Nagchaund Village

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
 Tehri, Uttarakhand  Mixed  Ecosystem Conservation  30 Community Owned

Case Study (2009)


Nagchaund village is located 40 km away from Tehri dam in the Tehri District of Uttarakhand.

The forest adjoining this village was one of the most eroded and deforested forests in Tehri District. Things changed in 1987, when a former army regular Soban Singh Bhandari retired and returned to his village and was faced with fragmented forests, dried-up water sources and unproductive terraced land. He noticed that due to the depleting resources, a large number of able-bodied men would migrate to other places for work, leaving behind children, women and the elderly.

In a short span of six months in the village he was elected as the village pradhan (village head). Initially hesitant, he later accepted the post. He then used this opportunity to spread his ideas of village reforms and called for a general meeting with the villagers. He proposed using the Jawahar Rozgar Yogna1 more productively in the village instead of squandering these funds on petty development projects. The village people responded by deciding to construct a community centre. When this was completed, the cooperation received by the villagers propelled him to engage in more developmental works for the village.

In 1990, when the FD was surveying the area for implementing the micro-watershed scheme, they came upon Nagchaund village. After several discussions with the pradhan, a 30-hectare barren community land was selected for the project. To keep uncontrolled grazing in check, the village people erected a wall around the site with funds from the watershed programme. After the monsoons, the villagers undertook a tree plantation drive to meet their fuelwood and fodder requirements.

In just a few years the greenery in the area was restored and the villagers had enough fuel and fodder to meet their consumption needs. Despite the small size of their forest, the ecological effects were amazing. The moisture content of the area increased and the water resources of the village were recharged.

After the watershed programme was withdrawn, the villagers were faced with the problem of how to maintain the protected land and wall. Since they had no surplus funds, the pradhan suggested selling the fodder collected from the protected land and using the money for maintenance of the area. Initially the villagers were opposed to the idea, but when he sold the fodder to the neighbouring village and collected Rs 3,600 for it, the villagers agreed and used the money for developmental work.

Next, under the leadership of the pradhan, the community took up plantations and soon the entire wasteland of the village had turned green. When the trees grew, the village was faced with the problem of protecting them. Bhandari assigned the village people the task of protecting specific pieces of land, trees and new plantations. Besides this, the villagers also had to deposit a stated amount as compensation for fodder, which was used to fund community projects.

Subsequently, check dams were constructed on the dry streams and deep V-shaped slopes in the wastelands to harvest maximum amount of water. Once the ponds were full, they were covered with polythene sheets so that the villagers could have enough water to last through the summer while maintaining the humidity of the soil.

Efforts like this clearly emphasise the value of an efficient and committed leadership in order to initiate positive social action. This initiative may not be towards wildlife protection directly but indicates how local needs can be met with by people if they have security of tenure and right guidance. Once such needs are met by the people in a manner that is most acceptable by them, pressures are diverted from other areas, where biodiversity conservation can then be planned. Such efforts may be more successful than imposing external and alien programmes.

  This case study has been adapted from J.P. Panwar in Down to Earth, 4 July 2007. 

1.  A central government scheme towards employment guarantee in rural India, where daily wage employment is assured in a village where the scheme is being implemented.

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

Recent Updates

Environmental Studies

This book, which is a part of the course at Jaipur National University, has a case study on Nagchaund village.

Related Information

A Fighting Chance

A summary of the efforts of Soban Singh Bhandari to implement a watershed system and do plantations in Nagchaund village which was the most eroded and deforested land in Tehri.

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