Most orans have sources of water, either small springs or rivulets running through them or a variety of ponds e.g. johad and nadis, tank, baori, well, tanka, kund etc. Indeed, from a water conservation standpoint, orans are hugely important for a state like Rajasthan. Thus we utilised traditional water-harvesting techniques in conjunction with modern scientific expertise (i.e. watershed approach, hydro-techniques, etc.) to rehabilitate or recreate water storage structures, named as ‘Oran Talab’ and thereby to provide optimal solutions to water dispersion in degraded lands. Talab is constructed at a place, which has maximum run-off contributing into it. The topography of the catchments is a square / circular and tributaries tend to come together and join the main stream somewhere near the centre of the area and thus water get collected into talab. This is important in terms of providing water for irrigation and drinking purpose. The Talab is constructed solely from local materials – clay, stone/ rock, grasses and buffalo dung - which serve to keep them affordable and replicable. In some cases, from the talab, lays pipelines to agricultural fields for the purposes of irrigation.
The first ever Forest Policy for Rajasthan “RAJASTHAN STATE FOREST POLICY 2009”, has very recently drafted by the State Government, acknowledges the ground realities of the management forest cover and orans in the State, for which KRAPAVIS has been advocating for so long! On the whole, it looks a very good document in spirit. If people's participation is taken in its true spirit then it may even turn out to be a model forestry policy in the country.
One of the Objectives in the policy document reads as;
“3.1.7. Conservation of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna of the state by undertaking in-situ and ex-situ conservation majors, apart from conserving and managing biodiversity-rich ecosystems such as grasslands, orans, wetlands etc.”
One of the Strategies of the state policy reads as:
“5.10 Orans / Dev Van
5.10.1. Orans / Dev vans are islands of good forests and repositories of rich biodiversity. These orans / dev van are excellent examples of people’s religious faith linked with conservation. Efforts will be made to provide necessary financial and legal support in consonence with local religious ethos of the local community.
5.10.2. District wise inventory and database will be prepared for all such areas with the support of local NGOs and religious trusts. These areas declared as deemed forest as per the provision of Forest Conservation Act (1980). However, demarcation of such orans / dev vans on the ground as well as on cadastral maps is an urgent necessity.
5.10.3. For management of these orans / dev vans a committee of local people and trustees of the temple can be constituted and fully empowered to protect these areas.”
During this monsoon, KRAPAVIS (Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan) has planted about 10000 tree saplings on the orans land, located in the Aravalli Hill Range of Rajsthan. The plantation has been done through women self help groups (SHGs). The most common tree species are planted which used for fodder by the pastoralists include Prosopis cineraria, Acacia sp., Zizyphus and Anogeissus pendula. Prosopis cineraria and the Accacia sp are propagated because of their drought tolerance and ability to fix nitrogen. Both species, during the time immediately before the monsoon or in times of severe drought, “provide fodder when other tree species become devoid in foliage.” On average, the semi-arid district of Alwar in the north-eastern end of the Aravalli Hill Range annually receives less than 600 mm of rainfall. The vegetative landscape consists of sparse dry land grass intermingled with thorny, desert shrub and small stands of dry, deciduous forest. Forest groves or Orans are most often located between hills where there is a spring or watering hole. The two major social groups living in this area that utilize as well as worship the sacred forest groves are the Meenas and the Gujars. The Meenas are settled agriculturalists and make up 40% of the population while the Gujars are nomadic pastoralists and constitute around 32% of the population. Both depend on the Orans for fuel, medicinal plants, fruits, and fodder for their livestock. According to the pastoralists, the Orans provide them with indispensable vegetation to feed their cattle. In addition to grazing grounds, shady Orans afford a resting spot and a refuge from the scorching Rajasthani sun to both livestock and the herders. Co-management and worship of the Orans by the villagers and pastoralists contributed to greater species diversity in cultivated and wild plants as well as guaranteed sustainable access to all members of the community.
KRAPAVIS is trying hard to save Orans of Rajasthan. In order to engage large number of stakeholders in the process, it has organized a workshop, held on 28-29 March 09 at KRAPAVIS Bani.
The honorable Governor of Rajasthan recently appointed a two-member task force to study the current scenario regarding Orans and formulating a comprehensive action plan for the way ahead. The President of our “Oran Forum” Prof. P.P. Bakre heads the task force.
Also, the Government of Rajasthan/ Forest Department has recognized our work of tree plantation in orans, gave us an award known as “Vraksha Vardhak Puruskar” of the year 2008-09.
In the face of the declining quantity and quality of Rajasthan’s sacred village forests, this initiative aims to combat deforestation through the planting of 100,000 new trees and protection of about a million existing trees in ten groves. This constitutes a considerable stimulus to the ecological regeneration of the forests, contributing to groundwater retention, biodiversity enhancement, improvement of soil quality, increased vegetation cover, and so on. Our primary aim is to achieve sustainability for these forests, but as a means to an end. Ultimately, the revival of these ten orans will mean a significant improvement in the social and economic sustainability of the communities reliant upon them, comprising roughly 8,000 people. In terms of social benefits, this project creates work and education opportunities for scores of people from the target communities. KRAPAVIS works closely with villagers at all stages of the reforestation process. Training is offered such that participants are empowered to further utilise new skills in their own and neighbouring communities. On a different note, the restoration of orans through tree planting and protection contributes to increased pride and solidarity within communities, permitting a re-establishment of traditional institutions and entitlements and the strengthening of customary social bonds of cooperation and reciprocity. In addition to these targets, this project aims to enhance economic sustainability through the increased availability of the following: water and fodder for livestock, in turn providing more milk, meat and/or dung for sale; minor forest produce, such as honey, seeds, nuts and grasses for weaving, all of which can be sold for profit; resources in close proximity to dwellings, reducing ‘costs’ of traveling further a field.
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