Allocation of village land for the development of solar and wind parks at the cost of pasture land is detrimental for villages
Residents of Devikot village in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district are fighting to protect a sacred grove that caters to the forage requirements of more than 35,000 large and small animals in the area.
Sacred groves are areas of natural vegetation protected by village communities due to religious reasons. Historically, villages surrounding Devikot have maintained and protected this land.
The grove around the Degrai Mata temple was allocated for community use by Jaisalmer’s king in the 16th century.
In 2004, villagers received approximately 5,817 hectares of land registered in the name of the temple.
The villagers submitted a memorandum to Jaisalmer’s district collector June 2020 to register the remaining 9,358 hectares of land in the name of Degrai Mata Temple Trust.
The Rajasthan government now, however — in an attempt to adopt cleaner sources of energy — is planning a solar park in the area.
The allocation of village land for the development of solar and wind parks has begun in Jaisalmer and neighbouring districts Barmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur as well. Some of these village pasture lands were misidentified as wastelands by the state government.
Locals have maintained and protected these lands for centuries. They depend on these common property resources — including orans (sacred village forests) and gochars (village grazing land) — for dry fodder for their animals.
Around half the income of small and marginal farmers in Rajasthan’s arid areas comes from dairy and animal husbandry, according to the state government’s draft State Livestock and Dairy Development Policy, 2019.
With soaring temperatures, communities have to cope with stressed natural resources. Herders, thus, find it challenging to arrange fodder for their livestock.
The deplorable condition of these lands occurred due to encroachment by some locals, disinterest of Panchayati Raj institutions and reallocation of the land by the state.
This mismanagement poses a direct threat to fodder security for the livestock that is dependent on them. This is because during summers, dry and arid parts in Rajasthan receive poor rainfall.
In a state where Amrita Bishnoi — along with her community members — died to protect groves three centuries ago, the present state efforts to adopt greener energy sources at the cost of destroying pasture lands is a dangerous attempt against the livelihood of several villagers.
The opportunity cost of setting up these solar and wind parks is high, reckless and irreparable.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.