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Banni Grasslands GS2 Environment

The Banni grassland of Gujarat is the largest natural grassland in the Indian subcontinent, and an area that is both socio-culturally unique and ecologically valuable. The Banni has a long history of migratory pastoralism going back at least 500 years, and linking with a broader geographical landscape that included Sindh in Pakistan and even extended into parts of Baluchistan and Afghanistan.

News- India losing its finest Banni grasslands to an exotic species called Prosopis Juliflora.

Gujarat has lost more than 50% of its area to desertification

The Banni grassland in the Kachchh District of Gujarat is an area of 2500 km2and is often referred to as the largest tropical grassland in Asia.

The Banni is home to great biological diversity, having 37 grass species, 275 bird species, and domesticated animals, like Banni Buffalo, Kankrej Cattle, Sheep & Goat, Horses and Camel, as well as wildlife.

Banni grassland also support at least three species of threatened plants, three species of reptiles, five species of birds and five species of mammals.

Banni Grassland having numerous large, medium and small sized wetlands attracts migratory birds to breed and rest in winter. 380 km2of the Kachchh Desert Wildlife Sanctuary and the recently (2008) notified 227 km2 ChhariDhand Conservation Reserve are part of the Banni Grassland.

These grasslands are home to a pastoral community called the Maldhari.

In the 1960s, the government wanted to protect this region from salinity ingress from the Rann of Kutch. So it dropped millions of seeds of an exotic species called Prosopis Juliflora from helicopters.

Since then, ‘Prosopis Juliflora’ has overtaken the native grasses in the area.

The locals call this tree ‘Ganda (Crazy) Babool’ because it does not let anything else grow.

The problem of salinity has also multiplied several times, and the Maldharis are faced with a perpetual fodder crisis.

Often called Asia’s finest natural grassland, it now resembles a shrubby forest.

The area under the ‘Prosopis Juliflora’ was only 6% till 1997 but it increased to 54% in 2015.

Generally, this area gets about 400 millimetres of rainfall.

But for the last 2 years, there has been hardly any rain, and the region is facing a drought-like situation.

Because this tree sucks up all the water from the soil, it is also leading to land degradation and desertification.

To restore the Banni grassland, a non-profit, ‘Sahajeevan’ is working along with the local communities.

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