Chhitkul Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Sangla, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh Mixed Ecosystem Conservation 40Wildlife Sanctuary

Case Study (2009)

Background

In the western Himalayas, 10 hectares of forest and 30 hectares of alpine pastures have been under the protection of the Chhitkul village community for over five decades. This village is situated in the Sangla taluka of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. The nearest town from Chhitkul is Shimla, and state transport buses ply to the village.

Lying in the western Himalayan region, the landscape is typically mountainous with temperate forests and alpine meadows. The very diverse plant community here includes species like bhojpatra or birch and kail. Some of the significant fauna of the region includes brown bear, musk deer, Himalayan yellow-throated marten, Western tragopan and Himalayan monal.

Legally, this community-protected area is also a part of Rakchham Chhitkul Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary along with Govind Pashu Vihar Sanctuary in the neighbouring hill state of Uttaranchal and forms a viable habitat for the snow leopard.

Rajputs and lohars (the latter are scheduled castes) are the main communities residing in the village. The total human population is about 600. Their main occupation is agriculture and service. The cattle population is 300 and sheep/goats are 1500 in number. The villagers depend on the forest for fuelwood and biomass extraction (60 per cent of the requirement of the 90 households is met from the forest. Medicinal plants that are extracted from the forest form an additional source of income for the villagers. 90 cattle and 500 sheep graze in the forest for six months a year and in the alpine pastures for a few weeks.

The beginnings of the initiative can be traced back to 1960 when the village community started facing severe shortages of fuelwood. The reason was illegal felling carried out by the neighbouring village, Rakchham. The entire village of Chhitkul decided to protect the forest and the surrounding alpine pastures. Initially they faced conflict with Rakchham village. The traditional village council (called maith committee) took the responsibility of managing the designated area under protection.

Some of rules followed by the maith include:

1. Quantitative restrictions were laid on fuelwood collected from the forest for personal consumption. Only one headload per household per day was allowed.

2. Fuelwood collection for sale was not allowed.

3. The right to collect medicinal plants from the alpine pastures is auctioned by the community every 4–5 years to local contractors. (In 1998, it was auctioned for Rs 4 lakh.) Seasonality of extraction was to be prescribed by the maith committee.

4. No extraction of any kind was allowed in the intervening years.

For regulating the extraction of medicinal plants, a committee is appointed by the villagers before the extraction of medicinal plants, to ascertain the regeneration since the last auction, the amount available for extraction and the minimum bidding amount. The same committee is also made responsible to monitor the extraction process. The money from the auction of medicinal plants is then used for village development works. The status after the declaration of the sanctuary in 1999 is not known.

The village council includes everybody in the village—all men, women and children. The council meets every month to discuss relevant issues. Attendance is compulsory. The village leader is elected every two years. The post is rotated between different families. Re-election is not possible for several terms. Lower castes participate fully and also assume leadership positions. Conflicts are dealt within the community itself in the traditional system of resolving conflicts.

The community has successfully managed to regulate its consumption within the framework of rules laid down by the maith. The success of this protection is largely due to the careful and flexible management strategies following customary rules and regulations. Some of the benefits of protection are availability of fuelwood, local empowerment, a greater equity among the village members and equal opportunity to all castes. In addition, the village generates revenue from the sale of the forest produce, which has been used for village development.

In 1999, the area was declared as a wildlife sanctuary. Although the Wildlife Act does not permit most of the activities carried out by the villagers, all rights of the 90 households to fuelwood, fodder, grazing, timber, medicinal plants and biomass have been allowed. However, subsequent to declaration of the sanctuary, timber allotment for house construction has been stopped. This has led to a hostile relationship of the local community with the wildlife authorities.

  This case study has been compiled based on the CCA directory questionnaire answered by Satya Prakash Bambam, who was at the time of writing this case study working with Navrachna based in Palampur. The questionnaire was filled on 13 November 2000.

Rajkumari
Panchayat Pradhan
Vill. Chhitkul, PO Sangla
176001 Dist Kinnaur, HP

Satya Prakash Bambam
Post Box 22, Palampur 176061, HP
E-mail: [email protected]

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

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Related Information

Case Studies of Community Participation In Himachal Pradesh

This chapter traces the background of community participatory management in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Mapping of the Human-Leopard Conflict (HLC) Areas and Community-Based HLC Mitigation Campaign in Kinnaur Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh, India 

This is a project report sponsored by Rufford Small Grants (RSG).

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