Garoora Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Baramulla, Jammu & Kashmir Mixed Ecosystem Conservation 40 Not Available

Case Study (2009)

Background

Forest officials in Jammu and Kashmir accept that there is an alarming decrease in Jammu and Kashmir’s forest cover. Indiscriminate felling of trees, political patronage of forest leases and mushrooming of timber smugglers has brought Jammu and Kashmir close to loosing most of its forests. Against such a disappointing background, Garoora village, located on the banks of Walur Lake (Asia’s largest fresh water lake) is a shining sign of hope. The village has been able to regenerate its, once denuded forests, thanks to the wisdom of village elders.

Around the year 1990, villagers of Garoora gathered to discuss a serious problem that that was threatening the existence of their village. Flash floods in the adjoining mountain stream were destroying the crops in the village. Minimum rain in the catchment area of the lake was enough to cause, these previously unheard of flash floods, which would wash away a whole year’s crop. Villagers were considering a possibility of migrating to another site.

While a heated discussion was proceeding, an elder resident Lalla Lone reminded the villagers that the flash floods were a recent phenomenon, which never occurred in his childhood. He begged the villagers to go to the root of the problem and figure out why the flash floods were taking place now. On his suggestion and after further discussions the villagers realised that the main reason behind the flash floods were deforestation of the catchment forests.

Villagers then decided to enclose an area of 100 acres (40 ha) constituting the catchment of the stream. Grazing, fuelwood collection, and other extractions were strictly banned in this patch. This protected area was fenced by a barbed wised purchased by the villagers by pooling in resources. In addition, the state government employed forest guards were barred from entering the protected forest. They believed that dishonest forest guards will facilitate the entry of timber smugglers into this forest.

The 60, households in the village decided to contribute, Rs. 30 per month to pay two local boys, appointed as forest guards by the village.

As a result of a decade of strict protection, the forest regenerated fast. The thick Pine and Cedar forest supports a luxuriant undergrowth of various shrubs and herbs. Wild animals, such as, leopards, Himalayan black bear, jackals and foxes are now sighted frequently by the villagers. In fact, the leopard population has increased so much that the villagers do not any longer take cattle for grazing into the protected forest. The protected forest of Garoor is also now inhabited by a large number of birds.

The flash floods have stopped and the crop production has increased many-fold.

The protection effort seems to have impacted the women who depended on these forests for collection of fuelwood. How did they manage and where did the pressure of this effort get diverted is not clear from the available information.

On the other hand villagers feel that despite their best efforts at conservation, the state government and the forest department has not given it the deserved attention. Although they also agree that the indifference of the department has helped them organise themselves better and mobilise the required resources locally. This has also helped strengthen the sense of belonging towards the forests among the villagers. Today the villagers are very adamant that they do not want to hand over their protected forest to the government.

Lalla Lone, who was responsible for initiating the idea of protection of forests in the village claims proudly today “God helps those who help themselves”. After seeing the lush green forests inhabiting many kinds of flora and fauna and high agricultural yields of the village, one can’t agree with him more.

  Information for this case study has been taken from: ‘Villagers restore paradise in part’, Financial Express, 17th September 2000. As printed in CSE-India Green File 2000.

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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