A desert village in Rajasthan wins green battle against power station —

Apart from birds of local species, migratory birds come to the water bodies at Korna village in Barmer district (HT Photo)

Apart from birds of local species, migratory birds come to the water bodies at Korna village in Barmer district (HT Photo)

Residents of a village in Barmer district of Rajasthan, an Indian state, fought against construction of a power sub-station, and succeeded in saving a pasture land that sustains livestock and wildlife, and acts as a catchment area for five water bodies.

“Apart from birds of local species, migratory birds also come to the water bodies,” said Kuldeep Singh of Korna village. “The Great Indian Bustard, now only found in Jaisalmer district, was seen in Korna village in 1969. Plant species that died out in the Thar Desert are found near the water bodies.”

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the state government on May 16 not to construct the sub-station on the pasture land in Korna village.

The district administration allotted 400 bigha pasture land in September last year (2016) to set up the 765/400 KV grid sub-station. The land serves as a catchment area for five water bodies that sustain biodiversity in the village.

The water bodies in the village remain full throughout the year, though those in the Thar Desert usually dry up after the rainy season. A water-harvesting system – the pasture land prevents rainwater from flowing out – keeps ponds filled with water.

Villagers protested against the allotment of the pasture land for setting up the sub-station, but officials were unfazed.

During the hearing, the NGT directed the state government to submit a topographic map of Korna village prepared by the Survey of India. It also sought a report on the village biodiversity from the deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Barmer.“The big question before us was how to save livestock without the pasture land,” said Heeraram Dewasi, a villager. “Then we filed a case against the land allotment in the NGT.”

After going through the report, NGT’s judicial member Dalip Singh and expert member SS Garbyal asked the state government to look for an alternative land for the sub-station, and restrained construction on the allotted one.

“This is a victory of the villagers’ struggle. Had a sub-station been constructed, the catchment of five water bodies would have been disturbed,” said Yashovardhan Sharma, Barmer convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage (Intach).

According to the DCF report, local plant species, such as kair, khejri, jal, and jhadberi, are found on the land, besides wildlife, such as chinkara, peafowl, quails, partridge, coots, and desert fox.

Sanjeev Kumar, officer-in-charge of the Desert Regional Centre of the Zoological Survey of India, also submitted his report to the NGT after visiting the village. He said 34 species of resident terrestrial (passerine) have been found in Korna village, apart from wetland and migratory birds.

“The landscape of the habitat (pasture land) is suitable for free movement of the wildlife,” Kumar said. (Hindustan Times)

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