction of hybrid cattleand fodders under the WhiteRevolution further decreased therearing of indigenous species andtheir dependence on grazingpastures
With liberalisation of the Indianeconomy and investments, grazingcommons and grasslands becamethe target for the big investmentsmaking way for industries througha variety of gateways , the SEZbeing the more recent.There have been little effort toprovide security or support, or themeans to adapt and adopt newlivelihoods for pastoralcommunities who are beingdriven away from such plans.Unfortunately for non-pastoralnomads, the situation is muchworse.
The pink revolution urged India to cross breed its indigenous cattleand livestock varieties with those of the West and Australia. Nativevarieties have been decreasing in numbers across the country. OurNative Cattle semen is today imported from Brazil and USA forcrossbreeding as these native cows had been taken as early as the17th century to many parts of the world because of their superiorfeatures and maintained in their pure form.
The Grasslands of Chitradurgaknown as Kavals were historicallyand traditionally set aside for thegrazing of a native breed of cattlecalled the Amrith Mahal Cattle asthey were used exclusively formilitary and draft purposes by thethen Maharaja of Mysore. Thesecattle were known for their droughtand disease resistant qualities. Overthe years the pure breeds havedwindled in number and thesepastures have been used by localvillage and nomadic pastoralcommunities.
Nearly 60 villages in Chitradurga depend on the grasslands for their life andlivelihoods. Animal rearing, weaving of blankets, basket weaving, agriculture are themain livelihoods. Local communities gather firewood, herbs, medicinal plants forlivestock, manure and a variety of other materials from these grasslands. The localpeople celebrate the grasslands through a variety of festivities and fairs. Their templesand places of worship are in the midst of these Kavals. Local women sing their folkmusic in praise of the grasslands. The kavals are centres of a rich Bio-Cultural Heritage
Beerappa Temple in themidst of the Kavals The livestock rearing communities ‘place of worhip
In 1971, as the native breedof Amrithmahal cattle hadreduced in numbers, theGovernment of Karnatakaset up a sheep farm in theseKavals to help localcommunities withveterinary, breeding, waterand fodder facilities . Theregion is also known for thenative Deccani sheepbreeds.
The Government had alsoset up a Goshala to helpthe cattle rearers in thesevillages. The region still haspure breeds ofAmrithmahal cattle asDevara dhana (God’s cattle)reared by certaintraditional communities.
Weaving communities shear the wool, process it with a paste of tamarindseeds that strengthens the wool and the wool is woven by hand into thewell known Chellekere blankets that are supplied to the Indian Army andcost anywhere between RS.800-2000 in the market.
The Lambani communities collect the leaf fronds of the Palm tree tomake Baskets used in Agriculture for a living and wild grasses tomake brooms used in homes and for farming purpose.
DRDO’s Drones, BARC’sUranium Enrichment centre,IISc’s synchroton, DefenceIndustries on a PPP model,Housing colonies will soonchange the landscape,disrupt the water shed,destroy the wildlife habitatand wipe out the ecologicallysensitive, traditionallyknowledgeable, selfgoverned, self sustained ruraleconomic life of theseregions in an effort todevelop these regions.
These Kavals are severely threatenedfrom being assigned to a variety ofdevelopmental projects in violation ofall existing laws thereby wiping outthe very life of these communities andwill alter the landscapes irreversibly.They have been handed over tovarious Institutions in completeviolation of the Forest ConservationAct, Forest Rights Act, Environmentprotection Act and the BiologicalDiversity Act and in violation of theHigh court Order that protects theKavals. The institutions have started tobuild compound walls in the regionthereby preventing the localcommunities access to the grazing
Organisation Village Name Sy. No. Extent of land in acresDefence Research Development Organisation Varavu Kaval and Khudapura 343, 47 4000 and 290 respectively (total 4290)Indian Institute of Science Khudapura 47 1500Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura 1, 47 1410 and 400 respectively (toatel 1810)Indian Space Research Organisation Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura 1, 47 473 and 100 respectively (total 573)Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura 1, 47 250 and 50 respectively (totalCorporation 300)Sagitaur Ventures India Pvt. Ltd. Khudapura N.A. 1250Indian Army N.A. N.A. 10,000 (as per press reports)Total 9273 confirmed + 10000 to be confirmed
The result of not knowing how todeal with nuclear Waste-FutureGenerations
With loss of access to theKavals, and cost of foddertoo high to meet, the localvillage and nomadiccommunities are beingforced to sell their sheep.Women have stree shaktiloans to repay and alsomake ends meet. Men havealready started migrating insearch of labour to othertowns and cities.
Future of livestock economyIndia is one of the largestproducers of milk, meat andeggs in the world But Indianmeat and wool being lowquality have not been ablecompete with the globalmarket. Livestock sector needssupport as Indian livestock isnot economically,environmentally or sociallydesirable.
The affected villages havesubmitted several representationsto the DC, held several protests ,met with several politicians, leadersand ministers to save their Kavals.Their voices go unheard. Localfarming members have evenapproached the High Court in thehope of saving their Kavals andtheir livelihoods.
Protests in Chitradurga• Members the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha staging a dharna outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Chitradurga demanding that the land granted to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at Kudapura in Challakere taluk be withdrawn and instead demanded a solar power plant to be set up to ease the power needs of farmers.
There are alternative ways toensure these villages in thebackward district get water,housing, electricity, schools,hospitals and support fortheir traditional livelihoodsand rural economy. Carefulplanning with genuine publicparticipation and creatinginnovative local technologiesthat are not power andwater intensive can go a longway in sustaining the existingtraditional pastorallivelihoods in a region thatlacks major sources of water.
Who Owns Natural resources? Whouses? Who decides? Who benefits?The people are the owners and theState is the custodianHowever, in practice, the State hasarrogated to itself the power ofownership.Movements, struggles and litigationsto reclaim control of natural resourcesand commons have been the responseof communities across the country tosave our natural resources for posterity.
“The State shall, in particular, directits policy towards securing(a)that the citizens, men and womenequally, have the right to anadequate means of livelihood;(b)that the ownership and control ofthe material resources of thecommunity are so distributed as bestto subserve the common good;(c)that the operation of the economicsystem does not result in theconcentration of wealth and means ofproduction to the commondetriment”Article 39 of the Constitution ofIndia.
• Right to Life includes Right to Clean Environment and Livelihood• Polluter Pays Principle• Principle of Absolute Liability• Principle of Intergenerational Equity• Doctrine of Public Trust• Precautionary Principle• Principle of Prior and Informed Consent
Legal Provisions that Protect Grasslands,Biodiversity and Community Rights• Forest Conservation Act 1980• The Indian Forest Act 1927• The Karnataka forest Act 1963• State/Union Territory Minor Forest Produce (Ownership of Forest Dependent Community) Act, 2005• Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Amended 1990)• Forest Rights Act 2006• Biological Diversity Act 2002• Environment protection Act 1986• The Untouchability Practices Act, 1955• The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,
Time to joinhands with ourpastoral SAVE THEcommunities to KAVALS FORprotect their POSTERITYexperience based DECLARE THEMknowledge, self-governed ASlivelihood, the BIOCULTURALrural economy HERITAGEand save this SITES ORbeautiful bio BIODIVERSITYcultural heritage. SITES