Despite being one of the most diverse grasslands in Asia, the impasse over transferring possession of Banni grassland from the Revenue Department to the Forest Department continued for a long time. This is despite the fact that every protected forest area should have a working plan under Supreme Court guidelines.
Reacting on the issue, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Administration, Pradeep Khanna said: “Every forest area should have a working plan and the trees in every forest area should be grown as per it. The state Forest Department has formed a committee that has submitted a working plan to the Government of India. The same has been approved. A few formalities are still pending.”
He added, “While implementing the plan, we have included several issues such as restoration of grasslands and tapping Prosopis Juliflora commonly known as Ganda Bawal for the preparation of charcoal and is in high demand.”
As of now, the locals have been producing charcoal by unscientific means at Banni. Gujarat State Development Corporation (GSFDC) purchases charcoal from them and markets it in several states like Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, where ceramics/tiles, chemical industries and filtration plants use charcoal.
In the present plan, every Maldhari (pastoral farmers) will be given identity cards to cut Prosopis. GSFDC Managing Director H S Singh said: “While implementation, GSFDC will look into the marketing of charcoal and we will fix the price at Rs 5 per gunny bag with our logo on it. There are 48 villages and all the villagers will be given identity cards.”
Meanwhile, Kutch Territorial Circle, Conservator of Forest, R L Meena, said, “We will maintain a register and keep tab on the Prosopis, which is the main source of income for Maldharis. According to Central recommendations, we will aim at reviving the grasslands of Banni, where several endangered species are found.”