Ralegaon Siddhi A Model Indian Village:
Ralegaon Siddhi is a village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. In 1975, when Anna Hazare visited this village, he found the village reeling under abject poverty and drought. It was a highly degraded village with an ecosystem in a semi-arid region.
Anna Hazare mobilized the villagers and involved them in community development. Massive tree plantation was undertaken and hills were terraced to check soil erosion. Large canals with ridges on either side were dug to retain rainwater.
Today Ralegaon Siddhi is considered as model for environmental conservation.
Now the water table in this village is considerably higher and wells and tube wells are never dry. Farmers are now able to raise three crops in a year where earlier only one crop was possible. The streets in the village are lit by solar lights. The village has four large community biogas plants and a large windmill for pumping water. The village is self-sufficient.
Sukhomajri model Village:
In the early 1980s, Sukhomajri, a village in Haryana’s Panchkula district, became a model of self-reliant development. The journey of village from depths of poverty to a level of prosperity which made it the first Indian village to pay income tax has been a source of inspiration.
It was due to joint forest management programme introduced in 1976 that Sukhomajri prospered.
To prevent silting of Sukhna Lake near Chandigarh, four check dams were constructed in Sukhomajri and trees were planted. Sukhomajri was in the lake’s catchment area.
Due to the construction of these dams, water storage capacity increased and as a result crop yield rates increased from 6.83 quintals per hectare in 1977 to 14.32 quintals per hectare in 1986. Water acted as a catalyst in this transformation. In return for water, the villagers were ready to protect the watershed.
Harvesting forage grass brought extra income to the villagers. The trees that were planted long ago brought good income to the village community.
The Chipko Movement:
The Chipko Movement that started in a small village in North India has turned out to be an important chapter in environmental studies and even in the study of women in world history. Called tree huggers, these women recognized trees as living beings and prevented them from being cut. While it is difficult to trace the beginning of the movement, it peaked in the 1970s.
It was in 1973 in Chamoli district that Chandi Prasad Bhatt and other tree huggers of the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal opposed cutting of trees by an Allahabad-based sports goods company. In 1974, the forest department marked trees for felling near Reni village but the women did not let any labourers in. The movement also picked up during the construction of the Tehri Dam in 1977 because it involved destruction of a large number of trees.
The name most recognized with the movement is of Sunderlal Bahuguna who came forward to take the movement to a recognizable goal. He went on an indefinite fast in 1981 to fight against the indiscriminate felling of trees in the Himalayan region above an altitude of 1000 metres above sea level. This call was appreciated by the authorities and they respected the demands of these tree huggers.
feminist Chipko Movement has been successful in saving more than 100,000 trees with the determination of its members. In 1980, the movement managed to achieve a milestone. Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ruled a 15-year ban against felling of trees in the Himalayan region. Following this, a 15-year ban was also imposed in Uttar Pradesh to save trees in the Western Ghats and the Vindhyas.
The Chipko movement is primarily a women’s and children’s movement in a region where women walked miles to collect wood for fuel and food requirement. Chandi Prasad Bhatt and other tree huggers went ahead to form circles around trees to prevent woodcutters from felling these trees. Bahuguna coined the term ‘ecology is permanent economy’ for the benefit of the movement. Another person who contributed greatly to the movement was the poet Ghanasyam Raturi who composed songs to spread the message of saving trees.
Beej Bachao Andolan:
Beej Bachao Andolan or Save the Seeds Movement began in Jardhargaon in Tehri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand. The purpose was to save the indigenous seeds which had been used in the region by generations of farmers as well as the traditional farming techniques. The movement was aimed to prevent these seeds from getting lost. The movement is not only a crusade to conserve traditional seeds but also to promote agricultural biodiversity, sustainable agriculture and local traditions.
Vijay Jardhari along with his colleagues went from village to village, to look for traditional seeds, because in this region, agriculture was still untouched by modern practices such as use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, yet the traditional seeds gave very good results.
The movement has collected some 100 varieties of paddy, 200 varieties of kidney beans (rajma) and seven varieties of wheat in the region. It has also revived the traditional methods of sustainable cultivation of crops.
Introduction of CNG as vehicular fuel:
When Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) was introduced as an alternate fuel for vehicles in Delhi, it was a difficult task to make the transition smoother. But soon enough, the change was made and Delhi hasO witnessed a drastic reduction in pollution levels. Buses and autorickshaws no more emit black smoke.
The reduction in pollution can be witnessed by anyone who has seen a polluted Delhi. Since public transport vehicles were first converted to CNG, it immediately made a tremendous impact on the pollution levels. A large number of private vehicles also use CNG now.
The major effort has been done by the Supreme Court that acted as a catalyst for the conversion and NGOs who worked towards making it possible. The Centre for Science and Environment was one of the NGOs which advocated use of CNG.
Vehicular pollution in Delhi was causing the rise in respiratory diseases. It is hoped that now there will be a significant decrease in diseases caused by air pollution.
Sustainable Groundwater Harvesting In Rajasthan:
The water levels in Rajasthan have continuously been depleting. While the consumption of water was high, groundwater was not being replenished. The situation is particularly alarming in the urban regions. Sustainable water harvesting has been initiated in Rajasthan to meet the problems of water shortage. Due to lack of water, Rajasthan witnessed a severe shortage of water and droughts became common. This caused the people of Rajasthan to face health problems as well as problems related to livelihood.
To meet this gap, the Asia Foundation came together with the US-Asia Environmental Partnership (USAEP) to support the Jal Bhagirathi scheme. This is a scheme meant to recharge groundwater by harvesting rainwater. While the area receives little amounts of rain, this amount is being saved using water harvesting techniques. Water harvesting also helps to maintain a high level of water table.
This program focused on creating water harvesting structures along with a local NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh to bring the movement to all parts of the state. People are now involved in micro-planning, construction and management of water structures. They have become self-reliant, particularly the womenfolk.
The ‘jal sabhas’ or water groups are popular in Alwar district to generate ideas for watershed management. This has helped decrease soil erosion and increase natural vegetation.
Silent Valley, situated in the Kundali Hills of the Western Ghats in Kerala, has been converted into a National Park for preservation. The area was historically explored by botanist Robert Wight in 1847. Surrounded by forests, this area is said to have the last remaining tropical evergreen forests of India. They were therefore important to be preserved.
When the Pathrakkadava Hydroelectric Project was announced to be built outside the boundaries of these forests, environmentalists put forward many questions. Construction of such a dam could lead to the submergence of the large forest cover.
This could lead to destruction of the valuable ecosystem of the valley. Various national and international bodies like the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the World Wildlife Fund came together with the locals to fight for the preservation of these forests. Hence, Save Silent Valley movement was started that led to the status of a National Park for these forests.