Protection of Amrit Mahal Kaval Grasslands

Project:  Protection of Amrit Mahal Kaval Grasslands and associated Livelihoods and Biodiversity

Location: Chitradurga, Karnataka, India

Grassroots Partner: Environment Support Group

Project Description

The Governments of Karnataka and India secretively diverted about 10,000 acres of pristine grassland ecosystems in Challakere Taluk, Chitradurga district during 2007-13 for a massive military-industrial-nuclear complex. Local communities were rudely awakened to the diversion when they saw massive double containment high security walls came up all over the grasslands, thus completely blocking their access to their ancient grazing pastures.
Impacting lives of people, animals in 70 villages.

These grasslands have been protected and conserved by local communities for hundreds of years as grazing pastures for an indigenous breed of cattle called Amrit Mahal; thus the name Amrit Mahal Kavals (Kaval=grazing pasture). The Kavals are also important habitats for the sustenance of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (only 200 individuals are left in India and Pakistan combined, making it the most threatened faunal species globally), Lesser Florican (about 2000 individuals are left on this planet), the highly threatened Black Buck and a host of other species of flora and fauna endemic to semi-arid grassland ecosystems. As semi-arid grassland ecosystems, the Kavals are a repository of biodiversity, particularly of grasses, that could help develop climate change resilient food crops. Over time, the Kavals have also supported rearing of various other local breeds of cattle and the famous Deccani sheep. The famous Challakere Kambli (blanket), much sought after by the Indian Army to protect soldiers from the biting cold of the Himalayas, is made from the Deccani sheep that graze these Kavals.

At the time of independence, Karnataka had about 4,70,000 acres of Amrit Mahal Kavals spread across several districts. Today, only 30000 acres are left in the state, with Challakere alone accounting for over 15,000 acres; thus constituting the last contiguous stretch of such semi-arid grasslands in south India. Much of the rest of the Kavals has been systematically diverted to various industrial, urban and infrastructure projects over the past few decades. This overlooking or side-stepping various laws and judgments that demand conservation of Kavals, given their rich biodiversity and invaluable ecosystem services that they extend to pastoral and agrarian communities.

ESG was able to get a favorable judgement 0 National Green Tribunal has specifically directed that State and regulatory authorities should not to allow any project activity unless statutory procedures of public involvement in decision-making are complied with.

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