Discover > Biodiversity:
4. Restoration & Conservation

Sahjeevan’s restoration and conservation work involves:

  • A) Restoring degraded grasslands, thorn forests and mangroves.
  • B) Helping forest communities in species conservation.
  • C) Helping restore waterscapes.
  • D) Restoring urban forestry.

A) Invasive Species Management

  • The exotic plant Prosopis juliflora was introduced to the Banni grasslands by the Forest Department in the 1960s. Although an attempt to increase the vegetative cover and reduce salinity ingress, it was an ill-conceived idea that has led to major ecological imbalances. Known locally as Gando Bawal (meaning mad Babul), the species draws heavily on the sub-soil water, is highly invasive and cannot be grazed on by local livestock.

Removal is not an easy task and matters are complicated by the growing importance of Prosopis juliflora in the local economy, with some marginalised communities of the Banni collecting its pods, gum and honey as a source of income, and using the plant for fuelwood and charcoal. The sale of charcoal from it is particularly lucrative and an important cog of the local economy. Therefore, this has called for a nuanced approach to engaging the communities in biodiversity conservation while acknowledging the complexities of the situation.

Work on the removal of Prosopis juliflora from the grasslands is vital for biodiversity conservation and the overall health of the Banni grassland. In 2018, the Dedhiya Village Community Forest Management Committee (CFMC) in the Banni reclaimed 20 hectares of grassland by uprooting the plant and reviving natural grasses. By mid-2022, 26 CFMCs had restored close to 3,000 hectares of the Banni. This restoration work has been undertaken in collaboration with scientists associated with the RAMBLE field station. Much remains to be done, but the work has demonstrated that the Gando Bawal can be removed and that the Banni grassland can be revived.

B) Species Conservation

Sahjeevan works with communities to conserve various endangered species across Gujarat. Our work ranges from mapping, working with communities to identify hotspots, raising awareness about encroachment and long-term monitoring, to forming CFMCs to gain legal recognition over biodiversity management. Over the years, we have worked to conserve and monitor several species of flora and fauna, including but not limited to the Great Indian Bustard, White Rumped Vulture, Chinkara, Olax nana, and habitat conservation for large mammalian species such as the Indian Wolf.

C) Waterscape Development

This is a traditional water management system that we have incorporated into restoration projects where hydro-geological mapping is conducted and potential ‘jheel’ (pond) sites are identified. These sites tend to turn into a seasonal wetland during monsoons and our interventions improve the duration of water availability in the pond. Embankments are made in the sloping ground to increase the catchment area and reduce the total dissolved salts in the ground. The intent behind this particular activity is to increase water storage capacity and the resulting availability of water to wildlife, flora and open-grazing livestock of pastoralists during lean seasons.

D) Urban Biodiversity

Sahjeevan ventured into profiling urban biodiversity in and around Bhuj, and sensitising urban-dwellers about the importance and need for biodiversity conservation.

Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kachchh, is home to several endangered flora and fauna inhabiting or visiting the wetlands, seasonal lakes, forests and hill ranges. Unsustainable development and increasing built-up urbanisation have ignored the vitality of natural ecosystems and many services it provides. An ecological baseline was developed with the participation of a citizen volunteer base, college students and enthused environmentalists of the city. Biodiversity hotspots and major threats to it were identified. Consultations with the volunteer base developed an action plan to conserve biodiversity by social-forestry methods that focus on native tree species. These included plantation activities like a green-belt development along the catchment rivulet of Hamirsar Lake and eight sites in three wards of the Bhuj municipality. The bringing together of like-minded, environmentally conscious groups of people was the larger aim of the project. The active group has led to transformative action and demanded that the Bhuj municipality act on the provisions of the BDA.