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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Indian National Trust for Art & Culture Heritage banks on community-centric model for conservation

by Rachna Singh, TNN | May 4, 2012, 02.32AM

JAIPUR: People-centric initiative is likely to be a leading strategy for INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art & Culture Heritage) to preserve the country's culture and heritage given the encouraging results its pilot project on orans or Dev Banis in Sirohi has received. The project has shown how communities, instead of waiting for the government, can take the reins in their own hands to work for conservation.

According to Maj. Gen. (Retd.) L K Gupta, chairman, INTACH, "We had written to the ministry of culture to evolve a policy that looks at managing conservation with the people and not for the people. The entire initiative has to be community-centric where people know the pleasures of their own effort."

Three projects in Sirohi are a pointer to the promise that this model of conservation holds. "There are two projects in Sirohi that we had initiated. The first one was about reviving a 350 year-old 'talab' that used to re-charge all the borings and 'baoris'. Last year, we collected Rs four lakh and dug out one lakh tonne mud from the talab bed. The pond was ready before the monsoon. Fortunately, we had good rains and now we have all our water reservoirs re-charged. In what the government would have spent at least Rs 25 lakh we managed with Rs 3.5 lakh," said Ashutosh Patni, convenor, INTACH, Sirohi.

"As a result, the motivation is high among people as they had direct involvement with the project. Every evening about 250-500 people gather at the site monitoring the work and chalking out further plans", he said.

INTACH has also taken up a project on orans (sacred grooves). There are about 40 orans in Sirohi but the agency has now begun work on getting the listing more factual.

"There was a superstition among the people that they should not pick a twig from the sacred grooves. We held workshops in 17-18 orans and here the temple priests were the agents of change as people trust them," said Ashutosh.

Because of the superstition prosopis juliflora (vilayati babul) had started proliferating as a pest. But since the last three months a Vikas Samiti was formed that initiated a 'babul' removal project.

"We intend to finish the work by monsoon. Before the rains set in we will plant 10 orans with tree species that combat climate change and are also animal edible," said Ashutosh.

Communities in Sirohi also formed 'Paryavaran Suraksha Sansthan' and took up tree plantation on a150 bigha 'Goshala' or wasteland known as 'Kalka Tapovan.'

"The land belongs to the government but we have been given a free hand to develop it. Last year, we planted 7,200 trees out of which 7,000 have survived. All this has been possible with minimum expenditure because people's feelings are attached to the project," explained Ashutosh

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