For over a month, a large fleet of Hitachi extraction machines and tractors, illegally plundered more than 4 square kilometres of pristine mangrove forests!! Blocking creeks, levelling ground, and making bunds! They systematically created bunds enclosing small portions of land to keep tidal water from coming in, so that mangroves slowly die off, and it gets easier for their machines to uproot them. They would have destroyed the entire forest if Adambhai had not raised an alarm and brought attention to this destruction. Adambhai lives in the mangroves and has been grazing his 350 kharai camels in this beautiful ecosystem for the past eight generations. Media attention, civil society action and a National Green Tribunal (NGT) Stay Order stopped the entire forest from being destroyed.
Adambhai is part of the Camel Breeders Association of Kutch (Kutch Unth Ucherak Maldhari Sangathan- KUUMS), of 380 pastoral members of Kutch district of Gujarat. KUUMS has hired a lawyer firm in Delhi to get the ‘Stay Order’ from NGT, which they successfully got, but only for now. They had made some profits in the last six months selling camel milk to AMUL to make chocolates; this helped them pay the initial fees for the case.
Camel milk has been recognised by FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and AMUL for its immense therapeutic properties in degenerative diseases like Autism, TB, Diabetes even some types of cancers; however, with the destruction of mangroves in Gujarat there are barely about 3000 of these unique camels called Kharai, that live in the mangroves, left in the country. The government of India has declared them ‘highly threatened’ and has launched a massive conservation program to increase the Kharai numbers. However, along with the thousands of species that live in the mangroves the Kharai too will perish without them.
Several concerned groups, organisations, environmentalists and citizens came together from around Kutch on 24th February 2018 at the site of destruction to protest against the salt making industries and in support of the communities that are going to suffer due to the loss of the mangroves. Coverage of the protest in the media ensured a temporary halt in the destruction. However, it soon began again and was only stopped after the NGT Stay Order weeks later.
KUUMS needs your support to fight the case and punish the perpetrators. They are getting contributions from their own members of about one lakh rupees but will require another two lakhs to advocate against the destruction, fight the case and begin reviving the destroyed mangroves. The collected funds will be used to support KUUMS with legal fee, to support travel of community representatives from Kutch to Delhi towards legal hearings & any further protests if required, and for mangrove restoration activities. The utilisation of the funds will be transparent, and regular updates will be given to the donors. Salt making industries are a powerful group of people, politically and economically. It is a fight between David and Goliath and it is not going to be easy for KUUMS. Any support, economical, legal or otherwise, will be much appreciated.
Note: A pdf version of the story above, with high resolution images, can be downloaded from the following link: KutchMangrovePhotoStory.pdf.
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