THE warning signals came soon after Diwali. Four months ago,50 maldhari (herdsmen) families abandoned their Dhandha nes (a forest settlement is called nes) and migrated to other parts of the region due to shortage of water and fodder.
Dhandha nes is a settlement of around 50 maldhari families,around 15 km west of Dhari town on the border of Gir forests. It is located on the bank of a stream and surrounded by Dhandha hillocks in basin of the Shetrunji river. Residents of Sachai falia near the nes say all the maldharis left their settlement just after Diwali as there was no grass nor water for their cows and buffaloes.
They have been living there for the last 40 years. But it is for the first time the entire nes has migrated due to shortage of water and fodder, Shambhu Sanola,a 60-year-old farmer near the nes said.
Thatched roofs of all of the around 70 huts have either withered away or have been blown up. Their gates have been closed by pushing thorny bushes. Enclosures for herds,locally called zoks,lay rotten. There are a few barns in other enclosures called vadas. There is no water in the stream but a tubewell keeps a pit or dhara moist in its bed.
Tame jovo,kagda pade chey, Sanola says citing a Gujarati adage which means crows fly over it when a place has been ruined.
I knew one Bhikho. They had come from Panchal (a region covering Chotila taluka of Surendranagar and Jasdan of Rajkot,among others) some 40 years ago. We used to take our cows and buffaloes for grazing together. But he and other maldharis left for Nili Nagher with their 250 cows and buffaloes just after Diwali, Bhikha Khimaliya,a resident of Ambagala village near the nes said.
Nili Nagher is a region near Kodiar taluka in Junagadh where green fodder remains available even during summer.
Khimaliya,who too has five cows and five buffaloes,further said there was very little rain in the region last monsoon. Saheb,a varse neru halyu j nathi (Sir,last monsoon,water did not flow in streams at all), he said.
Forest officials say while maldharis migrate every year,this year they moved out early. There was very little rainfall this monsoon in the region and hence availability of grass and water has been a concern. While the maldharis migrate every year,this year they left for other parts of the region early due to poor availability of grass and scarcity of water, Anshuman Sharma,deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of Dhari division of Gir East forests told The Indian Express.
The DCF further said maldharis of Sachai,Lila Pani,Revdipt and Rarjsali nes had also migrated towards Kodinar where they get sugarcane residue as fodder for their herds.
Sub-judicial magistrate (SDM) of Dhari,Rajendrasinh Rayjada too agreed that the maldharis had left early this year. While migration during summer is a pattern of the year of them,it is possible they might have left a little early this year due to scarcity of water and fodder, said Rayjada.
150 water spots for lions in Dhari
To provide adequate water to lions in Dhari division of Gir East,the forest department is maintaining 150 spots of water in the day of heat. We are filling up water tanks and kutiyas (pits) by solar water pupms,handpumps and by tankers to ensure that no wild animal dies of thirst, DCF of Dhari division,Anshuman Sharma said.