Environment & Ecology
In News: Gujarat plans on restoring at least 76,000 hectares of this 2,497 sq km grassland which is a high-biodiversity area.
Banni grasslands of Gujarat
- The grasslands of Gujarat constitute about 4.33 per cent (8,490 sq km) of the total geographical area, distributed in eight districts and three different climatic regions — Kutch, Saurashtra and central Gujarat.
- A majority of grasslands in Gujarat (41 per cent) are found in the Kutch district.
- Banni grassland was declared a Protected Forest in 1955, under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
- Besides having 40 species of grass and 99 species of flowering plants, Banni is also home to the Indian wolf, jackal, Indian fox, desert fox, desert cat, caracal, hyena, chinkara, Nilgai, wild boar, Indian hare and common monitor lizard
- Banni also has 273 bird species and in years of good rainfall, is home to thousands of migratory birds.
- The landscape of Banni has shown drastic changes with the deterioration of the grassland taking place due to heavy uncontrolled grazing, widespread ingress of Prosopis Juliflora (a harmful exotic tree species), dams constructed on rivers flowing towards Banni, periodic occurrence of droughts and continuous increase in soil salinity.
Invasion of alien species
- It was found that in the year 1989, the area was dominated with grasslands covering 54.57% of the area followed by saline areas devoid of vegetation covering 27.30 per cent and Prosopis Juliflora, an alien invasive species, covering only 15.72 per cent of the area.
- Today Prosopis Juliflora dominant area has increased encroached to more than 30 per cent.
- The mainstay of the restoration project is the removal of this alien species, which incidentally was introduced to the area by the forest department in the 1960s to stop the ingress of the salt flats.
- With a huge 20-lakh livestock population that depends on the grassland, the second part of the project envisions the production and storing of fodder for local farming and pastoral communities that live here.
Source: Indian Express
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