Khichan Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Udaipur, Rajasthan  Other Species Protection 0.02 Not Available

Case Study (2009)

Background

Khichan is one of those villages that have sustained protection since generations. It is located near Phalodi at a distance of 150 km from Jodhpur in Udaipur district of Rajasthan. In the 19th century Khichan was famous for being the village of several rich Jain traders, who have now migrated to other important centres of commerce. Khichan is today famous for another migratory community that makes its home here for the six months of winter. These are the endangered demoiselle cranes, who have been coming to Khichan for generations. The numbers of these birds are dwindling fast elsewhere because of hunting along their migratory route and ecological imbalances in their natural habitat. These cranes arrive in Khichan in the month of August from Mongolia and Central Asia to spend the winter here.

The villagers have been playing host to these birds since generations. They arrive during the winter season and stay here for 6 months. Feasts are hosted when they arrive each year. The birds form an important part of their lives and are treated well. There is a folk song that has a mention about these birds. The cranes are called kurja by the villagers. Every morning the villagers feed wheat, jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and mateers (watermelon seeds) to the birds. Nearly 500 kg of grain is spread to feed the birds. There is a 200 sq m feeding ground called chugga ghar where they assemble for their feeds. The birds are comfortable in the village and can be seen on rooftops, in waterholes and on the surrounding sand dunes.

The villagers are compensated by the annual remittances they receive from a section of the Oswal Jains, a community that has migrated out of the village. Funds for the grains also come as donations from visitors. An account of all the donations received and expenses borne is kept in the village. These activities are administered by the Kuraj Sanrakshan Vikas Sansthan, a society established in Khichan for the protection and care of the cranes. He is a trustee of this charitable trust. Ratan Lal and his wife have devoted their lives to these cranes. They ensure that the food stock for the birds is always full.

According to the villagers, only a few birds used to come to the village earlier; however, since the villagers have started feeding them a few decades ago, their numbers have increased tremendously. In 1996, about 6000 birds visited the village.1

The major threat to the protection offered to these birds is tourism. In this case there is a need to probe and analyse the implications in terms of revenue generation for the villagers and the quality of grain offered to the birds. There have been instances where the villagers warded off two hotel ventures that were to be built in an area close to the village. The number of visitors in recent times has gone up to around 10,000 per season.

Visitors can also be a disturbance to the birds when they move to the sand dunes nearby. The cranes are not usually disturbed by passing camel carts and people. However, if disturbed, a single alarm call causes the whole flock to take wing. This spectacle fascinates many people, who then deliberately disturb the birds. An increasing population of dogs and crows is also gradually becoming a serious disturbance to the birds in the village. 

To prevent the birds from getting disturbed while feeding, a separate feeding ground was established by the villagers. However, the number of birds has now increased to the extent that all cannot fit here. The villagers are currently considering ways of dealing with this.

New settlers encroaching upon previously open government land and building houses is now hampering the preferred flight path of the birds. This has created tension in the village between those conservationists in the village who want to assure the safety and peace of the cranes and opposition politicians who see the new settlers as potential vote banks. Local authorities have sometimes tried to evacuate the encroachers; however they have not been very successful because of political patronage. 

This case study reflects effective protection towards the avian visitors that are under threat in other areas that are part of their migratory route. The aspect that is most apparent is that the villagers have successfully been offering protection on their own initiative. Not everyone in the village unanimously supports the crane-feeding programme. There are some who are concerned about the increasing population of pigeons and other birds because of this free feeding. However, most people are enthusiastic about their care for the cranes. They defend their position by saying that more and more of the traditional grounds of the cranes are now either destroyed or threatened and that they are proud that Khichan is one of the safe havens for these special visitors.

  This case study has been compiled based on information provided by Rauf Hameed from Pakistan, Lian Chawaii from Delhi and Amit Shankar from Rajasthan in the write-up ‘Flight into danger’, published in Down to Earth, January 2001, and by Rakesh Bhandari in his article, ‘They strive to protect cranes in this village’ published in Times Of India, 23 October 1998. See also O. Pfister, OBC Bulletin, 24 December 1996.

Ratan Lal
Kuraj Sanrakshan Vikas Sanstha
Khichan village
Near Phaodi
Udaipur District
Rajasthan

1 O. Pfister, OBC Bulletin, 24 December 1996.

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

Recent Updates

Saving Demoiselle Cranes, Khichan, Rajasthan

An article about one man from Khichan village saving the Demoiselle cranes from uninsulated high tension wires.

Demoiselle Cranes Take Flight From Khichan

A bird rescue center was planned for the Demoiselle cranes.

The Bird Man of Kheechan

An article about a man that was responsible for saving thousands of cranes during their migration.

 

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