For my home...
Bhupal Singh, a villager from Nahi Kalan, Raipur, Uttranchal, shares the
story of his village's efforts of not only initiating a ban on limestone mining but also
in sustaining a campaign to protect its forest and water. Since 1980s, the village has not
faced any water-related problem. (For details: Bhupal Singh, Tel: 0135-659302)
Q: How did it all start in the 1980s?
A: There was a steady depletion in
groundwater table due to limestone mining. The impact was reflected on the forests as
well. The seasonal river Bidalna, was often running dry. But as villagers were getting
work, few complained. It all started when the young people protested. But their queries
were stonewalled by the mining contractor. He was just interested in his profits. So, we
decided to fight for our land and rights. The support from Sunderlal Bhaugana and Chipko
Andolan was encouraging. The Supreme Court order in late 1980s banned all the mining
activities in the entire region.
Q: What was the result?
A: Mining stopped. The villagers' response
was mixed. Some felt that they have lost an additional source of income. But most of them
were happy. The awareness and contacts with the outside world improved - renewing our
determination to protect the resources. Vividhara, a voluntary group of young people from
the village is encouraged by Delhi-based volunteers from different backgrounds. Through
this group we are able to voice our region's concern at different levels.
Q: What was your next move?
A: The group decided to motivate villagers to
protect the forests from fire and migratory goats, at the same time ensuring sustained use
of the forest resources. In 1990s, for the first time in forty years, villagers came
together to stop forest fires. The village women took a firm step and restricted the entry
of goats in their forests.
Hilltop johad (left), Main
village water source (right)
Q: Why did forest conservation get priority over
watershed conservation works?
A: We took up issues on a priority basis. Protection
of forests is essential. The region receives about 3,500 to 4,000 mm of rain, annually.
The terrain is characterised by steep slopes. Dense forests are a pre-requisite for
effective development of our water resources. Due to these works, the overall soil
moisture and vegetative cover enhanced. We desilted four ponds and constructed three on
the flat sloping hilltops. For more works, money was needed and it was not available.
Q: Nahi Kalan was included under the European
Union's watershed project. How was the experience?
A: It was a missed opportunity. Due to lack
of information, villagers treated it as a normal sarkari scheme providing short term
employment. It was only when the project was winding up, we realised its significance.
Then, with the help of a good officer, we got works done on the panchayat land and the
main drinking water source of the village was secured.
Q: What are you doing to sustain these works?
A: This year when the entire state is under
drought, our region has enough water to drink and irrigate. Annual income of the
households has improved, inspite of the fact the change in cropping pattern -because it
suits our environment. Organic farming is practiced. But due to lack of basic
infrastructure like roads people are migrating. It is this problem that we want to