Know All About Banni Grassland and Maldhari Tribe
Banni Grasslands is a grassland ecosystem, located at the southern side of the Rann of Kutch in Kutch District, Gujarat. Let’s discuss the topic of Banni Grassland and the Maldhari tribe for UPSC and other competitive examinations.
Why is Banni Grassland in News?
Recently the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued an order to stop all encroachment activities from the Banni grasslands of Gujarat within six months.
Context: The Maldhari community, the local inhabitants, had filed a case against the rapid encroachment in the ecologically sensitive grassland in May 2018, under Banni Pashu Uchherak Maldhari Sangthan (BPUMS). They protested with the slogan “Banni ko Banni rehne do” or let Banni remain alive.
National Green Tribunal also empowered the Maldharis with the right to conserve the community forests in the area. NGT granted them the provisions through Section 3 of Forest Rights Act, 2006. NGT also highlighted the lack of communication between the forest department and the revenue department lead to the problem of encroachment.
Significance of Banni Grasslands
The name of the grassland comes from the word ‘Banni’ which evolved from a Hindi word ‘banai’, which means made. The landmass of the grassland was formed from the sediments of the Indus and its tributaries over thousands of years.
- Banni Grasslands is a mixture of two ecosystems i.e arid grassland and marine wetland.
- The grassland is the largest grassland in Asia.
- The grassland has a very rich wildlife and biodiversity. The grassland has 192 species of plants, 262 species of birds, several species of reptiles, mammals and amphibians.
- The grassland’s spread is across an area of 3,847 square kilometres.
- The area is currently legally protected under the status as a protected or reserve forest in India.
- The grassland reserve has been identified as one of the last remaining habitats of the cheetah in India by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). Wildlife Institute of India is aiming for a reintroduction site for the cheetah.
- There is Chari-Dhand Bird sanctuary in the grassland area. The sanctuary is special as it encounters thousands of migratory birds every year.
Types of Grassland
There are two main kinds of grasslands.
- Tropical: Examples of temperate grasslands are Eurasian steppes, North American prairies, and Argentine pampas.
- Temperate: Examples of Tropical grasslands are the hot savannas of sub-Saharan Africa and northern Australia.
Who are Maldharis?
- The Maldharis, a nomadic pastoralist community, carry their livelihoods depending on this protected Banni Grasslands.
- Banni grasslands, traditionally, were managed through a mechanism of rotational grazing by the Maldhari community.
- In the local language, ‘Mal’ means cattle, and the owner of cattle is called Maldharis.
- The Maldharis are living in the Gir National Park region and the Banni Grasslands Reserve area, for the past thousand years.
- They usually breed Banni Buffaloes, a species endemic to the region. The buffaloes are adaptive to the hot weather condition of The Rann of Kutch.
Potential Threat to The Banni Grassland
- This Kutch region in Gujarat is very drought-prone due to erratic monsoons. Such unpredictable weather condition makes cattle breeding difficult for the Maldharis. They move out with their livestock once the region they live, turns into a desert in bad rainfall years.
- Maldharis are facing a perpetual fodder crisis.
- Prosopis juliflora, a non-native, thorny, shrubby species has taken over a large area in the Banni Grassland area.
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